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POMPEII (review)

pompeiiPOMPEII
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler and Michael Robert Johnson

Starring Kit Harington, Emily Browning and Kiefer Sutherland

It’s hard to believe that Ridley Scott’s GLADIATOR was made fourteen years ago. Just as Scott forever changed the world of sci-fi movies back in 1982 with BLADE RUNNER, he changed epic Roman adventure stories as well eighteen years later. How do you even come close to emulating that Academy Award-winning tale of Russell Crowe’s revenge on Joaquin Phoenix? Well, you don’t, which apparently no one told the makers of POMPEII. POMPEII may be trying to achieve GLADIATOR status with it’s tale of revenge, love and muscled eye candy, but fails to convey any sort of emotion to its audience. It is a massive build-up to an epic kiss that ends the movie on a note of major disappointment.

As a young boy, Milo (Kit Harington of “Game of Thornes”) witnessed his entire family and his people slaughtered by the order of a Roman senator named  Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). Captured and forced into a life of slavery and gladiator battles, Milo is eventually brought to the town of Pompeii to compete in their tournaments. On the way, he meets the beautiful Cassia (Emily Browning) on her return from Rome. Her horse suffers an injury and he just so happens to be a horse whisperer. There is instant attraction between the two, but obviously forbidden attraction since she is the daughter of Severus (Jared Harris) and Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss), the first Lord and Lady of Pompeii.

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Upon Milo’s arrival in the glorious coastal town of Pompeii, with the gargantuan Mount Vesuvius as its backdrop, he meets Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a fellow slave whom he is signed up to fight to the death. But as fate would have it, Corvus has turned up in Pompeii and has made some sort of agreement which has promised Cassia to be his wife, much to her protests. With the entire town at the arena watching the gladiators battle to the death, the volcano begins to erupt violently, and eventually (spoiler alert) the entire town is engulfed in ash and lava, killing everyone in its path.

Director Paul W.S. Anderson (RESIDENT EVIL) has made the unfortunate decision to focus the story on just the two lovers, Milo and Cassia, instead of telling the story of the town and its inhabitants. What should be an epic historical tale is in fact scaled down to a story that wants too hard to be both action-packed and romance-filled at the same time in order to appeal to a wider range of audience members. The eventual destruction would have come across as far more devastating had we gotten some background on the town itself or the daily routines of its people, but instead we are asked to care about two specific characters and their attraction to one another. And if you don’t end up caring about them, then you have no one to care about at all. POMPEII is riddled with inconsequential characters and this trite tale of forbidden love in a classist society is neither touching nor stimulating.

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Naturally, there is a lot of anticipation being built for the inevitable final scenes, where Mt. Vesuvius finally unleashes its fury, but considering all the special effects and 3D gadgetry available to the filmmakers, the wait doesn’t amount to very much at all. Much like the fight scenes throughout POMPEII, these eruption scenes seem particularly short and unimpressive, leaving the viewer wanting more. For a film that is about the destruction of an entire town and one of the most famous volcanic eruptions in recorded history, it sure does leave a lot to the imagination. We all know how this story ends, but spending 20 minutes with balls of molten lava being launched at a town, didn’t quite satisfy my appetite for destruction nearly as much as I was hoping.

2 sheep

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