Pompeii is a movie that like Titanic, everyone knows how it will turn out in the end.  Unfortunately, when this is the case, you need strong first acts to keep the audience invested in the story.  Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil), Pompeii fails to capture the tension that should have existed with Mount Vesuvius erupting and ending an entire civilization.  The actual volcano and destruction of a civilization played second fiddle to a story about a slave turned gladiator Milo (Kit Harington), and his quest for love and revenge.  The film begins with a young Milo, who witnesses Roman soldiers killing not only his entire family but all of his people after they fought against the oppressive Roman regime.  Now orphaned, Milo is picked up by slave traders and forced into the entertainment of the times, becoming a gladiator.  Like 2000′s Gladiator, Milo starts fighting at smaller events, but is eventually noticed by someone from Pompeii and brought up to fight in the big leagues.  While in Pompeii, Milo meets the love of his life Cassia (Emily Browning), daughter of rich Pompeii socialites, who is currently being harassed by the same Romans who killed Milo’s family years earlier, led by Senator Corvis (Kiefer Sutherland).  Milo must then fight against the rumblings of Mount Vesuvius, Senator Corvis, and the other gladiators who are all trying to kill him.

Pompeii_thumbLGPompeii ultimately fails to deliver the necessary thrills to keep the audience engaged and invested in the story.  The film plays like a rip off of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, and uses that formula mixed in with an erupting volcano.  The possibilities for the film were endless, but the filmmakers chose to do something similar to what had worked in the past.  Paul W.S. Anderson, while beloved by some, is no Ridley Scott.  Anderson should have played more to his own strengths, rather than seemingly ripping off a couple movies that had worked in the past.

Kit Harington’s Milo was very similar to his character in Game of Thrones.  Smart, quiet, and excellent at fighting works in GoT.  In Pompeii however, Harington needed to show a bit more emotion.  His “Gary Cooper” (the strong silent type) character and expressionless emotions are difficult for an actor to pull off, and while not bad by any means, Harington simply doesn’t stand out.  Unfortunately, his supporting cast does not help improve the quality of the film or his performance.  Kiefer Sutherland’s Senator Corvis was over the top, and written into scenes far too conveniently.  No matter what, Corvis just kept popping up at just the right time, to the point where it’s comical.  The rest of the supporting cast do their job adequately, but nobody seemed too into it.  The one bright spot in the acting was Bridgagous played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.  The scenes with Milo and fellow gladiator Bridgageous were the best in the film.  The two of them played off each other well, going from enemies to friends.

Kit-Harington-in-Pompeii-2014-Movie-Image-5Even if your expectations for Pompeii are low, you will still be disappointed with the end result.  The $100 million movie feels like it was made much cheaper.  In an age where big-budget films are competing with each other, movies need to try and stand out.  The visuals felt flat even when things are intentionally being thrown at you, as you watch the gimmicky 3D used again and again.  With these “epic” period piece action films, if the acting isn’t great you need strong visuals to stand out.  Pompeii fails in this aspect as well, as the movie looks as if could have been made years ago.

With the script that fails, acting that fails to convey the right enthusiasm, and weak visuals, Paul W.S. Anderson’s Pompeii feels like a rushed direct-to-DVD sequel of 2000′s Gladiator.  Paul W.S. Anderson has a bit of a rocky filmography, but I suppose if you’re a fan of his previous movies Pompeii may be entertaining enough to earn your dollar.  It is a big-goofy action movie, and not much else.  If you’re looking for 105 minutes of not too much thinking, Pompeii could certainly be fun.  Like many of Anderson’s films, Pompeii will fail with the critics but may find success with audiences.  With Pompeii and Kevin Costner’s 3 Days to Kill opening this weekend, if your options are between the two, I would see Pompeii.  However, if you want to see a better sword and sandal film, I would wait for the 300 sequel in March, and enjoy these actors in some of their other works.

Pompeii stars Kit HaringtonEmily BrowningKiefer SutherlandJared Harris,Jessica LucasAdewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Carrie-Anne Moss, and is now on Blu ray and Video on Demand (VOD).  Wait until you can see it for free, unless you truly have an extra $5.99 to spend.

About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.