Pompeii Review

The Plot:

A gladiator fighting for his life in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius finds himself confronted by the corrupt Roman soldiers who massacred his family while also meeting his true love. When the volcano erupts he finds himself in a race against time to escape the burning city with his beloved and take his revenge.

The Good:

Game Of Thrones star Kit Harington graduates to the big screen for his debut role as a leading man. At least nobody can fault the considerable effort it must have taken to chisel his body into a convincingly muscled torso. Though short of stature the young British star is certainly a lean fighting machine, with tousled hair and a well displayed six pack giving him some credibility as an emerging action star.  Armed with a gruff voice and minimal dialogue Harington graduates with some success from being part of a small screen ensemble.

Lost star Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje also delivers a pleasantly heroic turn as gladiator superstar Atticus. Towering a little over his co-star and adding even more convincing muscle to the film’s fight scenes. The film is in truth probably at its best when the pair of gladiators are battling for their lives in the Coliseum.

Cast in a shamelessly villainous role as a ruthless roman senator, Kiefer Sutherland clearly relishes the opportunity to ham things up as a pantomime villain. The 24 star has a sneering charisma on screen which keeps things comfortably watchable and even manages to briefly distract from the impending destruction of the city.

From its early Gladiator-esque drama, to its explosive final scenes, Pompeii never fails to at least hold audience’s attention. It also deserves some credit for creating actual characters and a plot, instead of lazily relying on just the promise of massive explosions to hook audience’s attention. Michael Bay… take note.

The Bad:

The Pompeii posters carry the tagline ‘No Warning No Escape’, unfortunately anyone with a basic grasp of world history or who has seen the film’s trailer knows exactly what’s coming. An over eager promotional campaign perhaps revealed a little too much detail of Pompeii’s inevitable fiery CGI destruction. It’s hard to create distracting subplots surrounding actual characters and their lives when audiences are mostly waiting to watch the world’s most infamous volcanic eruption.

When Vesuvius finally does start raining fire and destruction down upon Pompeii the special effects are competent but unlikely to create the sense of shock and awe which classic disaster movies once seemed capable of. Audiences are now so accustomed to CGI destruction, that cartoonish tidal waves or fireballs probably won’t impress anyone. Unfortunately, there are also a few moments near the end of the film of less than convincing CGI work during an increasingly implausible horseback chase.

The film perhaps fails to make the most of acting talents like Jared Harris and Carrie-Anne Moss, both given scarce screen time in brief supporting roles. Meanwhile, it gives love interest Emily Browning far too much attention, lingering frequently on her pretty but ineffectual performance.

Pompeii’s most obvious flaw is that even as the action ramps up towards an explosive climax it takes persistent breaks for dramatic monologues and unnecessarily contrived fight scenes. The film struggles forlornly to maintain its early subplots amidst an increasing mess of explosive scenery. It’s impossible to ignore the obvious fact that instead of fighting with each other or making heartfelt declarations all the characters should just be running away from the approaching wall of flames and molten lava.

The Ugly Truth:

Pompeii delivers a mostly satisfying CGI spectacle and physical performances from a clearly enthusiastic cast. The film ambitiously tries to be a combination of Titanic and Gladiator. Though it lacks the romance and credible drama of both, the result is a watchable ‘disaster movie’ effort none the less.

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