Pompeii is certainly the best in one category: the most unoriginal film I have ever seen. The love story is Titanic, the destruction is 2012, the action is Gladiator (almost to a tee), and even Shawn of the Dead makes a cameo appearance (“Shh! Hide! There are Romans everywhere!”). There is more foreshadowing than a Shakespearean play, and the dialogue is less interesting than a cereal box. The poster says, “No warning. No escape.” and I absolutely concur – just, as a caution to viewers. Like a bad tuna sandwich, Pompeii looks tasty from the outside but is nothing but bad news when you sit down to enjoy it.
There isn’t much point in me telling you the name of Kit Harington’s character because it’s not at all relevant to the plot. In fact, his romantic interest, Cassia (Emily Browning), never learns it either. I guess between their hatred for the Romans in one hand and the apocalypse in the other, they never really find the time for a proper, “Hi my name is…”. The plot also relies on a love-at-first-sight scenario. One glance is all it takes for the rich girl and the smelly slave. He’s a gladiator, she’s the daughter of a wealthy Pompeiite (Pompeiian? Pompeiist?), and their love knows no bounds. Except for maybe the very un-Roman looking Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) who would kill to have Cassia for a wife. There’s politics, stolen glances across the room, some fighting that I swear is the same choreography as Gladiator, and then a volcano erupts. Boom. Shoving, running, screaming, fights to the death (because no one has their priorities straight), and flaming…everything. If it had been a movie about Kit Harington’s abs, it would have been a bigger hit.
The aristocrats in Pompeii act like high school drama students. Their facial expressions are just a bit too much, and their delivery is a little less than convincing. Of course, the dialogue doesn’t really help: “Look! It’s my home!” Uhg. The always-just-a-little-bit-sweaty Kit Harington did a decent job of playing the short gladiator in an arena of giants, but his Ima-kill-you! friend, Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), steals the best tough guy award. He may be the quintessential black ally (again, Gladiator), but I think he delivers the best performance of the bunch. Still, it’s sort of like comparing paper to cardboard.
With a horse (the same white horse) that’s always there when they need it, and swords that break easier than carrot sticks, Pompeii gets you to a point where you just start accepting everything. It also combines the anatomical curiosity of A Thousand Ways to Die with the spiritual acceptance of The Horse Whisperer. The history of Pomepii makes you think about the fragility of life. This Pompeii doesn’t make you think about anything. It’s a 3.5/10, and that’s only because I liked the volcano effects.
This review can also be found at http://thecinemaid.net/2014/03/05/pompeii-2014/