Valdosta Daily Times

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February 26, 2014

‘Pompeii’ covers little new ground

VALDOSTA — “Pompeii” (Period/Drama: 1 hour, 52 minutes)

Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jared Harris and Kiefer Sutherland

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Rated: PG-13 (Strong violence, disaster-related action and brief sexual content)

 

Movie Review: Like hot flowing lava, “Pompeii” burns. It is the “modern-day” “Titanic” (Director James Cameron, 1997) — romance during a time of peril.

Harington (“Game of Thrones”) plays Milo, a Celtic slave turned gladiator in 79 A.D. In Pompeii, he finds his true love, Cassia (Browning), the daughter of wealthy merchant Severus (Harris) and his wife, Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss). Although Milo and Emily find each irresistible, Emily is betrothed to vain Senator Corvus (Sutherland). Interesting enough, Corvus is the ruthless Roman senator who led the violent conflict that led to the death of Milo’s parents. As the fight for freedom and love rages, Mount Vesuvius, a volcano on the edge of erupting, stands in the background.

“Pompeii” is a visual treat. The city is a vacation paradise. The buildings appear as a resort for entertainment and relaxation. This is opposite thinking as the city sits in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, a destructive force in the waiting.

The beautiful city and deadly volcano contrast is duplicated in the city of Pompeii. The population is a duality of rich versus poor. In this class system, an enslaved Milo desires the elite Cassia. While they love each other despite their lifestyles, Senator Corvus maintains a system where elites rule. This film seeks to indicate how corrupt Rome was. The problem is this aspect of period photoplays is often the presentation to facilitate a story. This aspect is over-played. Every human system has forms of corruption. Thus, the nature of those in charge versus those ruled.

Like Cameron’s “Titanic,” a rich woman fuels a fight between a poor man and an aristocrat. The woman loves the poor man but is forcibly betrothed to the other. This plays out far too often in films, recently exhibited in this year’s “The Legend of Hercules.”

“Pompeii” also has lovers trying to save each other during moments of peril like “Titanic.” Two people, who have just met, take time to stand and kiss rather than avoid danger. For rational people, risk of bodily harm overrides romance. Even in the face of danger, other characters fight when death is certain for them all.

Where is the logic of fighting over something when one is about to die? This may be all too human, but it is far from sensible.

“Pompeii” takes an historical event and provides clichéd romance to make it more interesting. Modern cinemas should resist the urge to make every historical event a love story. This makes the event a filler to facilitate a useless love story not needed.

Moreover, this film also duplicates a story similar to television’s “Spartacus: War of the Damned.” A Caucasian gladiator befriends the champion warrior of African descent. Together, they fight the powers that be — the Roman Empire. All is too familiar.   

Think of this as agreeable repetitiveness. Moments of peril like this are always engagingly entertaining. The visual effects are dazzlingly. The fight piques interest, but they seem commonplace. These positives do not override the unconvincing acting and a stereotypical plot.   

When Mount Vesuvius becomes the star of this attraction, this film improves. Vesuvius diverts audiences’ attention from an over-played romance theme and derivative arena battles. If only Mount Vesuvius had burned this script before it burned Pompeii.

Grade: C- (City of the fiery damned.)

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