Milo (Kit Harington), a slave brought to Pompeii to compete as a Gladiator, falls in love with Cassia (Emily Browning), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant unwillingly betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator, Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). As the cataclysmic Mt. Vesuvius erupts, Milo must escape from the confines of the gladiatorial arena to save Cassia from Corvus before the town of Pompeii is buried under tonnes of ash and pyroclastic surge.
Director Paul W. S. Anderson’s Pompeii, the latest ‘sword-and-sandal’ film to grace our screens, is unfortunately a rather average if not forgettable film. While Pompeii is quite visually impressive during certain parts of the film, Anderson struggles to offer any real substance that would ensure a memorable cinematic experience for his audience. While the two leads, Kit Harington and Emily Browning, don’t necessarily give bad performances, their acting is rather ordinary and uninspiring. To be fair, this may be due in part to an especially average script – neither Harington’s nor Browning’s role of Milo or Cassia, respectively, provide the actors with much range or opportunity to stretch their acting abilities. Poor casting could also be a factor as I felt Harington and Browning did not have any obvious or tangible chemistry, a necessity in the romance genre.
Ultimately, Pompeii is intended to be a colossal sized film, complete with colossal sized adventure, love story, and volcanic eruption. The colossal sized eruption is a given, but unfortunately Pompeii falls short when it comes to its adventure and romance. While Anderson may give a solid attempt at creating an epic, Pompeii’s lack of plot is its ultimate downfall. This isn’t a reflection of poor filmmaking, though Anderson’s belief that bigger is better does contribute to Pompeii’s overbearing dramatics. Rather, I feel Anderson became so caught up in creating a cinematic version of the ancient city of Pompeii as historically authentic as possible that developing a strong plot was regrettably sacrificed as a result.
Anderson does deserve credit for his recreation of Pompeii, and while he may at times embellish for creative purposes, for the most part Anderson does a really impressive job at maintaining historicity. If anything, the most interesting aspect of Pompeii were the (entirely too short, in my opinion) moments we caught a glance at everyday life during the time period (79 A.D). The set and art department warrant recognition, for the attention to detail really is exciting, though my excitement may be directly linked to the fact I studied Pompeii during high school and to see the town visualised so similarly to my own interpretation gave me a kick. Anderson has stated he has had an obsession for Ancient Roman culture, and in particular Pompeii, since he was a small child and his passion is certainly obvious through the small historical details we see throughout Pompeii.
Pompeii may not achieve a great box-office success, though I assure you Anderson has tapped into a niche market of history buffs, teachers, and students around the world.
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