PLOT:Milo (Kit Harington) Ė a young Celtic gladiator enslaved in the doomed city of Pompeii Ė 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 whatís 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 Andersonís 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 canít help but be a reasonably entertaining 100 minutes, and one of director Andersonís better films.
Andersonís always been a tough guy to peg. Heís made a lot of bad movies (his recent THREE MUSKETEERS arguably being the worst) but Iíd 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 itís 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 donít think Boll is capable of). POMPEIIís certainly not a very good movie, but itís not bad and probably the closest Andersonís come to doing a good film since DEATH RACE.
Certainly, itís a far cry from being perfect, or even really good. For one thing, it offers nothing you havenít 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 Miloís family being wiped-out is lifted almost verbatim from CONAN THE BARBARIAN (only with Kiefer Sutherlandís Romans versus James Earl Jonesí snake cult). Still, even here the film is reasonably diverting.
GAME OF THONESí 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 doesnít do much here thatís too different from what he does as Jon Snow on GAME OF THRONES, it canít be denied heís 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.
LOSTís Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje arguably has the movieís best part as an aging gladiator on the cusp of winning his freedom whoís paired with Milo in the ring. Anyone who remembers Woody Strodeís conflicted gladiator from Stanley Kubrickís SPARTACUS will find this part familiar, but Akinnuoye-Agbaje is charismatic and gets the movieís 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 thatís 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 heís 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 itís not bad.
The trailers for POMPEII promised audiences nothing more than a silly but fun Roman sword ní sandal romp, and thatís exactly what director Anderson has delivered. Itís not a great film, but it makes for a decent hour and forty minutes of entertainment. Itís 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.|