Reviewed by Ian Forbes
I love a good Roland Emmerich film. He knows how to pull off a memorable disaster movie. Sure, their scripts would hardly be confused with something Bill Shakespeare wrote but hey, audiences flock to those films for the spectacle. Well, now comes another disaster film, only this time it’s based on a historical disaster, and with a flair for originality the movie’s titled Pompeii.
Wait … this isn’t a Roland Emmerich film? It’s made by Paul W.S.Resident.Evil. Anderson? Umm … okay. I guess I can give it a shot. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?
He wouldn’t litter the first half of the movie with obviously foreboding but all too comical shots of the volcano, would he? He wouldn’t use the first signs of the volcano’s impending eruption like some cheap horror flick, complete with the first casualty being a man of African descent, would he? He wouldn’t build up a bromance between the two top gladiators that felt more genuine than the main romantic subplot, would he?
Look, as much fun as I have being snarky and sarcastic (snarkastic?), the bottom line here is that the movie is … wait for it … Pompeiinful (+2 for the pun, -48 for seeing the movie). Whether it’s the abysmally terrible script, the uninspired direction, or the last gen video game quality CGI, the movie fails in just about every way. And don’t worry, the 3D is basically useless as well. Although one of the easiest 3D tricks to pull off appears to be falling particles (like all the ash the volcano spits out), most everything else comes off as rather flat or gimmicky like a few thrown spears and whatnot.
Then there’s the acting. Most of them are walking through their paces, doing their best to say their lines with a straight face. Kit Harington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones) is likable enough but his character development could be written on a 3 x 5 card. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays his gladiator rival turned bro. Their dynamic is so cheesy you’d think it comes between toast with a side of tomato soup, however it’s the kind of cheesy that goes along with how bad most elements of the movie are and helps to at least let you laugh at the film rather than sit there entirely bored.
And while I don’t think the acting in the film should really deserve more attention, there are two actors that have to be discussed. First of all, what is Jared Harris doing in this movie? He’s better than this … though I admit that given a rather paltry sum of money, I’d agree to be in White Chicks 2: Shopping Spree. But then there’s Kiefer Sutherland. His inclusion in so many iconic movies of my childhood has created a special place in my nostalgic heart but here he’s doing a very bad imitation of Nic Cage. Honestly, the most baffling thing about the film is that they didn’t just get Nic Cage. If you’re going to do something, do it big.
But alas, what audiences are left with is a paint by number execution; of the story, the people of Pompeii, and perhaps your patience. Of all the terrible movies I’ve seen this year … and as I have yet to see The LEGO Movie, everything I’ve seen has been terrible, this isn’t the worst. It’s also not any good. You’re far better off re-watching an Emmerich classic (i.e. not Godzilla). Hell, you’re better off re-watching 2012. Even if you had some weird hankering to see this, it won’t be long before it’s headed to the home market and with all that extra cash, you could buy a lot of tacos. And tacos are good. Pompeii, not so much.
Pompeii opens in theaters on February 21, 2014 and is rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, disaster-related action and brief sexual content.
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