Posted February 21, 2014 by in


Total Score

1.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: Roman epic, Disaster pic, action
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Actors: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Keifer Sutherland
Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: 2/21/2014
Studio: FilmDistrict (presents), Constantin Film Produktion, Don Carmody Productions, Impact Pictures
What We Thought

In trying to do so much, it accomplishes so little.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
Pompeii is a sword-and-sandals epic interrupted by a disaster movie.  In moments, it is both kinds of films at once, as gladiators do battle against imperial soldiers while Mount Vesuvius rains fire all around them. “It’s Gladiator meets Titanic!” obviously went over well at the pitch meeting, but it works better in concept than execution.
     Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harington portrays Milo “The Celt,” whose clan was slaughtered by Romans lead by Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) when he was only a boy.  17 years later, Milo is brought to Pompeii as a gladiator.  Milo catches the eye of Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of Severus (Jared Harris), a Pompeian merchant who’s trying to persuade Corvus, who’s now a senator, to invest in developing the city of Pompeii.
     Milo is Titanic‘s Jack, the poor boy with a good heart.  Cassia is Rose, the oppressed rich girl.  Corvus is Cal, the rich guy, and therefore evil.  The amphitheater/arena is the Titanic, and Mount Vesuvius, well…that’s the iceberg.
     At the same time, Harington is Gladiator‘s vengeful Russell Crowe to Sutherland’s corrupt Joaquin Phoenix.  Pompeii tries to do both Ridley Scott’s roman epic and James Cameron’s disaster pic at the same time—including the romantic first-half of the latter film—but in about half the running time of either epic (and I’m still leaving out two different subplots).  In trying to do so much, it accomplishes so little.  It’s not that the mash-up is a bad idea; it’s that the film needs to be at least an hour longer to work.
     Furthermore, both Gladiator and Titanic were lavish spectacles.  Sure, both had their fair share of CGI effects, but there was a fair amount of sets and practical effects, where Pompeii leans on CGI like a video game which happens to have a few actors.
     Both Titanic and Pompeii are about class warfare amidst a natural disaster, but Titanic offered a way out: the rich bought their survival while the poor died. Pompeii offers no such escape—the rich and poor are equals before certain death.  But in its inevitability, Pompeii denies itself its characters the chance of heroism and meaningful sacrifice.
     Harington, while delivering a decent physical performance, doesn’t quite have the presence or the gravitas to pull off a man-of-few-words type of character, and the rest of the cast struggles in two-dimensional to zero-dimensional roles (poor Carrie-Anne Moss as Browning’s mother has nothing to do).
     Director Paul W.S. Anderson knows how to frame a shot, I’ll give him that, and there’s some decent fight choreography here and there, but the film is cut impatiently, zipping through slow motion shots when it should be letting them play out.  As for the 3D, don’t.  Just don’t.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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