Pompeii (2014)

PompeiiShortly after seeing his mother murdered by Roman soldier Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), Milo (Dylan Schombing) is captured by traders while trying to escape and sold into slavery. Years later (now played by Kit Harrington) he impresses slave owner Graecus (Joe Pingue) with his prowess in gladiatorial combat, is quickly bought and later brought to Pompeii in order to fight for city ruler Severus (Jared Harris) and his wife Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss). His apparently unprecedented sensitivity catches the attention of Cassia (Emily Browning) — Severus and Aurelia’s daughter — though before she can act on her attraction she is blackmailed into an engagement with Corvus, who has followed her home from Rome. None of this matters, of course, for nearby Mount Vesuvius is waking from its slumber, and preparing to unleash untold ash, pyroclast and pumice on the unwitting inhabitants below.

The ineptitude of Paul W. S. Anderson really does know no bounds. After all, this is the director who brought Zeppelins to Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, who simultaneously sullied both Alien and Predator franchises, and who explained to viewers of Resident Evil: Apocalypse that they were in Raccoon City no less than three times in as many minutes. With Pompeii he can’t even get the opening credits right, as actors’ names are mixed rather haphazardly with historical quotes and typeface establishing time and place. Things only get worse as modern day footage gives way to prologue, and we are introduced for the first time to Sutherland’s Corvus, the actor giving by some margin the worst performance of the year so far.

While Anderson’s films are almost always awful, they can from time to time still be good fun, too. His Resident Evil franchise is never likely to win any artistic (or even technical) awards but the films nevertheless have a certain charm — at least until the last one. With Pompeii, however, he has gone for something rather more serious, and thus not only is the film terrible but tedious too. Harrington is a capable actor who is doing excellent work on HBO’s Game Of Thrones, as part of one of the largest ensembles ever amassed for the purposes of entertainment; here as a leading man, however, he struggles to carry the film, convincing physically but leaving a lot to be desired emotionally. It’s not just his underprivileged life that’s at stake, but his budding romance with Browning’s Cassia. Sadly, that’s just as incidental, despite receiving substantially more screentime than it perhaps deserves. Come the final act, the only character you want to survive is Atticus; for Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is the only actor who gives you any reason to care.

The volcano stuff is naturally preposterous, as any semblance of scientific accuracy is dropped to better complement what Anderson perceives as drama. Pompeii makes films like Dante’s Peak and Volcano seem perfectly realistic, underplayed even, as it all but does away with the symptoms of unrest and instead skips straight to the main event: not just plumes of ash but devastating earthquakes and an incoming tsunami to boot. Our leads obviously don’t stand a chance, but they do make a pretty good go of it; Milo finding time to save Cassia and face off against Corvus before the long overdue pyroclastic flow finally fades everything to black. It’s impressive in passing, but it’s hardly going to hold up as one of the cinematic events of 2014. Considering how much of a show Anderson made of using the ‘James Cameron/Vincent Pace Fusion Camera System’ — ‘The World’s Most Advanced 3D Technology’, the trailer would have you know — for Resident Evil: Afterlife, the stereoscopy in Pompeii is neither here nor there.

While not quite as without merit as Resident Evil: Extinction, Pompeii is still pretty much irredeemable. Anderson clearly thinks he is making Titanic, pitting young love against near-inevitable death, but the film is neither sympathetic nor spectacular. In other hands the final scene might have been touching, but in Anderson’s heavy hands it is merely the latest disaster in a staggeringly long line of them. Still, it’s important to maintain a sense of perspective: this is only the second biggest catastrophe to befall the people of Pompeii.

 

1.5-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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