Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast: Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Browning
Duration: 104 minutes
Genre: Romance, action
Release date: 20 March 2014
Stephen A Russell says: Never let it be said that I’m a film snob. I love a well-delivered fun bucket of popcorn as much as the next multiplexer, with the daft but gorgeously-realised sword and sandals hack ‘n’ slash frolics of 300: Rise of an Empire a perfect, box office-slaying example. And so it was that I went into Pompeii, starring the oiled abs of Game of Thrones’ “Jon Snooooooow,” Kit Harington, with an open mind, if not sky-high expectations.
Things get off to a very wobbly start when some dubious looking ash fall CGI with faux-weighty narration gives way to a hokey intro as the Romans rule Britannia, slaughtering boy child Milo’s (Harington) Celtic horse clan for their misjudged uprising. The violence inflicted on them by sleazy Roman bigwig Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) and right-hand man Proculus (Sasha Roiz) feels oddly unmoving, with nary a sign of actual gore, though a macabre hanging tree is impressive.
Then we’re off to Londinium where a grown-up Milo flexes his newfound muscles in a rain-drenched sub-Gladiator pastiche that has him shipped off to fight in Pompeii instead for reasons not entirely clear. It’s during the march to the city in the shadow of a very ominously rumbling Mount Vesuvius that Milo comes to the attention of Pompeian lady Cassia (Emily Browning). Cue an even more awkward The Horse Whisperer moment.
There’s really not much more plot to speak of. Milo initially fights, then teams up with, fellow gladiator Atticus, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in the film’s only genuinely engaging performance, while Corvus makes the moves on the Milo-smitten Cassia, much to the horror of her parents Severus (Jared Harris) and Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss). Harrington, such a charismatic presence in Game of Thrones, makes little mark here, suggesting he’s not quite ready to hold down a feature solo.
Though it helps, depth of characterisation doesn’t really matter in an Armageddon-style disaster movie. We’re all just waiting for the big bang. And that’s where it all falls down. Well, falls further. Director Paul W.S Anderson has delivered rubbish but fun before with Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator, but this juts seems to go through the motions.The CGI really isn’t up to scratch. None of the destructive set pieces stand up to either the detail of 300: Rise of an Empire or the masterful beauty and seat-gripping thrills of Gravity.
It’s all just a bit blah really, with neither the actors nor the special effects up to the job, squandering what little bonus points Pompeii wins for not exactly delivering the Hollywood happy ending as Vesuvius blows the motherload.
Review courtesy of The Lowdownunder
The Hollywood Reporter says: “With a central love story that feels contrived from the very first note, the major pleasure here is seeing it all blown to smithereens as quickly as possible, resulting in a movie that will have far less staying power than Pompeii’s infamous ash-covered victims.”
Entertainment Weekly says: “The new historical-kitsch disaster movie, raises the question: In a movie where everyone knows that they’re destined to be upstaged by a volcano, there’s a tendency to either pile on the ham or fade blankly into the crumbling, melting scenery?”
Rotten Tomatoes says: 25% – “This big-budget sword-and-sandal adventure lacks the energy and storytelling heft to amount to more than a guilty pleasure.”
Watch it: For Kit Harington’s abs.