“Pompeii” – Movie Review

Image: Wikipedia

KCFV Radio (online) – February 2014.

The story of Pompeii is an old one. To be exact – it’s ancient. So, my initial thoughts were just how many times can Hollywood possibly re-make this story? The plot could not lend any new element of surprise. Mount Vesuvius erupts destroying the Roman city and its citizens – horrifically.

Except, at some point, I became drawn into this film. It started making me feel something for the characters. Not one emotion in particular, but a captured combination of mind, heart, compassion, and empathy.

In today’s cinematic world, the reign of high-speed action sequences and twisting plots dominate the big screens. The idea of a predictable and cliché story should not really resonate. Right? Think again. The theater was packed with people who must have gotten caught up in the story like I did.

Munching on my popcorn, I found myself rooting for the boy turned man. I wanted him to win against the big ol’ Roman mean machine, save the girl, and get the heck out of the city before it inevitably crumbled and burned.

Apparently, so was the crowd I was sharing the theater with. They actually cheered as one of the bad guys met his well-deserved and brutal end at the hand of a betrayed older Gladiator.

The plot was simple and familiar but grabbed the humanity of the situation in several ways.

The bitterness of the enslaved Gladiator with nothing to lose was nicely done by Kit Harington (Game of Thrones). I thought he pulled off a deep brooding intensity and the arena fight scenes unexpectedly well. I simply did not picture him as being able to play a Gladiator. But, I’m happy to report I was wrong. He did his job and brought the hero to life. He made me want to slap the snot out of his captors and hope he killed them all.

Let’s see, how to say this, I really thought Kiefer Sutherland was the wrong pick to play the typical corrupt Roman senator with a tendency toward brutality. Sutherland’s vampire villain in the 1980s “The Lost Boys” was one bad vamp I loved to hate, but pulling off a Roman? I simply did not see him being able to do that. However, I have to say, for the most part, I liked his performance. He has matured and came across in a ruthless and arrogant manner. It worked.

The visuals in the film are beautiful and dramatic. The graphics are simply amazing. The streets of Pompeii were exactly as I would envision the  Roman city and people might have looked like.

I’m not a real big fan of the new 3-D movement going on right now. However, when the floating ash, and the fiery bombs of molten rock and debris start spitting and flying off the screen it makes you think about the reality of the real-life situation. The sizzle of burning skin makes some of the scenes gruesomely complete.

Human nature cannot defeat Mother Nature. The city lives in the shadow of the rumbling mountain and is helpless against it. People and their humanity were nicely done with keeping them where they belong – as the main story focus. Thousands of people died in the volcanic eruption. Thousands of people that each had a story to tell.

What would you do to survive? Would you kill a good man or even a friend if needed? What lengths would you go to for love or revenge? What would you give for even a slight moment of kindness from a stranger if burning ash was blacking out the air around you and your child?

Those are some of the questions I saw Hollywood tackle in the new movie “Pompeii.”

It has been a long time since any movie made me root for the bad guy to get squashed like a bug. And the underdog good guy to defeat the undefeatable to find his freedom and walk away with true love. I felt all that while already knowing the ending before the movie even started. And, for once, it did not involve any over-done car chases or caped heroes crashing in from the sky to save the day.

Only one thing left the ending a bit sour. At least for me. Don’t worry, I won’t give the entire thing away.

If a superheated pyroclastic cloud that is bone-melting in intensity happened to be racing toward me and I happened to be in the arms of a dreamily handsome man that had just saved my life – what kind of last kiss would you expect?

I can tell you that I certainly would not expect a delicate and un-passionate series of small kisses. Instead of a man and woman who are getting ready to die, it seemed like middle-school tweenies’ were stealing a few kisses at their first dance.

What would I expect? An intense and impassioned plea of desperation expressing itself through lips and bodies clinging to each other. A mix of soul-searching passion and uninhibited longing vibrating every nerve ending until two people lost track of time, space and mortality.  It needed to be the last kiss representing a lifetime of love the couple would never get to experience.

I give “Pompeii” an eight out of ten. I liked it. It is a beautifully told tragic story. One of many wrapped in the countless tales of humanity’s history.

Published: KCFV Radio (online) – February 2014.

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