Pompeii: Movie Review
Cast: Kit Harrington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie-Ann Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jared Harris
Director: Paul W S Anderson
From the master of the CGI disaster Paul W S Anderson comes the latest epic - a historical tale of computer mayhem in the days running up to the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.
Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington (aka Jon Snow) stars as Milo, an enslaved gladiator, who has revenge on his mind after seeing his family slaughtered by the Romans.But his quest for justice is thwarted when he's placed in the arena to fight Atticus (Lost's Mr Eko, Akinnuoye-Agbaje) - to make matters worse, the woman he's fallen for, Cassia (Sucker Punch star Emily Browning) is out of his reach, being potentially palmed off to a villainous Senator Corvus (a British accented and lacking-a-moustache-to-twirl-while-doing-his-evil Kiefer Sutherland) as part of a deal to revamp the seaside town of Pompeii with Roman backers.
So, with swords drawn, enemies made and paths crossed, they're all set for a showdown.
Until Mt Vesuvius steps in with other plans...
What would you expect from Pompeii, a B-movie with aspirations higher than an erupting mountain?
With a story completely lacking in anything other than character brush strokes, drawn out thanks to plenty of slow-motion fighting and posturing, and some over-acting (Step forward Kiefer Sutherland, who's chewing as much of the scenery as it crumbles around in as fireballs from the volcano take it down) all helmed by the guy who's done most of the Resident Evil movies, Pompeii is a disaster movie in more ways than one.
You're not expecting much, and after many aerial shots of the Mount and a bit of rumbling, the thing <Spoiler alert> finally explodes in an apocalyptic blast that's actually quite visually impressive (though darkened a little by the 3D glasses) but utterly OTT.
The problem comes that the script takes itself too seriously as the stakes are raised perilously high for the leads with all the cliched dialogue - and not all of them rise to the challenge. Harrington spends the majority of the film looking pained and uncomfortable; Browning is more or less a wet blank canvas, who's drawn only to the slave with the six pack and because he can talk to the animals (seriously, he's a horse whisperer), and Sutherland is the only one appearing to have some fun, while bordering on the edge of parody. It's left to Jessica Lucas as Cassia's slave and Akinnuoye-Agbaje's gladiator Atticus to save the day, with their solidly impressive and relatively dignified turns being the stand-outs of the piece. And it's surprisingly bloodless for a film that takes in some of the most brutal Roman tactics of the time.
As the destruction starts, you'll find yourself glad that the end is in sight, though the cheese can't be held off by the molten lava and some truly laughable moments emerge - particularly at the very last shot which tries for emotional and dramatic but ends up being clunky and laughable. I know it's supposed to be nothing more than a disaster movie, but in among the falling ash, there's no emotion, no hint of a connection and ultimately no relief as history plays out.
The FX don't add anything to this hollow spectacle and any attempts at pathos or putting the pomp into Pompeii by using a portentous quote from Pliny to start with merely adds up the feeling the melodrama is simply not worth it - and the tide of lava needs to come quicker to end this tale of doomed love.