- RatedPG13 /GenreAction, Adventure, Drama
There was once a promising period in time, when ‘Pompeii’ was attached to filmmaker Roman Polanski (‘The Pianist’), who was set to work off a script penned by frequent collaborator Robert Towne (‘Chinatown’).
One can only imagine what kind of genius those Academy Award-winning auteurs would have added to this period project.
In the end, the studio machine decided to go with director Paul WS Anderson (‘Resident Evil’) and writers Michael Robert Johnson, Janet Scott Batchler and Lee Batchler (‘Batman Forever’).
So now, it is best to adjust expectations for this movie.
The studio executives obviously ditched the high-minded drama route in favour of a deliberate B-grade camp spectacle.
Based on that barometer, this cliche-riddled natural disaster film certainly achieved its goal.
Taking its narrative template from ‘Titanic’ and ‘Gladiator’, it tells the fairly straightforward story of Milo (Kit Harrington keeping up his sword-wielding heroics from ‘Game of Thrones’), a Celt orphan who was captured as a slave and trained to be a fearsome gladiator from childhood.
A handy flashback informs viewers of his tragic past involving one evil senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) and his top lieutenant Proculus (Sasha Roiz).
Having grown into a young invincible warrior, Milo is sent to Pompeii to compete in the big leagues after making a name for himself in the coliseums of Brittania. There he bonds with fellow prisoner-fighter Atticus (played by the imposing Adewale Akkinnuoye-Agbaje) and catches the eye of the beautiful Cassia (Emily Browning).
The budding romance with Cassia is fraught with obstacles, naturally, she being the daughter of the city’s chief Severus (Jared Harris of ‘Mad Men’), and being forced into a marriage with the evil Corvus.
THE REAL ATTRACTION
So Milo’s quest for true love and freedom neatly dovetails into a quest for revenge. And all he has to do to accomplish that is to survive the deadly battles in the arena and the catastrophic eruption of mighty Mount Vesuvius. Overwhelming odds indeed.
And despite all the plot developments, the chaos caused by the volcano is the movie’s real attraction.
The hundred-million-dollar VFX set piece goes into spectacular wanton destruction much like any other disaster movie. Pompeii is reduced to billowing ruins by fire, lava, and earthquakes before finally being washed away by a tsunami.
The scale of tragedy is absurd, and yet the audience will hardly feel a shred of sadness for the loss of life. They will, in all likelihood, be awed by the calamity and the bloodlust of muscle-bound men tearing each other to shreds.
The sword fights and chariot chases amid a volcanic apocalypse is quite well done. The action is fast and frenzied, but towards the end, it is bogged down by Milo and Cassia’s utterly uninspiring love story
And if you are thinking that a 3D-viewing might add extra dimension to this flat story, we say drop the idea, because there are barely any 3D effects at all. ‘Pompeii’ is a passable PG action-adventure at best, but borders on being a disaster in itself.