I spent almost my entire review of THE LEGEND OF HERCULES ridiculing the movie for being a cut and paste of other, much better movies. I could probably do the same with POMPEII, but the saving grace for POMPEII is that it stars Kit Harrington instead of Kellan Lutz. It’s still not a good film and those of you familiar with Paul W.S. Anderson’s previous films probably already know that, but it does provide enough enjoyment to at least make it a decent time kill. I’m sure Mount Vesuvius and the city of Pompeii deserve better than to be an afterthought of a cliché-laden love story and another slave turned hero story, but that’s probably all they’re going to get for a while.
As you should hopefully know, the Roman Empire ruled most of the world by conquering the surrounding lands and forcing people into their empire or killing them. POMPEII tells the story of Milo (Harrington), who was a lone survivor after his people were brutally murdered by the Roman senator Corvus (Sutherland). Milo became a slave and eventually a gladiator with his eyes set on taking vengeance on the men that killed his people. His success in the arena brings him to Pompeii, where he meets the beautiful Cassia (Browning), the daughter of a wealthy trader and the object of Corvus’s affection.
The stage is set in the first and second acts for a third act featuring an epic gladiator battle between Milo and his friend Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbagje), but that arena battle is scrapped for a third act featuring the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Milo and Atticus have to fight the Roman guards to escape and save Cassia, while trying to find a way to flee the impending volcano eruption. Since Anderson still struggles with action scenes and has yet to effectively blend CGI and live action, virtually all of the “action” in POMPEII is anticlimactic. Speaking of the CGI, the CGI in POMPEII is weak considering the film is so reliant on it.
Kit Harrington is playing a more physical version of his Jon Snow character from ‘Game of Thrones’, but there are flashes where you can tell Kit has a bright future. He’s never really given an opportunity to do anything but be angry and fight and maybe the nicest thing you can say about him in POMPEII is that the film isn’t his fault. The audience can only handle so many clichés, no matter who’s starring in the film. Then there’s Kiefer Sutherland. Maybe it was the accent or maybe it’s the fact Sutherland looked completely out of place, but he was terrible in POMPEII. His accent sounded exactly like Jeremy Irons and his performance was so bad it was actually distracting to the film.
POMPEII is not a good film by any means, nor is it even the worst film in this genre in the last few months (THE LEGEND OF HERCULES takes that honor), but it offers nothing new to the genre and the bad pacing and lack of story structure eliminate any credit the film would get for covering a historical event. Jon Snow fans should appreciate seeing Kit Harrington in a different role, but he deserves a better shot than this.
POMPEII might not hold your attention with story or character development, but it sure is fun to watch in 3D. It manages to blend depth and cheap gimmicks pretty well, keeping you involved with the film at all times.
Video: The 2D version is just as impressive as its 3D counterpart, offering rich, vibrant colors and a beautifully detailed setting.
Audio: The audio was just as impressive.
Commentary with Paul W. S. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt: Anderson and producer Bolt give an engaging commentary and discuss everything you’d expect. I found some of their anecdotes interesting and fans of the film should enjoy the behind the scenes notes they offer on the film.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (23:32): There are twenty scenes total and although they would have added more to the story and character development, I’m glad they were cut. They didn’t fit in with the film Anderson made.
Mini-featurettes (35:17): Five featurettes roughly seven minutes a piece cover the cast, the costumes, the battles and the blend of historical fact and fiction.
Pompeii: Buried in Time (24:05): Some of this overlaps with the group of mini-featurettes and I’m disappointed this wasn’t more focused on the true history of Pompeii. If you only have time to watch one of these featurettes, I’d stick with this one instead of scrolling through the shorter features. This covers everything you’d want to know.