Pompeii (2014) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Pompeii mixes Conan the Barbarian, Spartacus, countless prison B-Movies, and Titanic in concocting a sometimes ungainly but never boring brew of schmaltz and spectacle. Director/writer Paul W.S. Anderson has studied the sword and sandal genre’s greatest hits and has taken a throw everything against the wall approach to his ancient epic. This causes for some moments of rousing action and a few (unintentional?) laughs.

Kit Harington resembles Orlando Bloom crossed with a young Kurt Russell, he isn’t bad in his big screen debut and works well with the often wooden dialogue coming out of his mouth. One of my favorite character actors Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje finally gets a part that gives him the respect this hardworking and overlooked actor deserves. He is basically stepping into the role that Djimon Hounsou occupied in Scott’s Gladiator, a much better film that this one obviously covets.

As young boy Milo (Harington) witnessed the slaughter of his tribe and the murder of his mother at the hands of a maniacal Roman general. Enslaved and trained for gladiator fighting the child morphs into a special weapon capable of taking on the best in Rome’s famous arena. This leads to his owner taking Milo to the resort-like city of Pompeii to compete against Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the most respected of all fighters, and just one win away from obtaining freedom according to Roman law. A rich maiden catches the eye of Milo after he help the damsel put her disabled horse down after a nasty break. This act of humanity for a supposed savage intrigues the noble-woman, and soon a love affair develops between the two. History and plot points dictate the romantic tryst short-lived as the rumbling Mount. Vesuvius is about to blow and encase the city in flying flaming lava rocks, a tsunami, poisonous gaseous air quality and seventy feet of ash.

The last 40 minutes are chock full of special effects depicting these horrors, some that dazzle and some that are surprisingly patchy, the enhanced 3-D actually works in the film’s favor, it is crisp and doesn’t induce nausea which is surprising considering director Anderson’s propensity for quick-cutting in the editing room. Pompeii is a minor film that aspires to be greater than the sum of its parts, the large budget was obviously spent on the CGI and the cast of television actors/actresses doesn’t help conceal the groan-inducing dialogue or creaky plot developments. But the flick has good pacing and some great visuals which confuse the matter because without the last act, this movie could have been released as the Conan reboot or under the Cannon films banner during their 1980’s heyday.

Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Stars: Kit Harington, Emily Browning,Kiefer Sutherland

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