I suspect that all film fans have a cinematic weak point that they try to avoid, for some it’s blood and gore and for others it’s white people kissing in the rain but for me it disaster movies. My imagination is too overactive to cope with hoards of people running and screaming in terror. I live every moment of the disaster to the extent that I am still not quite over some of the horrors from my childhood.
The fact that the trailer for Pompeii looked awful lulled me into a false sense of security in thinking that I could cope. I made this mistake with 2012 and I am still secretly hoping that the government are working on giant pods to house humanity (specifically me) when the world ends. I was feeling very brave, almost cocky, when I sauntered into an early Sunday morning showing of Pompeii.
PLOT: After a chance meeting slave Milo (Kit Harrington) and wealthy Cassia (Emily Browning) fall deeply in love. Cassia is blackmailed into marrying Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) and Milo is sent to the arena to die. The neighbouring volcano erupts, forcing Milo and Cassia to stop staring opened mouthed at one another and start staring opened mouthed at the flaming rocks falling on the city. END PLOT
The opening credits of Pompeii were excellent. The slow combination of ash covered bodies and the writings of Pliny the Younger made me sit up and take notice. It was the most emotionally engaging part of the film but the talent in the writing department stopped with Pliny.
The love story, which was the centre point of Pompeii, was exactly as expected. The tried and tested formula of the poor orphan boy falling in love with the rich maiden was lazily copied and pasted in between the phrases “fire ball”, “horse whisperer” and “tidal wave”.
The writers seemed to think it was acceptable for two strangers to fall deeply in love without ever being on first name terms with one another. Milo and Cassia learnt each other’s names after supporting characters shouted them out. I saw relief on Cassia’s face when she finally discovered her beloved’s name. Perhaps I just have high standards when it comes to relationships.
Kit Harrington has a fantastic body. There can be no denying it. Unfortunately he seemed to be using all his strength to flex his abs rather than speak. His dialogue was limited. I was grateful. Emily Browning drew the short straw and was nothing other than a weak female who needed to be rescued on numerous occasions. Browning did not give Cassia any backbone or any of the bite someone like Kiera Knightly could have attempted.
Keifer Sutherland was camping it up to eleven with a ridiculous marble chewing accent which was as fantastical as the love story. Sutherland should have fully committed and grown a moustache to twirl. If you are going to give this type of performance you need to go full Alan Rickman or go home.
The action was poor with the background scenes in the arena being especially cheap. I’ve seen better crowd scenes in an early WWE computer game. Paul W.S Anderson loves CGI backgrounds and although this is his style, it made Pompeii feel cartoony. The sword fighting scenes were decent but even a small smattering of blood here and there would have helped. The hand-to-hand combat scenes masqueraded as gritty. They were anything but.
Unfortunately some of the action sequences which featured humans became unintentionally funny. I have to make light of any situation which involves people drowning (like I said; we all have our weak points) but having Atticus (Adewale Akinnoye-Agbaje) rescue a woman and child only to ditch them when they successfully outran a tidal wave did cause a few chuckles. I appreciate that it is law to have a child in peril during a disaster movie but I have never seen it shoehorned in so clumsily. I was surprised that the writers didn’t have Atticus adopt an orphaned puppy with one leg by the movies end.
People drowning scare me so the tidal wave section was stressful to watch but only in the same way that someone with a fear of spiders would feel if they sat down to watch arachnophobia. Aside from this, it was hard to feel any real volcano tension as the male characters were more committed to
dick measuring sword fighting than outrunning great balls of fire.
Pompeii had the potential to be an epic film – documentaries about the events are some of the most horrifying to be found. Unfortunately Hollywood plumped for Paul W.S. Anderson. I hadn’t forgiven him for destroying The Three Musketeers. I hate him for destroying Pompeii more than Vesuvius. Pompeii gets 4/10.