As I mentioned in a previous review, I’ve only got a few months left before I’m going to have to make out my list of the 16 worst and the 26 best films of 2014. With that in mind, I really need to get caught up on reviewing some of the films that might appear on those two lists. For the most part, I try to review every single movie that I see but, occasionally, a movie or two will slip through the cracks. And now, with Oscar season approaching but not quite arrived, seems like as good as time as any as to try to get caught up by reviewing two films that came out earlier this year: Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules and Paul W. S. Anderson’s Pompeii.
The Legend of Hercules is a film that I first saw with my BFF Evelyn way back in January. And while I meant to review it after I first saw it, I simply never got around to actually doing so. Some of that is because, when Kellan Lutz first showed up on screen, Evelyn said, “Nice tits,” and I ended up laughing so hard that I nearly fell out of my seat. This led to Evelyn spending the entire film trying to make me laugh again and, in between all of the whispering and the giggling, we undoubtedly missed out on a lot of the film.
However, I recently rewatched The Legend of Hercules on Cinemax and I was quickly reminded about the other reason that I hadn’t gotten around to reviewing it. There’s really just not that much to say about The Legend of Hercules. It’s just not a very good film but yet it’s not bad in a fun way either. It’s just boring. As played by Kellan Lutz, Hercules wanders through the ancient world and he does all the stuff that you would expect Hercules to do. Actually, he does all the stuff that you would expect any character in a rip-off of 300 to do. The film could have just as easily been called The Legend of Eammon, an Irishman in Greece.
In fact, I’d really like to see a movie called The Legend of Eammon, an Irishman in Greece. Get on it, someone.
According to Wikipedia, The Legend of Hercules had a budget of 70 million dollars, which makes it a bit odd that the film itself just looks cheap and generic. At one point, Hercules fights a lion and the CGI is so bad that, for a few minutes, the movie looks like one of those senior projects that students occasionally upload to YouTube. (I was half-expecting to see a comment apologizing for the “crappy special effects” flash across the screen.) During the film’s many fight scenes, director Renny Harlin does that thing where every punch is shown in slow motion. It gets annoying after the hundredth time.
A few words about Kellan Lutz. I happen to like Kellan Lutz. I think he’s been likable in other roles. But, in The Legend of Hercules, he really did spend the entire movie looking like he was wishing that he could be anywhere else. But can you blame him?
Now, before I review Pompeii, I should admit that, as you all know, I am a history nerd and, as you all might not know, I’ve always been fascinated by the Roman Empire. The summer after I graduated high school, I took a trip to Italy and I actually walked through the streets of Pompeii. My two main memories of Pompeii: while we were touring an ancient brothel, an Australian man lay down on one of the slabs. My other memory is that it was a very windy day and I was wearing a skirt so I can legitimately say that not only have I visited Pompeii but I’ve flashed Pompeii as well.
Anyway, Pompeii the Movie tells the story of the final days of Pompeii the City. A Celtic slave and gladiator named Milo (Kit Harrington) is sent to Pompeii where he, in quick order, meets and romances the noble Cassia (Emily Browning), establishes a friendly rivalry with fellow gladiator Atticus (the always intimidating Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), spots the evil Roman General (Kiefer Sutherland) who killed Milo’s mother, and then eventually has to run for his life as a cloud of ash and a river of lava crashes down on Pompeii.
Pompeii is a lot of fun. Harrington and Browning have a lot of chemistry, all of the actors are obviously having a good time with their melodramatic dialogue, and Kiefer Sutherland was born to play an evil Roman. As opposed to the Legend of Hercules, Pompeii looks good and the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius is genuinely impressive. Perhaps best of all, the film actually allows things to play out to their natural and logical conclusion. For once, history is not changed just to force a happy ending on the viewers and Pompeii is all the better for it!
So, in conclusion: forget about The Legend of Hercules and give Pompeii a chance. Actually, you’ve probably already forgotten about The Legend of Hercules so just try not to suddenly remember it. But seriously, Pompeii is better than you might think.