Pompeii is plagued by ho-hum direction and a poor screenplay and story that fails to give any breathing room for, especially, character development and a reason why we, the viewer, should even care about the events or the relationship. But for all that’s wrong, I will say Harrington, Browning and Akinnuote all turn in fine performances, giving it their best as they are out of their elements.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama
Sony | PG13 – 95 min. – $45.99 | May 20, 2014
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
CGI Porn (noun) – The excessive use of CGI (Computer Generated Images) in a poorly written film, generally with dizzying special visual effects. – Urban Dictionary
Pompeii is visually appeasing but short on story despite the best efforts of most of the cast and some quality work in the costume department, though I wonder if they merely went to the same warehouse that The Legend of Hercules did; the garbs seemed familiar (or perhaps Hercules just borrowed from this production).
The story opens in 62 A.D. where a young boy named Milo witnesses the slaughter of his entire family, as well as the village, at the hands of a man credited only as “The Weasel” by command of Roman general Corvus (KIEFER SUTHERLAND) as Milo played dead. On the road, he’s captured and made a slave where upon we fast forward 17 years to find the older Milo (KIT HARRINGTON), in Londinium, Britannia easily wiping out his competition in the ring and his owner/promoter decides to take him to Pompeii to tackle bigger and better fighters and in the process make some decent coin.
As the slaves are on the road to Pompeii, we are introduced to Princess Cassia (EMILY BROWNING) and her assistant/aid (JESSICA LUCAS) when her carriage hits a pothole – where are those taxes going – and one of the lead horses falls over and has what probably is a broken leg. Milo offers to help which Cassia, being immediately smitten with him as happens in these types of films, and Milo does the only decent thing and kills the horse to which she was grateful doing the merciful thing.
Later, Milo gets settled into his caged quarters meeting his cellmate and eventual opponent, gladiator champion Atticus (ADEWALE AKINNUOYE-AGBAJE) who is one fight away from earning his freedom, though we all know his owners/handlers can’t let that happen and device ways of stopping it, as well as giving hell to Milo.
Meanwhile, Princess Cassia meets up with her parents, politician father (JARED HARRIS) and doting mother (CARRIE-ANNE MOSS), returning home early after living some time in Rome, a place she detests pursued, we later learn, by a wannabe suitor who is none other than Roman senator Corvus; what coincidence that the butcher of Milo’s clan would happen to be in town at the same time he’s set to fight in the ring! In any case, Cassia’s father is a bind knowing of Corvus’ lusting after his daughter as he needs Corvus’ signature to build new arenas and other outlets in Pompeii.
What a quandary we have now: Corvus wants Cassia; Cassia for her part falls for Milo and vice versa! Put this on NBC daytime let the story run for about 5 years before any kind of resolution and you’ve got the recipe for a successful soap opera! Kidding aside, it’s a forced love triangle made all the more enjoyable anytime Sutherland and his strange accent is on screen.
I think you can fill in the rest of this clichéd story, especially if you’ve seen Gladiator.
Pompeii isn’t a terrible film, at least not as bad as I had feared reading reviews from both professionals and the average movie-goer, and yet still the screenplay, by a trio of writers, was weak and doesn’t give much breathing room for any sort of genuine character development which is set aside for mayhem, disaster, riotous crowds in the arena, etc.
If there’s anything positive about this movie, it would be the main cast. I actually thought for the brief time they had together (which totaled only 10 minutes at best), Kit Harrington and Emily Browning had some decent chemistry, then there’s Adewale Annuoye-Agbaje who was so damn charismatic and just all around turning in a fine performance worthy of being in some other, better film; I kind of wished this film was centered around his character…
On the downside with the cast, Kiefer Sutherland was woefully miscast and even though he was fun in a goofy kind of way, he is a bit distracting especially towards the end as the film tries to ramp up the disaster and drama. Depending on your viewpoint, Sutherland may actually be the film’s only saving grace. While Sutherland was goofy, the normally fantastic Jared Harris seemed more disinterested than anything.
Pompeii was helmed by that other, less talented, Paul (W.S.) Anderson, he takes a break from directing Underworld to present a passion project dating some time back and given his opportunities, it’s mostly squandered in the rubble of so-so action scenes. I can’t say I found this to be terrible, especially compared with some of the schlock I’ve encountered just this past couple of months.
If you don’t relish every minute detail of the real life events and can look beyond some of the more hokey acting, Pompeii isn’t terrible and taking the historical elements out of it, it might be worth a rental.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
This release comes with a semi-glossy slip cover, inside the case is the 3D Blu-ray and 2D Blu-ray discs and an authorization code for the Digital Copy.
Filmmakers’ Commentary – Producer/Director Paul W.S. Anderson and Producer Jeremy Bolt sit down for an engaging track speaking to how the project came to be over the course of seven years, breaking down certain scenes and casting the roles. Sure, the movie itself might not be great, but this isn’t altogether a bad commentary track.
Deleted & Alternate Scenes (23:32; HD) – An astounding 20 scenes were included here either cut entirely or trimmed no doubt for pacing and such, but a few offers further insights into the characters so it’s nice to see them at least in this form. Included amongst these is Paz Vega whose part as Strigana was cut.
The Assembly (7:14; HD) covers the assorted cast of the main characters and the chemistry between the leads.
The Journey (7:42; HD) offers a glimpse at making the movie from its inception, historical origins and putting together the production designs and such.
The Costume Shop (6:52; HD) is a look at the costume designs in the movie.
The Volcanic Eruption (7:06; HD) examines the special and visual effects used for the big disaster scene.
The Gladiators (6:23; HD) breaks down the fight scenes and stunt work featured in the arena.
Pompeii: Buried in Time (24:06; HD) is a behind-the-scenes featurette on the disastrous event, as well as the film itself, that destroyed the city with on-set interviews with the cast (including Harrington, Browning, Sutherland) and crew (Anderson, Bolt, et al.).
Previews – That Awkward Moment, The Monuments Men, Afflicted, A Fighting Man
2D VIDEO – 4.75/5 | 3D VIDEO – 4.5/5
Pompeii erupts onto Blu-ray presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and sporting a sharp and finely detailed 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture itself tends to go towards more natural colors, with a more greenish hue at times, so it might not be the brightest transfer, but it shows off the visual effects quite well and those darker shots show no signs of artifacts or pixilation.
The 3D transfer meanwhile is excellent showing off the usual stuff (spears flying towards or around the screen) but unlike others that have come along, this was shot natively for 3D so we get many opportunities for nifty shots. It didn’t notice any major signs of ghosting and the depth of field on these are excellent.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
The movie comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which showcases the quieter, more dialogue moments, as well as the big action-packed sequences, particularly the ending. The sounds of the mountain exploding, hurdling fireballs at the masses to go along with blood-curdling screams through the streets all resonate with depth and clarity through each channel; the center reserved for on-screen action and dialogue while the rear speakers are quiet but effective for ambient noises and the score.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Pompeii is plagued by ho-hum direction and a poor screenplay and story that fails to give any breathing room for, especially, character development and a reason why we, the viewer, should even care about the events or the relationship. But for all that’s wrong, I will say Harrington, Browning and Akinnuote all turn in fine performances, giving it their best as they are out of their elements. The Blu-ray at least has a nice selection of bonus material while the audio/video transfers are both fantastic.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.