Poor Jon Snow. Poor, poor Jon Snow.
He really should have known better.
Because, oh my God. This movie.
Before I begin, those of you who have been around this blog for a while, know my review policy. For those of you who don’t, or who haven’t been around long enough, the short and sweet is; I will never give a book or movie five stars. It defeats the purpose of a review. How annoying is it to go into Amazon and see a five star review consisting of OH MY GOD THIS THING IS AWESOME (insert your own choice of spelling here). Conversely, one star reviews amount to the same thing. So, my rating system ranges from 1.5 to 4.5 with 4.5 being the highest I will ever give something.
And now you know.
If you’re going to rip off source material, do it with class. In fact, if you’re going to rip off source material, rip it off in such a way that you end up making it originally yours. Source material is there to be referenced, not to be botched together in a semblance of a movie that everyone knows the ending to, anyway.
Oh my God Pompeii could have been SO much better than it was. It really, really could have and that’s the disappointing part.
As it stands now, it’s a complete Frankenstein’s monster of Gladiator, Titanic, Troy, and Spartacus. Kit Harrington, who is a pretty damn good actor in his own right, is Milo. He is a Celt boy of the Horse Tribes who ends up being the only remaining member of his family because the Romans want to open up trade routes through Britannia and the Celts are standing their ground in a ‘fuck you, asshole!’ rebellion. So, Keifer Sutherland, being the asshole that he is, cuts everybody down except for a small boy who plays dead and winds up getting captured anyway.
Fast forward eighteen or so years and Milo is a champion gladiator, able to cut down anybody he comes across because he’s just that damn good.
He’s hand picked to go to Pompeii and fight in their arena. On the road, he meets a noble woman because of a pot hole and a horse that needs to be killed because it has had its leg broken in a very painful way. We have the awkward not quite meeting your eyes stare, the demand to be set free to help the horse, and the lady bending to help because she doesn’t know what she’s doing (rage bees, to coin Shiri’s term) culminating in her interest in the strange man because 1. he’s hot 2. he killed a horse without blinking 3. he did the honourable thing because oh the poor animal needed to be put out of its misery and the movie needed to tell us how absolutely awesome it is that a gladiator of all people could do that.
MEANWHILE IN POMPEII the same noble lady’s family is trying to impress a Senator who happens to be Kiefer Sutherland.
See what’s happening here?
They impress the Senator who ends up investing in Pompeii’s infrastructure plans hooray! But the mountain has other plans oh no! Milo meets a very tall, deep voiced black man who is going to kill him the next day and win his freedom from the arena according to Roman Law hooray!
But they are betrayed in an arena reproduction of the Romans v. the Celts oh no! Oh wait, the noble lady from the beginning of the movie offers to marry the Senator in exchange for Milo’s life hooray!But the mountain has other plans oh no!
Jesus HG Wells, are you as bored with this as I am?
By Milo and the noble lady’s midnight ride that ended up with Milo getting fifteen lashes (without making a sound!) I was staring at the back of my seat wondering just when I had finished off the last Whopper and why there weren’t more in the oh so empty box.
This movie is one trope right after the other with a big mountain exploding and killing everyone at the end. And here’s the thing, history tells us that Mt. Vesuvius exploded and very, very few people got off the island of Pompeii in time. Okay, I can handle that. With a movie that’s named Pompeii, it’s pretty much expected, right? But, BUT , we all know what happened in the battle of Troy, right? We all know the story of Paris and Helen and Achilles and we accept that. But, here’s where the two movies differ.
In Troy, we have a sweeping tale that uses a love story as a catalyst for war. Depending on which theory you subscribe to is how the war got started. Whether it be a challenge by the goddesses to see who is the prettiest, or Troy holding out on trade routes the bastards. Doesn’t matter. Within this tale you have war, politics, and a secondary plot that just happens to be two people who absolutely can’t get enough of each other. It’s a fantastic movie that explores the very nature of ego through Paris, Achilles, and Hector. It pulls itself off as a valid interpretation of what could have happened in the Battle of Troy USING its source material (the Illiad) and turning it into an original work of art that just happens to be really entertaining and one of the best movies I’ve ever seen Brad Pitt in.
No, Fight Club does not count.
In Pompeii, however, you have a movie which uses love as the plot and a mountain exploding as an ‘oh by the way this is happening’ side line. What could have been an exploration in man v. nature and it’s inevitable futility turned into a love story that didn’t so much sweep as it pandered to the masses by way of a wealthy, pretty girl and a man with a deep, dark back story. Is it a valid interpretation? Sadly, yes, because of the Law of Art and its Subsequent Interpretations So Long As You Can Back Them Up. Is it a GOOD interpretation? No.
No it is not.
Walking away from this movie, you’re not coming out with a sense of ‘Mother Nature will get us all in the end’ rather, the movie is telling you that, when a mountain blows up, don’t keep trying to run away or survive the catastrophe (which many people did despite all of the odds), but realise that you’re in love with the guy who you know absolutely nothing about and face your fate together, hand in hand, or kissing him as hot lava rushes toward you and ash falls from the sky. You know, whichever comes first.
The story teller in me WANTED Pompeii to be good despite its predictable ending. I WANTED Pompeii to be a rich tale of a man sold into slavery and shipped off to a land that is rife with politics and mysticism. You can’t tell me that somewhere in Pompeii there wasn’t a woman who fancied herself a prophetess and ‘saw’ the end of the world as they knew it. That woman would have taken to the streets and screamed it loud and long and probably would have been imprisoned because nothing can be out of place when the Roman Senator arrives. Can there be a love story? Sure, why not? I’m sure are petrified lovers clinging to each other excavated within the archaeological site. Absolutely nothing wrong with having a love story because it happened.
Did I get what I wanted? No.
Am I mad about it? No.
Should I be? Probably.
Am I going to write a Pompeii-esque book to fill that void brought about because of this crappy movie? Damn straight.
There’s something wrong with telling a story about a vengeful mountain and the civilization it destroyed that’s about as deep as a damp washcloth.
Cool special effects, though.