“We must head to the harbor,” says Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the best gladiator in all of Pompeii, to his new friend and fellow gladiator, Milo (Kit Harington), as the majestic city is about to be completely destroyed by Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in the action film Pompeii.
After his entire family and fellow clansmen were massacred by the Romans (led by General Corvus) during the Celtic uprising of 62 A.D., young Milo is captured and sold into training as a gladiator. Jumping ahead to 79 A.D., Milo is now traveling to the city of Pompeii with the rest of the slaves/gladiators to fight to the death in the great arena when he meets the lovely Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of Severus, a very wealthy merchant in Pompeii who’s eager to expand construction in Pompeii and make it the vacation spot of all of Italy. It’s love/lust at first sight for the lady and the slave, but alas their relationship is not meant to be, mainly because he’s a slave and she’s a noble citizen of Pompeii.
While waiting to fight to the death in the arena, Milo is forced into sharing a cell with Atticus. Atticus just happens to be the champion gladiator of all of Pompeii and if he’s victorious in his next one-on-one fight to the death, by Roman law he will win his freedom…or so he believes. Milo warns his cellmate not to trust in Roman lies but Atticus is sure of their law. It’s truly amazing that a slave/gladiator who would have little to no education in Roman times is so up to date on Roman law, but Atticus firmly believes legally his owner will have to set him free if he wins in the arena.
Meanwhile, Corvus (now a Senator) arrives in Pompeii from Rome and is interested in becoming business partners with Severus. He’s also interested in becoming much more than just business associates with his Severus’ daughter, Cassia. This brings all the major characters together at the arena in time for Mount Vesuvius to erupt and begin to destroy Pompeii. Milo becomes determined to save Cassia from the blazing lava, falling debris, and the ruthless Corvus, while Atticus heads to the harbor to try to find a ship for them to use to escape the raging volcano.
With unimpressive special effects and painfully cheesy dialogue, Pompeii is a disaster of a disaster flick. It’s Spartacus meets Titanic meets 2012. The set design and costumes aren’t anything moviegoers haven’t seen done better before in far better films including Gladiator, Troy, or the aforementioned Spartacus.
The performances are literally laughably bad. The audience this film critic saw it with was laughing out loud during the second half of the film, but what can actors do when they’re delivering horrible dialogue except perhaps pass on the role next time and hold out for something well written? The only exception to the laughable acting is Jared Harris who portrays Severus as a doting father and an eager entrepreneur effectively. His talents though really do belong in a solid film and not Pompeii.
The CGI effects and destruction of the city which should be awe-inspiring are surprisingly unremarkable. Once again, epic disaster films such as The Poseidon Adventure, the original 1971 film, The Towering Inferno, and Independence Day have far superior special effects and give the audience original, powerful, cinematic images and moments that stay with them long after they’ve left the theater.
Failing to deliver a passionate love story, or a nerve-racking volcanic catastrophe, director Paul W.S. Anderson’s Pompeii is a true disaster of a movie and should be missed.
Pompeii is rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, disaster-related action and brief sexual content.
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