Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pompeii | Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson | Screenplay by Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler, and Michael Robert Johnson

I've always been fascinated by Pompeii - and really, who isn't? A completely catastrophic natural disaster annihilated an entire city almost two thousand years ago, yet the remains of the dead are still there in an ashy, sculpture-esque form, frozen in time. It just shows how Mother Nature can kick our asses and keep us bound to her forever if she pleases... Pompeii's a pretty deep subject. So, I got excited when I first saw the trailer for Pompeii; it's an ambitious thing to bring to film. Not only did this movie promise special effects galore, but it also promise an interesting take on the event. One cannot simply make a film just about a volcano, not matter how horrible the eruption was. They had to add an actual storyline.
There are a lot of movies about ancient Rome out there, and a lot of them deal with gladiators or battles. So naturally, this is the route Pompeii took with its story portion. Milo's (Kit  Harington) entire family was massacred by Romans and he was taken as a slave, so he proceeded to live his life engaged in gladiatorial battles in his attempts to stay alive. He meets a high-class woman named Cassia (Emily Browning), who treats him so kindly it interferes with her own life, which is about to be nearly as sabotaged by the Romans as Milo's had been. But then Mount Vesuvius erupts, and the string of consequences it brings is both a blessing to Milo and a curse.
I enjoyed Pompeii. Is it perfect? No, but it serves its purpose. There were moments when I had issues with either the script of the acting (I couldn't tell which was more to blame at times) toward the beginning, and Roman brutality was quite prominent throughout the whole film (which is far from the easiest for me to watch, personally), but like I said, it serves it's purpose.
I must say I found myself wishing that Milo and Cassia's relationship had more time to develop, but let's be realistic: This plot is set almost two thousand years ago. Relationships in general hardly mattered half the time, let alone the pace and progression. But I really did like seeing Milo and Atticus' friendship form and hold, especially in their alliance to go against the city responsible for their enslavement. It's easy to feel sorry for them and understand how Mount Vesuvius' eruption was more of a bittersweet event for them.
Honestly though, the only thing that filmmakers had to get right was Mount Vesuvius' role since that's what this movie is really about anyway; that was made apparent at the very beginning. Seeing that enormous volcanic reaction in 3D was intense and cinematic, just as one would expect. The way it the ash blocked the sun and eventually rained down, getting heavier and heavier as the movie came to a close. The way it was consistently horrifying as it just kept going. The lightning above it... They added all the details I can think of.
Still, I can see why there'd be arguments for this film not being accurate to the details of the disaster itself. In fact, I was questioning this myself. I always thought suffocation was what ultimately destroyed the people of Pompeii, so I thought it was a bit odd that this didn't really happen at all in the film. From what I've seen around the Internet as I was browsing around today, I guess there's quite a bit of speculation and no one is really 100% sure, so we can't really judge.
However, Pompeii's biggest accomplishment might be its music. It was quite bombastic and complemented the film very well with its epic choirs; it played a very prominent role throughout, especially during Mount Vesuvius' scenes.
So all things considered, Pompeii wasn't bad. I'm pleased with it in a lot of senses, but I also feel lukewarm about it in a lot of senses. I don't really watch ancient Rome-related movies and mainly went to see this for the take on the natural disaster, so that's probably why it doesn't strike me as super amazing. I liked it, it was well-worth the watch - I just didn't like it quite as much as I wanted to.

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