By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
Regardless of where you live, there is always a potential threat of some natural disaster happening. Be it huge earthquakes which level cities, tsunamis, tornadoes, the threat is ever prevalent. With technology today, we are more prepared to deal with these potential threats and reduce the threat to life, if even ever so slightly. But thousands of years ago, this was not the case. For the residents of Pompeii, a mountain “grumbling” held no great significance until it was too late and Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the city in ash and killing everyone in its wake. Director Paul W.S. Anderson brings Pompeii to the big screen, with a little action and romance thrown in to outweigh the impending disaster.
Pompeii takes place in 79 A.D. The town is a great port city for Rome and has plans to undergo new renovations to make it an even bigger draw for Romans and trade. One of these new renovations is a new arena in which to hold gladiatorial matches and chariot races to further appease the populace. Noblewoman Cassia (Emily Browning) has just returned from Rome, longing for the quieter life away from crass Senators. There she meets a young slave named Milo (Kit Harrington) whom was of a clan of horse riders who were slaughtered by Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) when he was young. A longing blooms between the two, but when Corvus comes calling, and realizes this potential love, he decides he will marry Cassia and pits Milo and fellow gladiator Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) against unheralded odds in the arena. But little do they know, time is running out for everyone in Pompeii as the volcano prepares to erupt. So it comes to a race against time to determine if Milo can save Cassia and escape from Pompeii alive.
Watching Pompeii brings back memories of Titanic. You have the poor boy meeting the rich girl, the big, bad guy with no redeeming qualities and is one note throughout the entire film, the great disaster based on historical events and the love between two young people. The problem with the romantic element in this film is that, due to Milo being a slave, their love is never able to really get off the ground. There are only so many scenes in which the characters are together, and not nearly enough, nor long enough, to develop anything real for the audience to grasp on to.
The majority of the budget for Pompeii was easily spent on post-production with the special effects, so there wasn’t a lot of money to put into hiring bigger named actors to fill the roles. Kit Harrington is well known in the Game of Thrones circles as Jon Snow. Outside of GoT, people probably won’t recognize him. He feels a lot like Orlando Bloom, for some reason, and that’s not necessarily the best compliment one can have. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, known for Mr. Ecko from LOST, plays the veteran gladiator who is one win from his freedom. However, for him and Browning, there isn’t a whole lot of material to work with in order to provide character growth, leading us to not care as much for the characters. Keifer Sutherland’s Corvus is a flat character throughout and has little interesting about him. He’s just there to throw in a human antagonist for our “hero” to have conflict with.
Pompeii is more like a summer blockbuster that the studio knew wasn’t quite as good as they hoped, so they dumped it in February. It is little more than something to get out of the house for a couple hours and be entertained by special effects. The writers obviously couldn’t decide if they wanted Pompeii to be an action film about gladiatorial combat or a disaster film, which historically is what it should have been. But to lead up to the disaster, something needed to fill that void, and more effort should have went into it. Throw in the romantic story line and you have a little bit of this and a little bit of that, all mediocre at best and not something you’ll be talking about the following day. Pompeii was one of the largest disasters in human history and looks like it’s bound to be a disaster at the box office.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars