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Movie Review: Pompeii

Updated February 28, 2014

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A scene from movie, "Pompeii". —Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Pompeii". —Courtesy Photo

In old Rome days, a gladiator falls for royalty, around the time a mountain makes history.

In what is director Paul W. S. Anderson’s first recent film without wife Milla Jovovich, we see much, much more than what we usually expect from him: a mountain erupts, people turn to magma statuettes and a lot of colored minorities literally bite the dust.

If one thinks about this, without stressing too many brain cells (which I suggest one do when watching “Pompeii”), then this would be the movie Mr Anderson has been waiting to make all his life – or at least before he allotted a good portion of his life in making “Resident Evil” movies. It’s also a movie we may have seen all of our lives as well.

A scene from movie, "Pompeii". —Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Pompeii". —Courtesy Photo

In 62 AD Britannia, a Celt tribe is wiped out by a brutal future-Rome Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland, with a stupefying accent) and his right hand man of grunts and few words Proculus (Sasha Roiz). Seventeen years later, Milo (Kit Harington), a young survivor-turned-gladiator, mercilessly slashes through his competition in the gladiatorial arena, and is picked up to fight in Pompeii, a lush ocean-side resort-city run by Severus and Aurelia (Jared Harris and Carrie-Anne Moss).

Despite his killer repute, Milo, who has the same stylist as John Carter and Paris is a man of compassion as well. On his way back, he woos Severus’ daughter Cassia, by snapping the neck of a wounded horse.

A scene from movie, "Pompeii". —Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Pompeii". —Courtesy Photo

Milo, in the next few instances, bonds with undisputed death-match champion slave Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) in between promising each other painless deaths in the arena.Cassia, meanwhile,fends off the lustiness of Corvus who is visiting the city on official business (his job, apparently consist of subsuming everyone –including Severus’authority – because Corvus really is bad to the core).

Their domestic squabbles(plus the wasted casting of Jessica Lucas as Cassia’s aide) become a minor migraine when Mount Vesuvius shakes, rattles, rolls – and spits – molten lava, decking the city and the coastline. Mr. Anderson, however, takes a bit of a time off from “Pompeii’s” “Gladiator”-inspired action, by framing Ms Browning and Mr Harington in bombastic, lover’s close-ups where 3D Ash flies around them like confetti.

A scene from movie, "Pompeii". —Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Pompeii". —Courtesy Photo

This sappiness (amongst many other campy elements), somehow, makes “Pompeii” a good, if flawed, compromise.

Every element, right down to the predictability of Mr. Sutherland’s baddie,negligible performances and dialogue has seen and heard it all before cliché stamped on itself; and yet, the familiarity plays its part well. We may end up face-palming a lot between the action and the pocket-sized,class-divide tragedy between Cassia and Milo – but at the very least, we may also applaud Mr. Anderson’s flair for clear-cut visuals and the movie’s meek (but apt) use of 3D.

“Pompeii” is campy-fodder. Hate it all you want. You may end up liking some of it.

A scene from movie, "Pompeii". —Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Pompeii". —Courtesy Photo

Released by TriStar, FilmDistrict and HKC Entertainment, “Pompeii” is rated U/A for deaths that look milder than the hurt in Warner Bros. cartoons.

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; Produced by Mr. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer, Martin Moszkowicz, with Executive Producer Peter Schlessel; Cinematography by Glen MacPherson; Editing by Michelle Conroy; Music by Clinton Shorter.

Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Carrie-Anne Moss, AdewaleAkinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris, Kiefer Sutherland, Joe Pingue, DalmarAbuzeid, SashaRoiz.