Pompeii: A Film in Volcanic Ashes

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SPOILERS AHEAD.

I’m going to be completely honest with you and tell you now that I only went and saw this movie to see Kit Harington (mostly his abs) in the big screen. And there goes my money’s worth. Think of Pompeii as that really gorgeous sweater you’ve been pining over for the past couple of months, and when you finally get your hands on it, you realize that it’s not at all what you expect it to be, with its loose threads and the dye quickly fading a few weeks after your purchase. And then it hits you– it’s a knock-off. You’ve been deceived, quite cleverly, by its aesthetically pleasing quality, and you find yourself itching as soon as you put it on.

That’s what the film is, to me. Visually pleasing (that’s debatable, but we’ll get more into that later), a title and plot that intrigues you at first glance, and a cast that’s vaguely familiar but not totally unknown (we have, after all, Kiefer Sutherland in the mix. And might I add– he’s British???) But then you watch it and you ask yourself– was it really worth it? I mean, yes, seeing Kit Harington in action (shirtless, praise the lord) is a pretty big bonus, but levity aside, I couldn’t actually name one good reason why it would’ve been worth watching.

Pompeii-Movie-Stills_5For starters, the whole movie seemed like the series finale to a TV series we’ve never heard of. The plot reeked of unoriginality. I mean, look: kid watches his whole family get murdered by the emperor, kid survives and is turned into a slave, kid grows up to be this super hunky macho underdog that’s infamous for his skills in killing people with his bare hands, underdog kills a horse out of mercy and meets this lovely lady that’s so far out of his league that he’d have a much better chance with the horse, lady is infatuated with him because of his kindness (and his face, and his arms, and his abs, and his arms), underdog gets thrown into a cell with a man who’s supposed to kill him but ends up being his BFF, underdog meets the lady again and they run away with a horse but they get caught and underdog gets 15 lashes on the back, emperor who killed underdog’s family is there, underdog is furious, emperor is wicked, volcano erupts, volcano kills everyone, underdog saves lady, underdog and lady escape the clutches of the evil emperor and make out in the outskirts of the city, turning into molten rock after the lava kills them. Everyone dies. Sound familiar? A thousand romantic movies later and for some reason, we still end up with the oldest love story in the book. I’m pretty sure Emily Browning’s doesn’t even know Kit Harington’s character’s name. And another thing– rebelling against Rome, against a Sutherland who enjoys watching people kill each other in an arena for fun, can remind you a whole lot of a certain movie with a certain girl forced into an arena to kill other people and ends up rebelling against another Sutherland, don’t cha think?

The acting is fair game. I’m only familiar with about three actors in the film, and even then, I can’t say that this was their best performance as of yet. I mean, it’s not so much acting as it is doing fancy things with his arms to hurt people for Kit. I’ve seen him in Game of Thrones; the guy’s good, but this film showcased none of his acting chops. But his action skills? Goddamn, that man can move. Honestly, he was the highlight of the film for me (but then that could just be coming from a biased fangirl who’s been flailing over Jon Snow since forever). Emily Browning didn’t really do much in the film but to just look pretty, call Kit to help her with her horses, and try to avoid Kiefer Sutherland at all costs because he’s a creepy old man who wants to make her his wife and she’s an ’empowered woman’ who won’t submit herself to him for his own personal gain. I’ve seen her other works, too, and this definitely is not her best. As for Mr. Sutherland, well, I’ve only really seen a few episodes of Touch, but I don’t think playing a bad guy is his forte. I don’t know, I mean… he was powerful with his words, sure, and his character was all kinds of evil, but I didn’t really buy most of it. But that could just be this movie, and he could be a kickass villain, for all I know. Emily Browning’s parents in the film were the kind of characters that you wouldn’t mind being taken away, but were also crucial to the plot. You know, the plot that has nothing to do with the volcano killing everyone. When I really think about it, I couldn’t actually remember what Jessica Lucas did in the film except hold Jared Harris’ hand as they died a slow, painful death and tell Kit Harington where to find Emily Browning, which resulted in the most frustrating 30 minutes of the film. Jared Harris was pretty… eh. I mean, there wasn’t much he could do playing the dude who kissed Kiefer Sutherland’s ass so he could build his own city. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Atticus was the kind of dude you’d actually be scared of at his first scenes because, you know, he was big and buff and all mysterious in his dark corner of the cell. And then, as the movie progressed, you’d think, ‘awww, he’s such a sweetie’. That actually happened. I think he was actually pretty good, but he didn’t get enough screentime for me to assess that. Everyone else, well… they were either just standing there, mouths gaping at the end of their world as they knew it, or freaking out and pushing their way through thick crowds for their own survival. Overall, the only thing I could say about everyone’s performance is this: mediocre. Maybe a little bit above mediocre for a few, but mediocre in general.

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The visuals are good, I’m not gonna lie. Most of it looks realistic enough that it almost makes you want to force yourself into believing it’s a good movie. But alas, if only everything else was as good as the CGI, then we’d all be happy. The volcanic eruption scenes were epic, I’ll give them that. If you just watch people panicking and not actually focus on what the characters are saying or what they’re doing, then it makes for a nearly decent apocalyptic film. But no. It’s not. It’s really not. It’s amusing to watch things catch fire and people getting hit with flying flaming rocks, but that’s as fun as it can get, really.

Then, of course, the long-awaited (and accurately predicted) end comes, and you just sit there with your Diet Coke, smiling at how ridiculous the whole film is, struggling not to list down everything that was wrong with it, but managing to hold it back because you know it would make for a fairly decent blog post later on. But hey, it’s not like it’s a blockbuster or anything. It’s a big-budget show-off, yes, but I don’t think anyone really expected anything out of this film, so that’s okay. I’m not really disappointed, if I’m going to be honest. Like I said, I was only in it for Kit Harington’s abs. But you know what I was disappointed in? That they didn’t play Bastille’s Pompeii at the end credits. They could’ve redeemed themselves with that.

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