PLOT:Milo (Kit Harington) a young Celtic gladiator enslaved in the doomed city of Pompeii falls in love with the daughter (Emily Browning) of a wealthy merchant, who happens to be betrothed to bloodthirsty Roman Senator Colvis (Kiefer Sutherland), the very man who murdered his parents years earlier. Will Milo be able to save his lady love from the clutches of Colvis and have his revenge? And whats with all the weird rumblings coming from Mount Vesuvius?
REVIEW:Take GLADIATOR, mix it in with a heavy dose of TITANIC, add a dash of SPARTACUS and GAME OF THRONES, and what do you get? The answer is something pretty close to Paul W.S Andersons POMPEII, a film that so liberally steals from other bigger and better movies (and TV shows) that it becomes a kind of pastiche. Still, despite its watered-down GLADIATOR-esque fights and cheesy plot, POMPEII cant help but be a reasonably entertaining 100 minutes, and one of director Andersons better films.
Andersons always been a tough guy to peg. Hes made a lot of bad movies (his recent THREE MUSKETEERS arguably being the worst) but Id hesitate to call him an out-and-out bad director. MORTAL KOMBAT is ultra-cheesy, retro nineties fun, while EVENT HORIZON is derivative, but very stylish and entertaining. Technically, he has skill, and its not fair to slot him with a hack like Uwe Boll, as given the right script and resources he could probably make a very decent film (something I dont think Boll is capable of). POMPEIIs certainly not a very good movie, but its not bad and probably the closest Andersons come to doing a good film since DEATH RACE.
Certainly, its a far cry from being perfect, or even really good. For one thing, it offers nothing you havent seen before. The first two-thirds feels like a watered-down GLADIATOR rip-off, right down to the Hans Zimmer-clone score (complete with some Lisa Gerrard style wailings). The early scenes showing Milos family being wiped-out is lifted almost verbatim from CONAN THE BARBARIAN (only with Kiefer Sutherlands Romans versus James Earl Jones snake cult). Still, even here the film is reasonably diverting.
GAME OF THONES Kit Haringtom certainly makes for a fit gladiator (sporting six-pack abs that are so well-defined they almost look CGI-enhanced), and while he doesnt do much here thats too different from what he does as Jon Snow on GAME OF THRONES, it cant be denied hes a good fit for the genre. Emily Browning is more-or-less window dressing as the doe-eyed girl with a crush on our muscled hero, but the two make for an attractive pair even if their romance has very little depth. Not-so-coincidently, it feels like a retread of the Tom Branson-Lady Sybil storyline from DOWNTON ABBEY, which is fitting with Julian Fellowes having apparently had a hand in the screenplay.
LOSTs Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje arguably has the movies best part as an aging gladiator on the cusp of winning his freedom whos paired with Milo in the ring. Anyone who remembers Woody Strodes conflicted gladiator from Stanley Kubricks SPARTACUS will find this part familiar, but Akinnuoye-Agbaje is charismatic and gets the movies best mano-a-mano fight in the climax. Meanwhile, Kiefer Sutherland camps it up like never before as the Roman baddie. His performance is highly stylized, with him playing it with a constant sneer thats not unlike the swashbuckling villains Basil Rathbone played in the thirties and forties. Normally, this kind of scenery chewing would be off-putting, but it fits the film and hes fun to watch.
Being so prominently billed as POMPEII 3D, arguably the main goal of the movie is to provide audiences with some eye candy. Everything before the eruption is fairly stale visually, with the 3D being rather flat. The only time it really pays off is during the half-hour long fall of Pompeii, and the CGI effects are good (it feels like most of the budget was saved for the climax), even if this never feels like more than a B-level spectacle. Still, for what it is its not bad.
The trailers for POMPEII promised audiences nothing more than a silly but fun Roman sword n sandal romp, and thats exactly what director Anderson has delivered. Its not a great film, but it makes for a decent hour and forty minutes of entertainment. Its a huge improvement over THREE MUSKETEERS 3D (thankfully modern slang is mostly absent here) and will probably satisfy genre fans who just want eye candy. Keep your expectations in check and you should have a good time.
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|Extra Tidbit:||If you want to see a really good Pompeii movie, check out 1935's THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII. It was Schoedsack-Cooper's follow-up to KING KONG, and it's unfairly obscure and tons of fun.|