Pompeii 3D - a review

Last week, I finally got to see the movie Pompeii 3D, which I had been really excited about for a long time, for a few reasons.

Firstly, and undeniably, I think Jon Snow from Game of Thrones is really cute, and I was looking forward to seeing him as a gladiator in Ancient Rome. Now that that has been acknowledged, I'll just mooove swiftly on.

More important than that, though, is my lifelong love of the ancient world, particularly the Roman world. I am the proud holder of a degree in Classics, a GCSE in Latin and both seasons of HBO's Rome in a fancy wooden box set. I have visited the ruins of Pompeii; I went - very excitedly - to the British Museum's exhibition last year, which was truly incredible; I have listened to that Bastille song hundreds of times, I even named my blog after the opening line!

I also just love a blockbuster, especially a 3D blockbuster, and going to the cinema is pretty much one of my top things to do.

So there I was, waiting in delicious anticipation for a movie about which I had even gone so far as to say "I am prepared to let this be my new favourite film." This was a big freaking deal.

The movie opened with a Pliny quote about the destruction of the city, which was great, a strong start. Incidentally I am informed by the internets that this quote was attributed to the wrong Pliny - the Elder - when it was in fact the Younger, y'know, the one who wasn't killed in the eruption and actually got to write about it afterwards. It pretty much went downhill from there.

Pompeii 3D tells the story of Milo, a Celtic boy from Northern Britannia, who survives a vicious attack on his village, becoming a slave to the Romans, and the last of his people (the 'horse people'. I don't know enough about Roman Britain to critique this with any authority, but this last point was just entirely unnecessary to the plot. So he can talk to horses? Why!?).

He becomes a gladiator, and eventually gets 'scouted' fighting in rainy Londinium and transported all the way to sunny Pompeii, to become a fighting star there. To cut a long story short, he and the governor's daughter fall implausibly in love over the course of, it seems, an afternoon, and then the mountain explodes. And I don't use that expression lightly. It really does explode, raining fireballs down with eerie accuracy on our heroes and destroying most of the city, particularly the ampitheatre where the gladiatorial spectacle was taking place. An ampitheatre which, strangely enough, I have been to and which seems to be in pretty good shape for a building that was firebombed by Vulcan two thousand years ago...

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film immensely. I'd recommend it - even at over 2 hours it didn't drag; it was unintentionally hilarious at times; Kiefer Sutherland's campy Roman Senator was a spectacle in himself; Jon Snow was kind of cute. It had a lot going for it. It just wasn't what I had wanted it to be.

Embrace the silliness early on, and there is a lot of humour to be found. However, after giggling through the most ludicrous final scene I've ever seen, and leaving the cinema, niggling doubt began to creep in.

Without becoming boring, the historical inaccuracies were everywhere, but what I found really annoying was the fact that this is a true story. This happened to the citizens of Pompeii, they really did suffer and die in pain and fear, believing their gods had forsaken them. But not in rainy fireballs. They died as a result of the fatally hot gasses seeping out of the mountain, desperately trying to cover their faces as they clung to life. Maybe that wouldn't make for a such a great movie, but - in my opinion - this silly, ridiculous movie did them a bit of a disservice.

I can totally see why disaster movies are fun and enjoyable, and I can see why setting one in the ancient world seems like an interesting take on things; I just didn't like the way that this was set in a real event, pretending it was telling a real story, when it simply wasn't.

But hey, go see it, it's funny.