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My screen name, Urquharts, comes from the name of the famous castle (Urquhart castle) in Scotland, which is located prominently on the shores of Loch Ness.
It is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited.
Pompeii: Thumbs UP!
I went into Pompeii with basically zip expectations, having read the story outline, and all of the negative posts here on IMDb (and elsewhere). In truth, I had decided to give it a pass.
Well, what with one thing and another (just couldn't pass up the opportunity to see Vesuvius blow it's top in 3-D).
And then it began. And you know what? Much to my surprise it sucked me right in. I ended up enjoying it immensely!
I'm not going to do a synopsis of the film, but I am going to mention what I found that was really good about the film (approaching excellence!) And what was not so good (actually - not too many complaints in this department).
Good: Opening Credits were moody and ominous, with a quite complex and wonderful score that assisted the action sequences throughout. Opening sequences draw the viewer in. The spare introductory sentences written by Pliny the Younger that appear without voice-over on screen are a nice touch.
Cinematography and set design were both top-notch, with the city of Pompeii lovely and all that one might expect a posh coastal resort town to be circa 79 AD.
3D added a notch up to the proceedings, without being distracting, in an Avatar kind of way. I only ducked once, when a lava bomb (Google it) seemed to be aimed at my head.
Acting was actually quite good, particularly the two leads Kit Harrington and Emily Browning. I don't think I have ever seen Ms. Browning in anything before, and the only thing I had seen Mr. Harrington in was was a single episode (it wasn't for me) of that strange middle-earthy-only-with-sex TV thing that seems to be all the current rage.
Kit Harrington. A very big surprise here. When he first appears, all moody and six-packy, one can't help but notice how physically small he is in stature compared to the other characters.
Although camera angles and character positioning goes a way to disguise this, it is still fairly obvious that most of the other characters are taller than he is.
This really bothered me - for about three seconds or so.
It was immediately established that he may be height-challenged, but damn! is he fast on his feet, in a give-no-warning, take-no-prisoners, David-and-Goliath kind of way. And this makes sense: it is actually (at least to me) quite logical that a smaller, leaner person can move faster than a bulked-up Arnold wannabe.
Harrington, quite frankly, and quite quickly, made me totally buy that he wasn't someone to mess around with. At all.
Although the script does not give him a lot to do, besides grunt and sweat, when he is on screen he is very watchable. Which surprised me again, because in the aforementioned television show he seems mostly just to pout from under his rug (or whatever it is that he wears in that show). In the quiet bits of Pompeii (and there are not many of them) he is, quite frankly, tragic. Even when he smiles (which he doesn't do often here). Tragic, and, somehow, for all of that, with a kind of lost sweetness underneath.
Emily Browning pretty much has even less to do here than does Kit Harrington, but she does it well. As the damsel-with-a-backbone-in-distress (why are her parents such wimps, anyway?) she is believable.
The other standout is unpronounceable-name guy (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) as the frenemy of the Kit Harrington character. He almost stole the show. Almost, but not quite.
Special effects are all that I hoped for (no flowing lava, thank goodness - lava didn't flow from Vesuvius) but some really nice to watch pyroclastic flows (Google it).
Have read something to the effect that the eruption CGI was "overdone". To that I say: Er. . . what!?! With the possible exception of Krakatoa the 79 A.D. eruption of Vesuvius was perhaps one of the most powerful eruptions that humans have ever witnessed and still lived to write about.
The pyroclastic flows and surges, and the ash fall, buried Pompeii and the surrounding countryside (not forgetting Herculaneum) to a depth of about 20 feet or so for the next two thousand years. The two cities were buried so deeply and so completely, that it could not be determined afterwards where they had actually been, and the names of these once vibrant cities were soon forgotten by history.
So, yes, it was a bit of a deal. And I'll take all I can get!
Not so Good
if you haven't seen the film, proceed beyond this point at your own risk.
The CGI horses (and people) at the end. During the mad chariot dash through the crumbling city as it is being bombarded by molten chunks of flying magma (I know, I know - magma is not the correct term here, but I like the way it rolls off my tongue - or, in this case, my keyboard) at the end of the film.
Why is it that the lobby poster for the film that shows the lip lock is also basically the very last shot in the film - practically the last frame? What's up with that?
The embracing lovers turned to stone. Had a flow traveling at 450 mph hit the standing lovers in a field (a pyroclastic flow moves pretty fast) at 1,000 degrees F there likely would have been nothing left.
However. . . on second thought. . . the lovers-in-stone was a fitting final image of the film.
I like it.
And I even misted up a bit at the end.