*** (out of 5)
February 21, 2014
Kit Harington as MILO
Carrie-Anne Moss as AURELIA
Emily Browning as CASSIA
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as ATTICUS
Jessica Lucas as ARIADNE
Jared Harris as SEVERUS
Joe Pingue as GRAECUS
Kiefer Sutherland as CORVUS
Currie Graham as BELLATOR
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
First off, I’m not going to mince words or bury the lead for this review. “Pompeii” is not a good movie. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it to a certain degree.
That’s right. In many ways, “Pompeii” is utter crap. But it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and the last forty minutes is worthy of the big-screen spectacle. Like eating White Castles at three in the morning, the movie is not good for you and will likely leave you with abdominal pain. But it’s fun while it happens.
After spending far too long running the “Resident Evil” franchise into the ground, Paul W.S. Anderson gives the ancient story of Pompeii the “Titanic” treatment to bring the epic disaster to the big screen. Mind you, saying it gets the “Titanic” treatment isn’t a throwaway comment, either. The story side of “Pompeii” takes almost every character and plot cue from James Cameron’s 1997 film. It’s not homage at this point; it’s just blatantly ripping it off.
The big difference between the two movies is that Cameron’s “Titanic” was well written and well acted, and it had some great pacing and character development. When it comes to plot, character, story and acting – all that supportive tissue that makes a movie good or bad – “Pompeii” misses the mark almost every time.
The story follows a young slave named Milo (Kit Harington), who is destined to fight in the gladiator arenas. When he is brought to Pompeii to compete, he catches the eye of Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of a privileged man. However, Cassia has become the focus of attention by Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), a Roman Senator who also happened to be responsible for the slaughter of Milo’s family.
As Milo and Cassia try to find a way to be together, Corvus starts to lean on her family. Meanwhile, literally in the background, Mount Vesuvius is rumbling away. Eventually the volcano erupts, and everyone in Pompeii must run for their lives… er… spoiler alert.
There’s so much wrong with the basic elements of this film, starting with the actors. Kit Harington might have a bright career on “Game of Thrones,” but translate him to the big screen and put him alongside someone as imposing as Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and he just looks puny… not gladiator material at all. It doesn’t help that his acting in the movie is really bland, too.
Emily Browning is pretty enough, but she phones in her performance. On a similar body issue note, it looks like the actress has gone the Jordana Brewster route and dropped so much weight that she looks sickly, with her head now abnormally large for her body, looking like a lollipop ready to fall over.
However, the worst offense in the acting department is Kiefer Sutherland. I have not been to ancient Rome, and I have no idea what the real accents of the people were at that time, but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing like what comes from Sutherland’s mouth. I don’t know if anyone (including Sutherland) knows what accent he’s sporting, but it’s an almost incoherent mess.
Still, with all of these problems, when Mount Vesuvius erupts, the movie becomes a movie again. Unlike “The Legend of Hercules” and “I, Frankenstein,” which had CGI scenes that looked like it was struck from a pre-viz render, the epic destruction looks amazing on the big screen and in 3D. I really didn’t care whether any of the characters lived or died (which is a good thing, if you know your history of the real Pompeii), but it was cool as hell to watch.
“Pompeii” is a disaster movie and a disastrous movie, but the ending is pretty doggoned spectacular, making it worth catching on the big screen.