The Scoop: 2014 PG-13, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Kiefer Sutherland
Tagline: No warning. No escape.
Summary Capsule: Milo meets true love. Milo meets
Otis BFF. Milo meets arch nemesis. Things go boom. All in three days.
Eunice’s Rating: A Paul W.S. Anderson with no Milla?! Blasphemy!
Eunice’s Review: You know I wasn’t going to write a review about this movie. (So prepare to meander with me.) It doesn’t particularly stand out, and yet it keeps going ’round and ’round in my brain (much like a record, baby). While I would’ve likely rented it eventually, if it had not been for my mother’s birthday I wouldn’t have seen this in a theater. I hadn’t looked into Pompeii much, so I didn’t actually know who was in it or who directed it. I remember asking my mother, “What’s it about, besides the obvious?” She answered, “The obvious.”
-In some ways that could be my entire review: Pompeii is about the obvious.-
But when I saw Paul W.S. Anderson’s name roll up on the big screen I sat back and just thought, ‘Oh boy. Whatever is coming won’t make any sense but I’ll still enjoy myself in a guilty pleasure way.’
We open with a Roman Legion being Super Dupery EVIL and killing off an entire clan of Celts. Led by Corvus (Keifer Sutherland in full bad guy mode and sounding like his words are whistling through a dental bridge the whole time) and his right hand Proculus (Sasha Roiz, Captain Sean Renard from TV’s Grimm), they kill men, women, and children without batting an eye. The only survivor is a little boy who is later picked up by slavers.
Fast forward a bunch of years and the boy has grown into an up and coming gladiator known only as The Celt (Kit Harington, Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow). Catching the eye of a lanista from the Roman holiday spot Pompeii, he is purchased and begins his journey.
On the road to Pompeii he meets Cassia (Emily Browning – Babydoll; Violet Baudelaire) when one of her horses breaks a leg. His clan were horse people, see, and he says he can help. Cassia pulls social rank to get his keeper to let him help. He, The Celt, looks at her like ‘you’re hot’ and she’s like ‘you’re pretty steamy yourself’ then together they put the horse out of its misery. She’s all ‘Hey I just met you and this is crazy we just killed my horse so call me maybe.*‘ And from that point on they are totally soul mates, like Everything I Do I Do It For You (‘Cause there’s nowhere unless you’re there). I mean it is really truly ridiculous amounts of Insta Love going on.
Anyways. So he’s a gladiator, and in a way that totally completely does not resemble Gladiator at all, he becomes best friends with another gladiator who happens to be black and prays and talks about seeing his family on the other side of death. When the two finally give each other their names we learn The Celt’s name is Milo (and from that point on I whispered “and Otis” every time someone said his name) and his new bestie is Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who will always be Lost’s Mr. Eko to me, and is just as much of a bad ass). Atticus is one fight away from his freedom, and his opponent is Milo. There’s some betrayal and shenanigans going on about how that final battle is supposed to go down, but that falls under spoiler territory even if you’re beaten over the head with the clues.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Cassia, we find out, has returned from Rome to escape something (or someone perhaps? Mmm?). Her parents are Prof. Moriarty and Trinity. I mean, how awesome is that, huh? Anyway, her dad is in charge of Pompeii and has this awesome idea to get funding from Rome and all he has to do is impress the Emperor’s representative. And who do you think that is? Come on guess! …
If you said Corvus Sutherland then you’d be right! And who do you think Cassia was running from? Yep. And boy have the wheels come off his crazy train. Let me just stop and say how much I love Keifer as an over the top villain. There’s this scene where he says that Moriarty gave over Cassia’s hand in marriage, and everyone’s ‘nooo that didn’t happen’, and he’s just ‘yeah totally happened’ then everyone’s face shows ‘what the frick is going on?’ And then at the end of the movie Corvus becomes the Roman Terminator and is all “You know nothing, Jon Snow!**”
And all the time there’s this big honkin’ volcano called Vesuvius that’s a rumblin’ and the ground is a shakin’. The only member of the cast who figures out something is up? The horse. Does anyone listen to the horse? No, no they do not. Stupid humans.
So now we get to the aforementioned Obvious. The one thing that Pompeii actually does well, not just adequately, is the action scenes – whether it’s the massive gladiator battle or the destruction of Pompeii it actually looks pretty good (except for the unnecessary slo-mo, what’s that all about?). For your disaster movie buck you get a lot of bang: Earthquakes, fire, flying rocks, sink holes, tidal waves, and of course ash/heat/lava combos.
While it’s not quite as ridiculous as The Three Musketeers, it’s still easier to watch if you don’t actually think too hard about anything that happens. Or history. Or geography. Or sometimes science.
If I summed up Pompeii in one sentence: It’s a sword and sandal flick, influenced by Gladiator, mixed with Dante’s Peak and Titanic starring a bunch of people you’ll recognize their faces. So it’s not great, but if asked “Are you not entertained?” My answer would be that I are.
* Yes, I went there.
** And there.
- Pliny the Younger was staying with his uncle Pliny the Elder at Misenum on the other side of the Bay of Naples. His letters, where the opening quote is taken from, give an account of the eruption of Vesuvius on August the 24-25, 79 AD. The Elder was a naturalist and was documenting the eruption when he received a request from a friend for rescue. The Elder sailed to Herculaneum, but was unable to return and died.
- Speaking of Herculaneum, that would be the port city caught in the explosion. Pompeii is further inland.
- Vesuvius, a still active and closely watched volcano, last erupted March 18, 1944. The explosion destroyed several towns and a famous funicular cable car (the one the song ‘Funiculì Funiculà’ was written about).
- The Roman god Vulcan is referred to several times. The word “volcano” comes from the Italian “vulcano” or “burning mountain” which comes from the Latin “Vulcanus” or Vulcan. He is associated with fire and blacksmithing like his Greek equivalent Hephaestus. His forge is located under the volcano Mt. Etna in Sicily and is married to the Roman version of Aphrodite, Venus.
- It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that there would be some ill will towards Rome from the Pompeii citizen. The Social War/War of the Allies had covered 90-88 BC, and would take too much space to explain. But at the time of the eruption Pompeii would’ve been a decadent vacation spot for the Roman elite (think French Riviera, or Las Vegas at its height).
- In the 1700s excavation started on Pompeii. Archeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli discovered empty pockets in the ground. Realizing these were spaces created by the victims, he used them as molds and injected plaster capturing the poses of the people at their deaths. The “statues” are on display at the Pompeii ruins, though sometimes they go on exhibition to different museums.
- Milo’s hair stays perfectly tucked behind one ear no matter what’s going on. It was really kinda distracting.
Milo: Only death is freedom for a gladiator.
Cassia: What is that?
Ariadne: That is the mountain.
Corvis: Who exactly is that slave to you?
Cassia: Everything that you’re not, Senator.
Proculus: A barbarian does not die equal to a Roman.
Atticus: Let’s see if a Roman can die equal to a gladiator. A gladiator does not beg!
Cassia: Is this the end of the world?
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The Last Days of Pompeii
- Dante’s Peak