Pompeii features ash and cheese

Pompeii features ash and cheese
Movie Title: Pompeii
PG-13, 1 hour 38 minutes

Grade: B

In a Nutshell: This disaster movie is getting terrible reviews, but I still got a kick out of the swords-and-sandal attempt at filling in the details of how things went down in Pompeii. The plot is paper thin, but the special effects (I saw it in 3D) are cool and it’s been awhile since we’ve had such a massive destruction movie like this. As a kid, I was fascinated by disaster movies like Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and Towering Inferno.

I was just in Italy last spring, but didn’t have enough time to visit Pompeii. I hear it’s chilling to see the human remains frozen in time and to imagine the devastation that ended their lives. It’s so heart-breaking, which could have made for a profoundly deep movie, but the film stays at the surface of emotions, mixing some gladiator fight scenes with a forbidden romance. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson of Resident Evil, the movie tops your bag of popcorn with lots of cheese.

Uplifting theme: Get a 72 hour emergency kit. I’m kidding, but really not. I liked how some of the characters faced imminent death with dignity and love, rather than fear. One character (no spoiler alert here) declares “I don’t want to spend our last few moments together running.” While the younger generation today often paints their lack of societal comportment behind the flag of “YOLO” (You Only Live Once), the idea of living life to the fullest is inspiring, because none of us really does know how much time we have left on this earth.

Things I liked:
• The aerial views of the city in the movie were really good and allowed you to visualize what life may have been like back then. Pompeii was an ancient Roman city that was buried under 20 feet of ash after the earthquake and eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. During the excavations, plaster was used to fill in the spaces between the ash layers so that you can see the exact position people were in when they died. Today the ruins include a forum, baths, artwork, markets, a port, pools, houses, amphitheater, aqueduct, and many homes.
• I’m so glad that 3D isn’t used for silly visual gimmicks anymore, but has become much more sophisticated, enhancing the viewing experience. The CGI was really good and even made me flinch a time or two.
• I’ve always been a 24 fan and enjoyed watching Kiefer Sutherland. I don’t think I had heard him speak with a British accent before. He certainly doesn’t look Roman, but it was still good to see him on the big screen.
• The playful banter between the two main gladiators was endearing. Adewale Akinnuoye, who plays Atticus, is such a beast.
• I liked the pretty beads in Cassia’s and Aurelia’s hair. Let’s see if that starts a new fashion trend.
• The eagle was a symbol of Rome and used frequently in the movie to illustrate the overarching power and authority of the oppressive empire. I thought it was clever to show certain characters (no spoiler alert here) die underneath a big statue of an eagle that had fallen on top of them.
• The friendship between Cassia (Australian beauty Emily Browning) and Ariadne (Evil Dead star Jessica Lucas) was sweet and I liked it when the camera caught a quick glance of them as they held hands for courage.
• I saw the famous Roman Coliseum last April and marveled at the tunnels underneath the fighting floor. I liked how Pompeii tried to recreate historic architecture and culture.
• I liked the dramatic chorus of masked performers who narrated the gladiator battles in the arena. Kind of creepy and cool.
• Ash floats through the air after the volcano blows, reminding me I need to put a few more face masks, lip balm and bandanas in my emergency preparedness kit. I had never really thought about how dark it would have been, as the thick ash clouds covered the sun.
• I appreciated some of the details, like when you see blood dripping down from Milo’s finger after a fight.
• The ending is super cheesy, but I still liked it.

Things I didn’t like:
• It tried to be too much like Gladiator. Atticus even had a little wooden doll like the African gladiator in that movie. It feels a bit like a mash-up of Gladiator, Titanic, and Earthquake.
• The casting wasn’t very authentic to the time and culture, although Milo (played by Game of Thrones Kit Harington) looks Italian. He’s actually a British actor whose real name is Christopher Catesby.
• Cassia says “You came back for me” when her beloved rescues her from her villain. That line has been used so many times in film history by damsels in distress that I’d really like to hear something new and creative.

Interesting lines:
• “No gladiator should die from a knife to the back.” - Atticus
• “He’s a politician. Be careful what you say to him.” - Aurelia
• “Why so serious?” – Atticus. Wait, wasn’t that Heath Ledger in Batman?
• “This is not sport. This is politics.” - Corvus the Senator

Things to look for:
• The Boss Slaver’s curly bangs looked more like something out of the Hunger Games.
• The frescos painted on the walls…many were actually preserved during the excavation of the city and offer a peek into life during that time.

Tips for parents: Some profanity, brutal gladiator fight scenes, whippings, disturbing death moments, bloody killings. The body count in this movie is unusually high.

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