Twitter Plot Summary: Mount Vesuvius is about to blow its top, whilst in nearby Pompeii Kiefer Sutherland acts like Dick Dastardly.
Five Point Summary:
1. Obligatory flashback to early years of tortured hero.
2. Jon Snow: Horse Whisperer.
3. Gladiatorial fightings.
4. Vesuvius blows its top.
5. MORE CGI! MORE LAVA! MORE DEATH!
If history was never your strong point then you may be surprised to know that Mount Vesuvius does indeed cover Pompeii (and nearby Herculaneum, lest we forget) in a torrent of lava, rocks, ash and sea water before the end credits roll in this historical adventure directed by Paul WS Anderson – you know, that guy who can apparently never write a proper ending to any of his films. Luckily here he wasn’t on scripting duties, otherwise you could guarantee there would be room left for a sequel somewhere down the line.
Pompeii seems to take its inspiration from a number of far better films. Walking into the arena for the first time is reminiscent of the same moment in Gladiator, only with literally half the impact of that scene. That scene in Gladiator was also a revolution in special effects, whereas the one in Pompeii feels like a step back. You would think that in 2014 CGI wouldn’t look as bad as it does, but alas – if you had concerns then your fears are entirely justified. There are too many inspirations on show and not enough originality, it ends up trying to be too many different stories at once. Is it about the gladiators? Is it about the love story between Milo and Cassia? Is it about the volcano destroying the town? Is it… well, it’s all three and more besides. It’s easy enough to follow it all, but it’s a touch too bloated in terms of narrative and would have benefited from having a couple of sub-plots cut.
On the plus side the 3D isn’t too bad, although that isn’t much of a selling point. If you’re a fan of 3D dust particles then you’re well served, but otherwise there isn’t much to recommend in that department. Expanding further on the subject of special effects, the explosive action when Vesuvius does finally blow – and just to emphasise the point we keep getting regular cutaways to the lava bubbling away – isn’t too bad all things considered, but you still definitely get the feeling that the cast are stood on a green screen set for the majority of the time.
Kit Harington gets his first starring role following his break-out performance in Game of Thrones, although he doesn’t get a huge amount to do here beyond playing a slightly muted version of his GoT character Jon Snow, with added pectoral muscles. Emily Browning sits in the atypical female role of not having much to do, as does Carrie Ann Moss as her mother – also disappointing given her role as Trinity in The Matrix, subconsciously you expect her to have much more to do. The most fun comes from Kiefer Sutherland and his outrageous accent – he’s practically verging on pantomime villain territory from start to finish. It’s not going to be a contender at any awards ceremonies outside of the Razzies, but Pompeii does at least maintain a reasonable facade of being entertaining nonsense. Best advice would be to check your brain at the door, expect it to be terrible and you’ll get much more out of it.