Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pompeii (2014)(Spoiler Review)

**This post contains spoilers**

During a vicious raid from a group of Roman horsemen, a young Milo (Dylan Schombing) witnesses the systematic execution of his entire tribe. Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) leads the slaughter, and Corvus murders Milo’s mother in front of him. For his last chance at survival, Milo makes a quick decision to play possum on top of a pile of corpses to escape as the sole survivor. One day, Milo stops for a quick nap in the woods, but a group of slave traders capture him.

As an adult, Milo (Kit Harington) fights as a skilled and deadly gladiator. After an impressive fight, Milo’s slave master, Graecus (Joe Pingue) and his trainer, Bellator (Currie Graham) plan a high profiled one on one fight to the death with Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a praised and merciless gladiator, filling the role of Milo’s opponent. With a victory and Milo’s death, Atticus earns his freedom from a promised deal, and the fight is scheduled for a great spectacle in Pompeii‘s gladiator arena.

Meanwhile, Cassia (Emily Browning) returns to Pompeii after a year long trip to Rome. Cassia receives a warm welcome from her father, Severus (Jared Harris), the ruler of Pompeii, her mother, Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss), and her servant, Ariadne (Jessica Lucas). But Cassia walks into an unpleasant surprise, when a demanding Corvus, and his top officer, Proculus (Sasha Rioz) visit Pompeii to discuss a lucrative deal and an endorsement from Rome with Severus.

Corvus is obsessed with Cassia and a tainted marriage proposal, and he won’t take no for answer. But a benevolent Milo catches Cassia’s attention after Milo’s tough choice for an injured horse’s mercy killing. Cassia will risk everything to save Milo from Corvus’ wrath, and Milo tries to fight his urges for a forbidden relationship with Cassia. Milo waits for his shot at vengeance for the deaths of his people and his mother, but a rumbling Mount Vesuvius’ catastrophic eruption threatens Pompeii’s existence……….

Familiar Clich├ęs for Pompeii? Yep. You’ll see plenty of them. Cassia is the innocent and caring crown jewel, who falls in love with the savage brute (Milo). Everyone else? They see a ruffian with a bad temper, but Cassia notices Milo’s softer side and his kind heart. Corvus is the nasty and corrupt scoundrel, and he could care less about Cassia’s feelings, because he’s not looking for love, or a willing marriage. He wants to possess Cassia. And during a risky horse ride, Milo gives Cassia his “I love you, but we can’t be together” speech, because you know, royalty and commoners don’t mix.

Looking for any genuine surprises or shocking swerves? Well, you won’t find any jaw-dropping moments in Pompeii. You can see the teased showdown between Milo and Corvus coming from a mile away (the intro with Milo as a child gives it away), and here’s a short list for some predictable developments in Pompeii:

-Milo and Atticus burying the hatchet for their feud to join forces against the Romans.

-Milo risking his life to save Cassia after the eruption.

-A treacherous Corvus blackmailing Severus into a marriage proposal with Cassia.

Although, the final battle between Milo and Corvus is fun to watch. Milo chases (with the help of a horse) Corvus and his chariot with a kidnapped Cassia through the burning and crumbling city of Pompeii. Eventually, Milo catches Corvus to start a fight to the death. Corvus gains the upper hand towards the end, but Cassia steps in to save Milo. Cassia uses chains to restrain Corvus, and Milo contemplates a painful death, but he changes his mind at the last second. Milo walks away from a chained Corvus, because Milo wants Corvus to suffer a more excruciating death. As Milo and Cassia escape the city on a horse, a wave of lava engulfs Corvus.

Milo and Cassia? Well, they escaped to the outskirts of the city, but there’s one big problem: They’re still in the danger zone for Mount Vesuvius eruption. An oncoming wave of lava approaches Milo and Cassia. Milo pushes Cassia to ride the horse alone (the horse can’t outrun Vesuvius’ eruption with two people) for safety, but Cassia refuses. Instead, Cassia makes a willing choice to stay and die with Milo.

To end the movie, Cassia and Milo die together, as they share one last kiss in another wave of lava. Also, a mortally wounded Atticus murdered Proculus after a fight in the arena, and Atticus accepted his death as a “free man” after another wave of lava destroyed the arena.

Yeah, you’ll see a lot of  “too corny” complaints for Pompeii’s ending. Personally, I‘m indifferent to the ending. It’s not a horrible or unbearable ending, and I didn’t feel the need to pick up a barf bag after an overdose of sappiness. Come to think of it, the featured movie poster for Pompeii is one big spoiler. Remember the image of Cassia and Milo sharing a kiss, with Mount Vesuvius and a wave of lava in the background? The image on the movie poster is eerily similar to the final moments of Pompeii, and it’s almost impossible to ignore the similarities. 

Pompeii is a greedy film. They want it all. An epic historical disaster film, the fairy tale-esque love story between a peasant and the princess, the story of a slave, who fights the odds to overcome a series of obstacles from his captors and oppressors, and an action film loaded with stylish fight scenes.

Still, I enjoyed Pompeii as a guilty pleasure. Pompeii falls short for the intended goal: A grandiose and memorable spectacle of action, devastation, and tragedy. But Pompeii offers a handful of redeeming qualities, IF you’re willing to overlook the misfires for a great film. Harington needs a lot of help to carry the load as the leading man. Browning and Akinnuoye-Agbaje pick up the slack with two solid performances, Jared Harris lends a helping hand, and Sutherland is a genuinely despicable villain.

Pompeii delivers consistent action, with a plethora of hard hitting battle scenes, and Pompeii’s post-eruption finale is a whirlwind of non-stop thrills. And I’ll give this one a bonus point for some eye-popping 3D effects. Also, I’m not a big fan of Paul W.S. Anderson ‘s work, and Pompeii is not a resurrection film for his career, because the facts are simple: Pompeii’s box office fun is/was a big disappointment, and the vast majority of critics trashed Pompeii with no mercy. But it’s a refreshing change to see an Anderson film without “Resident Evil” in the title.

Rating: 6/10

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