- It eventually ends
- Terrible acting
- Horrible script
- Underwhelming effects
The film Pompeii was bad. They started with a great story from the history books and turned it into a poorly acted film that would have been better titled Gladiator 2: Pompeii.
The real history of Pompeii is generally well-known, and should have given the filmmakers behind Pompeii plenty to work with. Who wouldn’t be interested in seeing the story of an entire city and its population suddenly demolished by brimstone and fire: simultaneously wiped from the earth and counterintuitively preserved for the discovery of future generations?
But apparently that wasn’t dramatic enough for director Paul W. Anderson and his writers. Believe it or not, Pompeii was primarily the story of a gladiator-slave and his conquests, betrayals, and escape from the arena. Add in tidbits like talking to horses, a wholly manufactured and unconvincing love story, the terrible acting of Kiefer Sutherland (star of 24, which I also gave a poor review) as the villain, and the nonsensical British accents among the alleged Roman-Italian people, and you wind up with a giant mess of a film.
I won’t even start on the scientific criticisms surrounding the eruption because there are more than enough geologists out there who delight in feeling superior to the rest us every time a natural disaster flick is released. I’ll leave it to them.
Where I will instead end my criticism is with the actual conclusion of the film. The love story the film manufactured was between a wealthy upper-class and fiercely independent woman (a personality type that I’m sure was abundant during that historical period) and a gladiator-slave who somehow kills blindly in the ring yet still maintains a perfect moral compass. That was bad enough.
Then, in the midst of what everyone on screen assumed must be the end of the world as the volcano was erupting, our main characters choose not to flee, hide, or pray. No… they take their jolly sweet time continuing to battle over the female lead. I can see the writers brainstorming:
“No, no, no, the flaming volcanic bombs, ash blocking out the sun, excessive explosions, and unmitigated human panic simply aren’t dramatic enough. I know we just spent more than half the movie on sword fights, but let’s add some more here, or the audience might get bored.”
Finally Kiefer Sutherland is subdued and our hero and his lady begin riding away from the volcano — a survival tactic that apparently nobody else in the film thought to pursue. This is when the writers thought:
“NO! Riding off into the sunset together isn’t sappy enough. Instead they will share their first and only kiss as a pyroclastic flow kills them mid-liplock, preserving the kiss in stone for all eternity. The end.”