And the Walls Kept Tumbling Down

A 3-D Foray into Pompeii

Today’s culture is saturated with science fiction disaster movies. Everywhere you turn vampires and zombies are brining and end to the human race. But Paul W.S. Anderson takes us to the past and one of the greatest tales of volcanic destruction.

kit-harington-pompeii-movie-pic-image-first-look-official-11The movie follows a slave through the last days of Pompeii. One of the few remaining Celts, Milo is used by the Romans as a gladiator and it is his anger for his people that fuels him. His performance in fights draws the attention of his slave owner who wants to take him to Pompeii to show off. Pompeii is going through a crisis of its own. The city’s ruler Severus is trying to get Emperor Titus to fund the rebuilding of his glories city. But when his daughter becomes the price, he realizes he cannot get out of the game of politics. Severus’ family and the slave cross paths as Mount Vesuvius explodes and the citizens try to make it out alive.

What I really liked about the movie was that it spanned only days of time. There was no long, drawn out love courtship, and used only minor flashbacks to set up the story. In a short period of time, the writers managed to get many heavy points across. There is exploration of the Roman and Gladiator slavery system as well as looking at corruption of Roman generals. But the story also looks at love, friendship and duty. This keeps the movie from having a Titanic moment where everything is about sacrificial love. The movie also explores the many aspects of the natural disaster. It wasn’t just boom and poof everything was gone. The movie constructs the true impact of nature: earthquakes, tidal waves, and fiery debris, smoke that debilitated and fire charred people in an instant. This is was what really happened to these people.

The acting is perfectly fine, but the movie does not necessarily lend to great performances. The exception is Kiefer Sutherland playing the corrupt Senator. He is gloriously contrite and uppity. You delight in his wickedness. But Kit Pompeii 2014Harrington and Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje don’t have to do much more than look good being scantily clad and miming being a badass. While they are badass, it doesn’t give them much depth in their roles. I was glad to see Sasha Roiz in a pivotal on screen, as well as Anderson’s typical strong women characters that don’t just get kidnapped and scream.

The most disappointed thing about this movie is the 3-D aspect. Anderson is great at using 3-D to bring viewers into the action and often making them feel like they have been showed in zombie guts. But Pompeii only makes use of the technology as the volcano explodes. While the flying rock and ash make you cringe, these sequences are short and do not the rest of the movie.

I really enjoyed this movie but there isn’t anything special about it. It’s probably more of a Red Box rental if you don’t have an inclination to see Harrington’s glorious abs on the big screen.

A Second Visit to Silent Hill Turns to Hell

Silent Hill Revelation 3D
Contains Spoilers

The genre of video game movies has always had a torrid past. Sometime decent films are made (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil), but the majority of them are just horrid. One of the best adaptations was the original Silent Hill. Created by people who played the video games either before or during the filming process, it was a labor of love that brought a video game world to life. While it took some liberties with the original game concept, the beauty of the landscape, the casting, and shot for shot sequences from the first game make it a true adventure in Silent Hill.

I had high hopes for the second movie installment Revelation 3D, but it was an ill-conceived mash-up of the games and poorly thought out new ideas. The movie is schizophrenic: it goes off on its own story but pays homage to so many ways to the games. Only gamers would get the significance of the one red shoe in the hotel or the fact that one of Heather’s other names was Mary. But the story goes off course convoluting the story of Silent Hill 3 and taking on a life of its own.

Silent Hill Revelation tells the story of Heather, the teenage version of the Sharon in the first movie. Her and her father now named Harry, live a gypsy life style moving often and changing their names. Heather thinks it’s because Harry killed a man; she has no idea she is on the run from a cult. This cult isn’t some Jim Jones group of wackos; their God is real and has trapped the members in Hell on Earth. This hell differs for each visitor shaped by their own sins and fears. When her father is kidnapped, Heather and one of her fellow high school students head back to Silent Hill to rescue him.

Robbie the Rabbit and Heather Mason

At its core the plot mirrors that of the third game. Heather is found by a private detective who was hired by Claudia to bring her back into the fold. She uses Harry to drag Heather back in. But the plot similarities end there. The private investigator Douglass is no longer her companion. The film writers have warped the Samael worshipper Vincent into Claudia’s son and pawn. Leonard is actually humanoid (with a wonderful performance by Malcolm McDowell). Harry doesn’t die. The list goes on and on. For a Silent Hill fan, this is a farce, turning beloved characters into something new and obscene (pyramid head being beat up by another creature? Please). Silent Hill Revelation is the bastard child of Hollywood and gaming.Let me take a moment to complain about Vincent. As my favorite character in the third game, I was dismayed to see how his character was warped. He was no longer the bookish scholar whose talk indirectly stated that people saw Silent Hill differently, but a high school student sent by Claudia into the real to retrieve Heather. While Kit Harrington did well with what he was working with, the character is a sham to any one who knows the character. Unlike Cybil (who the casting department took seriously and cast Laurie Holden perfectly), he is the most disappointing character adaptation in the series. I would have accepted three actors to play Vincent: Jackson Rathbone, Matthew Gray Gubler, or Cillian Murphy. At least Harrington has good hair.

There are some merits. Most of the casting is pretty spot on. Douglas’s voice is great, and Heather is perfect. (I wish I could tell you more about Carrie-Ann Moss as Claudia, but she was only in for about ten minutes.) The 3D is fun and adds to scares to the creature arracks. Robbie the Rabbit is insanely creepy. The music is either directly from the games or created by Akira Yamaoka himself. The town of Silent Hill is still beautiful and very much reminiscent of the game, and with the music, is haunting. But the movie doesn’t spend much time in Silent Hill itself. A valid complaint of many of the game, it is a fatal flaw of the movie.

The second fatal flaw is that this movie leaves behind everything that made the first movie good. The movie relies too often on heavy CG and many of the creatures lose the organic look of the first movie. While CG has to be used in a movie like this, part of the scariness in the games is how real everything looked. The first movie understood this perfectly. The current installment also focuses more on the bloodiness and shock value. Cooking people alive, cutting off arms and fingers, and the sexual assault of a mannequin are in your face and disturbing instead of psychologically disturbing. It seems odd to make that complaint about Silent Hill which has a history of disturbing images. But it’s never been about gore, and all physical reactions are from a sense of psychological dread. Revelation instead relies on cheap scares.

Is this a good movie on its own? I can’t tell you. As a devoted fan, I have yet to emotionally remove myself from this project. It will take another viewing to decide the merits of it as a stand alone film. Though I fear, even trying to watch Revelation as a separate entity, the movie will not fare much better.

But the end did leave me happy. SPOILERS: Harry goes to look for Rose ala Silent Hill 2, Travis Grady picks Heather up to take them out of town, and we see Murphy Pendelton’s prison bus head in. For the first time, I truly felt embedded in Silent Hill.  If the rest of the movie could have been this spot on, it could have been as good as the first.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.