Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Paul WS Anderson has covered a lot of disasters in his movies, from Alien vs. Predator grudge matches to zombie plagues, and scientists creating a good old fashioned portal to hell. Yet until now, he has never actually made a disaster movie per se. He amends that absence with Pompeii, a journey back to perhaps history’s most famous volcanic eruption, with all the CGI, historical inaccuracy and tacked-on romance you could ever wish for.

Leading the desperate attempts to avoid fiery doom is Games of Thrones star Kit Harrington, who presumably regrets seeking warmer climes. He plays a gladiator who, as a small child, witnessed the massacre of his entire Celtic horse tribe, which is important for two reasons: firstly, it means he has a reason to hate Kiefer Sutherland’s remarkably cartoonish villain, and secondly, it gives him magic horse talking powers. His other concern throughout the film is a little star-crossed romance with an upper class Roman girl (Emily Browning) - presumably  because it worked so well in Titanic (financially at least), and as the filmmakers felt the need to stretch the material. Both however lack characterisation, appearing as pretty-looking vague stereotypes to amuse and distract the audience from glaring errors in the script and the fact that the version of the ancient world they have created clearly comes from cloud cuckoo land.  Not that it really matters after all this is not why you're here.

But of course you don’t come to see a film about Pompeii for the love story or for historical validity. No, the real selling point of a disaster movie is, well, the disaster - Mount Vesuvius going boom, which it does, eventually. First, though, they feel the need to pay homage to Gladiator, or more to the point steal some of the more iconic lines and scenes. Which of course are not as good as in the original to the point of amusement, while the whole film comparatively lacks the scope, spectacle, originality, budget and, perhaps worst of all, blood (yes, we see men stabbing and hacking at one another as hoped, but there is no impact as we do not care for characters and it feels like it has all been done with dull practice blades).

Eventually of the course, the Volcano decides to do us the great courtesy of killing everyone, with building collapsing and great balls of CGI reigning down from the sky. All of which, it must be said, looks quite spectacular and is really well done visually. Yet it serves only to be pretty and distracting from the events depicted in the escape that become ever more outlandish and ridiculous. It is hard to be on the edge of your seat when it is impossible to take anything remotely seriously.

Pompeii’s pretty visuals are distracting to a point, but do not expect anything else from it. It is predictable and clich├ęd, offering nothing new or particularly exhilarating. Ultimately, the film simply does not go off with much of a bang.


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