Thursday, October 8, 2015


Year 7, Day 279 - 10/6/15 - Movie #2,171

BEFORE: I was sure that I'd be able to find a connection between "300: Rise of an Empire" and this film - surely the two films produced in the same year that were about ancient Greece and ancient Rome would share at least one actor, right?  Nope, not one.  It took a while, but I finally found an indirect link - David Wenham was also in "Dark City" with Kiefer Sutherland (last seen in "Melancholia"), who appears in "Pompeii".  That'll have to do, especially since Kiefer is my link to the start of the Halloween chain next week.

THE PLOT:  A slave-turned-gladiator finds himself in a race against time to save his true love, who has been betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts, he must fight to save his beloved as Pompeii crumbles around him.

AFTER: I watched this film on Tuesday, but as I write this it's Wednesday (correction, Thursday), and I've already completed the load-in for New York Comic-Con.  After the work was done, my team and I celebrated with a few beers (provided by Brooklyn Brewery, makers of Defender, the event's official beer).  Then I went out with some friends to an Oktoberfest dinner at Brooklyn Brewery, so that meant I had a few more beers, came home, watched a little TV and fell asleep.  This was a critical error in terms of time management, because when the beer wore off I woke up, and now it's 3 am and I need to be back at the Javits Convention at 9 am to put the booth together, and I'm afraid that if I go to bed, I'll oversleep.  But if I stay up all night, I'll be exhausted at the convention and I may not make it through the day.  So I'm screwed.  Anyway, back to "Pompeii".  

When you see that a film is directed by Paul Anderson, it's a good idea to find out which one - is it the one who directed "Boogie Nights", "Magnolia" and "There Will Be Blood", or the other one, who directed those "Resident Evil" films.  In this case, it's the latter, Paul W.S. Anderson.  Sorry, but to me that's a bad sign right from the start.

Because it turns out that you can't just take the love story from "Titanic" (rich girl falls in love with poor boy) and the action scenes from "Gladiator" and fuse them together under the backdrop of the danger from "Volcano".  Sure, on paper it seems like it will work, just combine two Best Picture winners, what could go wrong - but it so damn obvious that's what they did.  The "elevator pitch" for this was "Titanic meets Gladiator" or I'm a monkey's uncle.  

The tagline for the film reads "No Warning, No Escape", but that's not really true, is it?  I mean, when you put a city next to an active volcano, you're sort of asking for trouble - and there were prior earthquakes around Vesuvius, notably in 62 A.D., prior to the eruption depicted here, which was in 79 A.D.  And the film shows several rumblings right before the eruption, how is that not a warning?  

Oh, yeah, SPOILER ALERT, the volcano erupts.  But you knew that, right?  Or you saw it on the poster, or pretty much figured that the volcano would erupt, because if it doesn't, then we don't really have a story here.  And after an hour or so of bad acting and even worse line-reading (there were several times where I had to rewind to figure out what someone said, and times where I eventually gave up) I couldn't wait for the volcano to take these people out.  

But if you read about the real destruction of Pompeii, you'll learn how inaccurate this film was.  They placed the city in the wrong location relative to the ocean, plus there was no lava expelled from Mount Vesuvius, merely stones, ash and hot gas - but I guess that doesn't look so exciting on film, does it?  

Then we've got the contrivances, in both the "Titanic"-like and the "Gladiator"-like storylines.  What a coincidence that the Senator visiting Pompeii is also interested in the same lady as our Celtic slave hero, no?  I mean, there are a lot of women in town, but we have to have a love triangle?  And what a coincidence that our slave's only friend in the gladiator camps turns out to be the man that he has to fight in a death match.  Come on...

Also starring Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss (last seen in "Red Planet"), Emily Browning (last seen in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events"), Jared Harris (last seen in "Mr. Deeds"), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (last seen in "Thor: The Dark World"), Joe Pingue, Currie Graham, Jessica Lucas (last seen in "Cloverfield").

RATING: 3 out of 10 pyroclastic flows

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