Pompeii – Review


There’s something about seeing the name “Paul W. S. Anderson” on a movie poster that instantly diminishes expectations. Known nowadays primarily for the (increasingly poorer) Resident Evil movies, Anderson’s full-blown descent from a charmingly gung-ho 90’s sci-fi action director into the acceptable answer to Uwe Boll has, to date, had a pretty distinctively targeted demographic. But after winning over fifteen year old boys for years now with the likes of Resident Evil, Event Horizon, Mortal Kombat, (the vastly underrated) Soldier and Alien Vs. Predator, it’s clearly the flip side of the gender coin that Anderson’s gunning for next. For all it’s faults – and there are many – Pompeii is at least somewhat gender neutral in terms of its intended audience, but it’s still a long way from being any good.


With the first half retelling the plot of Gladiator, and the second switching to Titanic; Anderson’s Roman disaster flick centres on young gladiator Milo (Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington), who quickly becomes a star in the arena and captures the eye of young noble woman Cassia (the increasingly dead-eyed Emily Browning). Milo isn’t the only one with an interest in Cassia however, and she soon finds herself fending off the aggressive advances of sociopathic senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), whose ambitions are matched only by the great whopping volcano everyone seems to have failed to notice nearby.


Allegedly shot in the 3D format, Pompeii is gratingly dull both as a visual experience and just as an experience. Not without minor merits, but for the most part crushingly dull. Kit Harington tries his best to liven proceedings up a bit, but he’s held back by an underwritten role that simply lacks depth and warrants no investment whatsoever. Despite this, the film is at its best when Harington is paired with rival gladiator Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje; the resulting bromance guiltily enjoyable and easily the most positive takeaway. That aside, only the tongue-in-cheek and hammy aesthetic prevent complete boredom from what is otherwise an overindulgent mess; the story is pants, the script is lazy and underwritten, the CGI world-building is appalling to look at, the 3D is headache-inducing and Kiefer Sutherland gives the single worst performance of his career. Ever seen Mirrors? Yeah, worse than that.


Not overly long at a tidy 104 minutes nor terrifically expensive at under $100m, Pompeii feels very much like the hamfisted product of 1997 – a year in which, fittingly, two equally statured (yet superior) volcano movies previously fought for attention. With an outdated visual style and a very underwhelming story, Pompeii is most surprising in how unsurprising it truly is. If it were the product of any other director, it’d be something worth getting angry about; but in the grander scope of Paul W. S. Anderson’s back catalog it’s simply an uninspired sequence of images to look at whilst fighting off a headache and waiting for another mindless Resident Evil sequel.



Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.


In it
Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland

Behind it
Paul W.S. Anderson

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