Pompeii

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A terrifically guilty pleasure, this movie was surprisingly enjoyable. Yes, of course you know what you’re getting into from the very beginning. It’s a foregone conclusion that the volcano is going to erupt and kill pretty much everything, but everyone still went to see Titanic even though they knew the ship was going to sink (albeit to a very stirring soundtrack – this one’s soundtrack is excellent though thankfully has no theme song). Entertainment Weekly called this movie ‘Jon Snow vs. The Volcano’, but I think it is more of ‘Revenge of the Celts’. The brilliance of this movie is in the way it is set up. You really don’t like the Romans from the get go and therefore it isn’t terribly upsetting to see them die by the thousands. You actually wind up cheering on the volcano as it sends dastardly villains (and their pretentious British accents) to their fiery, screaming and often ignominious deaths. The “good” people naturally die heroically, defiant and proud to the last. Kit Harington is ripped beyond all belief (no special effects enhancements – he really looks like that!) and gives an excellent performance, if somewhat inevitably reminiscent of Russell Crowe.  Kiefer Sutherland does a shockingly good job being a very, very bad guy and a slightly different breed of sociopath than Joaquin Phoenix did as Commodus.

The thought occurred while I was being vastly entertained by watching people die that perhaps our modern society isn’t all that different from the Roman one. Except of course, the Romans actually killed people for entertainment and we only fake kill them in the movies.  But that is the deepest this film goes as it is largely clichéd, predictable and obscenely gratuitous, but at the same time satisfying on a visceral level. I was actually pleasantly surprised that the writers didn’t take too many liberties with the actual way the eruption went down. They also did a great job building suspense until the volcano blows and then thrilling the audience with artistic shots of death and destruction as fire rains down on Pompeii.  I suppose these are the money shots as who would buy a ticket to see the volcano not explode?  But while they do take artistic license to extremes in some respects, at the same time they strike quite a few chords that resonate in archaeological fact.  Once the film stuns your credulity into suspension, it’s a great ride. Look out Pompeii, the Celtic gods are coming for you! – BETHANY

For more on Pompeii, visit: The Internet Movie Database

There are some pretty spectacular shots of Pompeii and its surrounding environs.  I think the harbor is particularly well done.

https://s.yimg.com/lo/api/res/1.2/8dBzVgfFTF9jflOzRh0vsg--/YXBwaWQ9bWFnYXppbmVzO3c9ODAw/https://s.yimg.com/os/en-US/blogs/movietalk/harrington-blog-jpg_202623.jpgKit Harington as Jon Snow and as Milo the Celt in Pompeii.  Do you think the Men of the Night’s Watch should put out a calendar?  (image courtesy of imgbuddy.com)

Here’s Djimon Hounsou and Russell Crowe joining forces in the arena.  Wait a minute, correction, here’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Kit Harington, also joining forces in the arena.

Russell Crowe seizing horse and riding it to great effect in the arena.  Darn it, did it again.  Kit Harington seizing a horse, etc.

                                                  Nice of them to tell you in advance on the official posters that he’s a bad guy.  Spoilers, people! Kiefer Sutherland as Senator Corvus.

The Senator, getting his Joaquin Phoenix on.  He is terribly vexed.

                     “I saw the man who killed my family. Perhaps the gods spared me for a reason.”

[Corvus / Commodus]  forces the unwilling [Lucilla / Cassia] to sit beside him in the arena by means of threatening members of her family.

Emily Browning as Cassia, daughter of Pompeii’s ruling family.

Cassia and Ariadne (Jessica Lucas).

Cassia’s parents, Severus (Jared Harris) and Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss).

Is that you, Captain Renard?  You’re a long way from Portland, sir.  Sasha Roiz as Marcus Proculus.

Atticus (Finch!  Sorry, knee-jerk reaction to hearing the name) grins at Milo while smarmy Bellator (Currie Graham) approaches.

And Vesuvius finally gets around to erupting.

The wave scene from The Perfect Storm.  Wait a minute, uh …  oh, why do I even bother?  By this point you know Pompeii is intensely derivative.

 

 

Photos courtesy of TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict, Constantin Film International, Impact Pictures, Don Carmody Productions, Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate Films

Note of historical interest:  When the site of Pompeii was first found, archaeologists kept finding voids in the layers of ash, which stumped them until someone had the bright idea of filling them in with plaster.  The results were a rather horrifying by-product of the volcanic eruption – detailed forms of people, forever preserved exactly as they fell and died.  Pompeii and Herculaneum were near perfect time capsules, telling us much of what we now know about the Roman world.

(image found on Flickr)

For more information, visit: Casts of Pompeii by Brevard College and The Mummy Tombs – Plaster Casts of Pompeii, the latter of which allows you to virtually explore Pompeii, seeing the various forms found in specific places in the city.

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