GENRE: Natural disaster adventure.
THE PITCH: Think Gladiator meets Titanic. Milo (Kit Harington), a Celtic slave destined for the arena has a chance encounter where he meets Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of the Pompeii senator. Tension arise as Milo confronts his opponent in the games, Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and the rival of Cassia's attention, Roman senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). Just when you think it couldn't get any worst, Mount Vesuvius erupts and its up to Milo to save his new found love from this eminent threat.
MONEY SHOT: The eruption of Vesuvius. Massive tremors and fissures along the base, molten rocks the size of cars (or chariots) raining down upon the city, thunderous, ominous pyroclastic clouds and thousands of scared people desperately fleeing for their lives. The epic spectacle that ensues would make the disaster kings, Irwin Allen and Mark Robson take notice.
BEST LINE: Symptoms of Vesuvius' awakening begin to manifest throughout the aging city of Pompeii. Beneath the arena, cracks appear near the gladiator's vestibule. Games master Graecus (Joe Pingue) confronts senator Severus (Jared Harris) with his concern to which he replies, "How can we expect Rome to build a completely new city when we can't hold a single bloody spectacle."
CONSIDER THE SOURCE: The only account of Pompeii's destruction comes from Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, or Pliny the Younger as he was known. His letters describing the eruption and the tragedy that follow are so detailed they are considered the historical record of Vesuvius' eruption and Pompeii's demise.
ROMAN HOLIDAYS: Although they say Festivus in several instances, the December 23 holiday now made popular thanks to the show Seinfeld is not what is being referred. The holiday featured in the film is the "Festival of Vinalia", one of two annual festivals celebrating the wine harvest season.
SKIN FACTOR: None. Considering its Pompeii, the Las Vegas of its time, there's no nudity at all.
BLOOD FACTOR: Hardly any. There's more blood in the HBO's series Rome or Starz Channel's Sparticus than what is seen in the film. Very little blood is visually shed, but expect traces on bodies and weapons.
BODY COUNT: SPOILER ALERT - highlight the area from here: Are you serious, its Pompeii! Everybody dies - no one is spared. Read a book! to here.
BOTTOM LINE: Considering the repertoire of popular, bloody, adrenalined action films director Paul Anderson has made in recent years, his first historical opus is a bit of a let down. All the elements are there; a tense love triangle, two warriors destined for an epic battle, and an insurmountable obstacle our heroes must attempt to prevail against make for a compelling trifecta. Yet writing duo Janet Scott and Lee Batchler's script is uninspired, predictable, and flat. The lack of depth and modest dialog is such a yawn in fact its practically comical to see how the actors interact with it. Harington and Agbaje's performances were notable, especially in the series of well-choreographed battle sequences, while Sutherland's monotone attempt at Roman pomp and Europoean accent is distracting and feels more akin to a Yankee in King Author's court than anything else. The saving grace of this film is the breathtaking attention to detail in Pompeii's construction by Paul Austerberry and the spectacular visual effects of Vesuvius' unyielding wrath.
All in all, Anderson's tame homage to the fallen city safely veers towards historical relevancy. That has some merit for educational purposes I suppose, but unfortunately without any heft, energy, or gratuity Pompeii is an unexpected bore that gambles entirely too much on a dramatic misfire of the climatic ending.