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November 25th, 2014

Max’s View

Pompeii

**1/2

Just as clearly as the United States is the ultimate superpower of our time, The Roman Empire was the great superpower of the ancient world.

There are still places on earth that are backward and uncivilized to this day. 2000 years ago, the Romans had already built an impressively sophisticated society.

When you bathe today using water that is pumped in from out of town, thank the Romans for coming up with that terrific technology.

When you feel safe in your country because there is a professional standing army ready to go anywhere to fight for you, thank the Romans for popularizing that concept.

When you get drunk and go to a big stadium to watch men hurt each other for sport, you can thank the Romans for inventing that awesome pastime.

When you go to church or pray, thank the Romans for creating the primary religion of the West. Jesus lived in the Roman Empire.

Rome was so great that I expect that movies about it should be great, too. The HBO series “Rome” was perfect. “Gladiator” was pretty darn good.

“Pompeii” is just okay.

It tells the story of a gladiator slave known only as The Celt who lives in 1st Century Britain. The good news is that he is so impressive in the arena that he gets moved to Italy and meets a beautiful rich girl there. The bad news is that he is moving to Pompeii. At the worst possible time in history.

During the first hour, “Pompeii” is a half-way decent gladiator movie. The last 45 minutes isÉ well, exactly what you are expecting. If you do not know what happened to the city of Pompeii in the year 79AD, you will be as sad about the ending as I am for your high school history teachers.

Like the city itself, the movie “Pompeii” was doomed from the start. You can’t have a serious film about Rome that is rated PG-13.

Ancient Rome was an NC-17 kind of place.

People hacked each other to death in government sponsored public games.

Prisoners of war were herded into cities and sold like animals at slave auctions.

When a politician hosted a bi-sexual orgy, it wasn’t a scandal to be covered up – it was the social event of the season.

The Roman Empire was a wild, violent, decadent place. You just can’t capture its spirit with PG-13. Even the 1979 film “Caligula,” one the most notorious failures in the history of cinema, is a little bet-ter than “Pompeii.” At least the producers of “Caligula” had the guts to portray a realistic version of Rome.

The Roman Empire was truly great and remarkable. The movie “Pompeii” is only pretty good and pedestrian. Take it or leave it.

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