“Pompeii” is exactly what I expected it to be: a disaster film that truly is a disaster. The popular Bastille song of the same name is much more upbeat than this mindless action/romance/drama. But it does offer one comparison: if you close your eyes, you will be demolished by a crumbling arena and volcanic ash.
“Pompeii” receives the honor of having the Stupidest Plot Devices of any movie so far this year. We begin in 62 AD, a young boy named Milo wakes-up to witness an all-out battle involving his family and neighbors and the powerful Roman Army. This little kid walks around while all the fighting is taking place, is never hit by a horse or flying body and eventually plays dead so he can stay alive. Improbable? Of course – but this is the only way that little Milo can witness his parents being killed by Senator Corvus (played by Kiefer Sutherland, talking exactly like present-day Jack Bauer).
Flash forward 17 years (or 149,000 hours). Milo (now played by Kit Harington) is a slave, while Corvus and his soldiers look as if they haven’t aged a day. Milo has become a top gladiator. His roommate is a fellow slave named Atticus. The two predict they’re going to kill each other in the arena the next day, but somehow form a friendship. Meanwhile, Milo has his eyes and heart set on Cassia, a wealthy merchant’s daughter (played by Emily Browning, all grown-up since “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”). But Corvus wants to make Cassia his bride, along with potentially conquering Pompeii itself.
And just when it looks like they couldn’t fit another movie formula element into the plot, that dastardly Mount Vesuvius starts erupting, causing chaos everywhere. So now, not only is everyone fighting each other, but they have to try to defeat Mother Nature – and she never loses. Each volcano victim dies in glorious fashion, to the point where it quickly gets very funny. “Pompeii” has other unintentionally hilarious moments both in the calm first half and action-packed finale: facial expressions, the embarrassing visuals, and corny dialogue that you only hear in movies. Sutherland, the only big name actor in the cast, has a larger role in the film than you might expect, to the point where he ends up having more lives than Jack Bauer by the end. Apparently he needed some cash before the new “24” checks started rolling in.
The only lesson, or reinforcement, we get from “Pompeii” is that we should never build a city so close to an enormous volcano. We also learn that when you find your significant other, in the wake of a disaster, you should never let her out of your sight. I didn’t think we needed that one by now, but in order to get to the ridiculously drawn-out conclusion, that’s where the script takes us.
“Pompeii” is rated PG-13 for all the action/violence. Sure, the costumes look good, but thanks to this mediocre attempt at a “Titanic” story in lava, my Worst Movies of 2014 list has a serious candidate.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Pompeii” gets a D-.