What is a guilty pleasure movie? In some previous reviews back in October I indicated some of the movies weren’t good, but were in fact my guilty pleasure. What does that mean? Do I actually feel guilty for enjoying the movie? Not really. It does however mean that I am taking enjoyment from a film that I know is not all that good. There are plenty of films out there that meet this criteria. Sometimes it’s ok for a film to not be good, but still be entertaining. That of course gets into the question of what is a “Good film”. I mean if a film entertains you doesn’t that mean it’s good?
Well no. A combination of things make a movie good – for me. Thats the key here, its very subjective as is all forms of art to the viewer. I think the Mona Lisa is the work of a master with subtle nuances in the color and design. Do I enjoy looking at it? Would I want a print of it? No. Conversely, I have art on my wall that is not nearly as finely crafted, but gives me pleasure to look at. It’s the same with movies. There are films that are masterworks of their craft and films that do all the things right that they can and are “good” or “great”. Then there are ones that fail at many elements that show an artists touch yet are still entertaining. Schindlers List, a masterpiece, but is it entertaining to me? No. Starship Troopers, fails on many levels, but is eminently entertaining.
Why this particularly lengthy explanation? Because it ties to the works of the director of Pompeii – Paul W.S. Anderson. As always before writing my reviews I go over director, writer, and actor filmographies. I reviewed Mr. Anderson (and if you said that in your head like Hugo Weaving – points for you) and his work. I must admit while none of his movies can truly be called “Good” I actually enjoy every…last…one. For those not as versed, he is behind all five Resident Evil films, Soldier, Event Horizon, AVP, Death Race, Mortal Kombat and the recent Three Musketeers. Few of which can be argued as being good, but have elements to them that are well, in a word arguably good. I find all of them actually fun to watch and have done so multiple times. This is why I went into Pompeii expecting nothing good, yet came out vaguely entertained.
Vaguely. This is perhaps the weakest of his films to date. Some of his previous ones are self aware enough to know they are bad (Resident Evil 4,5,6) and others strive for something more and achieve it (SOldier, Event Horizon). This is one that never apparently tries to be more than it is. It barely tries to do anything other than take itself too seriously for what the director and script are capable of. This could have been Titanic. This wanted to use history as a beat, but not truly use it for what it could have. The science, the history, Pliny’s journal and the remnants of what was found in the shadow of Vesuvius all could have driven the story forward without being the plot. They could have been respected, they could have been used at all.
Instead we were given the opening of Conan, the love story of Titanic and the plot of Gladiator. There was not an original idea or element in this movie. A better director could have done something with that, but alas Anderson is not that director. The writers of course get the blame for the material. We begin with Janet Scott Batchler, the last thing she worked on of note was Batman Forever. I think I need not explain further on her. Her husband Lee is also a credit here (but sadly not a credit to script writing) who assisted in Batman Forever. The final writing credit, and you know the rules now on three writers or more, is for Michael Robert JOhnson, who gave us the 2009 Sherlock Holmes, which was actually pretty good. The writing here was just lazy.
This is the story of a man whose people, “The Celtic Horse People”, were killed by romans when he was just a boy. He escaped the massacre and was in turn sold into slavery. In the way of such tales, he of course becomes a fearsome gladiator that is moved from the lands of the British isles to Italy to fully make money off of his prowess. Along the way the slave/gladiator falls for a rich noble of the roman empire who of course falls for him as well. Over the course of three days, in which they spend approximately five hours together they form a deep and meaningful relationship all the while he is fighting as a gladiator. Oh and there’s a volcano that erupts too. Thats not a spoiler. It’s a movie called Pompeii.
Kit Harrington is our lead actor as “The Celt”, best known for his work as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones he doesn’t show any more range than he does as Snow. He does however show that he can actually kick ass and fight with passion. He also shows his six pack. Dayum. He’s pretty but has the acting range of Kristen Stewart and Keanu Reeves. Emily Browning plays Rose, er Cassia, our roman love interest. She is doe eyed most of the film but thankfully not entirely helpless. She’s actually the most interesting character in the movie. She has inner strength, cunning and even a bit of a vicious streak. Browning also gets better looking the dirtier she gets and less doe eyed she gets. The movie also has the talents of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, the second most interesting character. That is to say he feels like a whole person. There’s also Jared Harris, Carrie Anne Moss and a surprise presence of Kiefer Sutherland. I didn’t even know he still made movies anymore.
What of the production? The science of the eruption (to my knowledge) is off just enough to feel wrong to me. The effects of it themselves are solid. They fit with Andersons usual work with clearly being CGI but better than we get in plenty of other feature films. Certainly the best CG we’ve seen this year. The editing though. Look I get how hard editing is. You have to watch time stamps and sync sound and video and make sure everything is perfect. You have to cut scenes that are perfect save for a single element or piece them together in a way no one can tell there’s something wrong. So why in all of that work did someone miss Harrington being called “Snow” in one scene and “Kit” in another.
Between the blatantly recycled plot, mediocre acting, only average effects, it shouldn’t be surprising that the movie delivers a colossal “meh”. I *was* entertained, but not as much as his other works. I shouldn’t laugh as people are dying, yet I did.
I know its been out a few weeks now, but if you haven’t already give it a pass. Judging from its box office receipts most people knew this. You can watch it on Netflix or Redbox or something later when you need some noise in the background while doing something you actually care about.
All of that said, prior to tomorrows review of 300 Rise of an Empire…
What are *YOUR* guilty pleasure movies?