Pompeii ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
In the 79th year of the Christian era, the town of Pompeii, on the Italian Mediterranean not far from Naples, was destroyed and covered over by volcanic ash, mud and lava when scenic Mount Vesuvius erupted, and it wasn’t “re-discovered” until the late 1700s. Today it’s the most popular archaeological site in the world and is visited by two million people a year. The fascination never wanes.
The new movie, Pompeii, has a fictional story attached to a real historical event, as other movies, such as From Here to Eternity and Titanic, have done effectively in the past. Cassia (played by Emily Browning) has just returned to Pompeii after a year in Rome. She is the daughter of wealthy parents (they live in a magnificent seaside villa) but she seems wise beyond her years and is plenty capable of standing up for herself. A muscular slave named Milo (Kit Harrington) catches her eye when he comes to the aid of an injured horse. As her servant girl, Ariadne, says, Cassia didn’t show that much interest in any of the men of Rome.
Milo has not had a happy life. He was from one of the “horse tribes” of Britannia and saw his parents slaughtered by the Romans when he was a child. Seventeen years later he is a slave, a “gladiator” who must fight and kill or be killed by others just like him for the amusement of the sporting crowd. He is naturally bitter against Rome and Romans. He has every reason to hate Cassia and all she represents but is drawn to her as she is to him.
The villain (isn’t there always at least one?) is one Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland with a faux British accent), a snarling bastard who claims to be interested in financing improvements in Pompeii but is more interested in making Cassia his wife. Understandably, Cassia wants nothing to do with Senator Corvus but she may have no other choice but to comply with his wishes since he has threatened to kill her entire family. He personifies all that is vile and corrupt about Rome and its new emperor, Titus.
Looming over everything is the “higher power,” in this case, Mount Vesuvius, which is about to erupt. The people of Pompeii have heard the rumblings coming from the mountain and have felt the earth shake, but, as one character says, “Sometimes the mountain speaks,” so the people have apparently grown complacent and don’t believe the volcano represents any real threat. They are about to find out differently. What fools these mortals be!
There isn’t much depth to Pompeii. The story is simple and you won’t have to strain your powers of deduction to know what’s going on. It’s not Shakespeare or George Bernard Shaw. It’s fast, escapist entertainment with plenty of action and a so-so love story that plays out as expected. The real star of the movie is death-dealing Vesuvius as it spews balls of fire, billowing smoke, and enough lava to bury an entire city, rending the earth and making the ocean turn back on itself as people try to escape by boat. And, as always when it comes to death and destruction, the good people suffer the same fate as the bad.
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp