Fire in the Hole – A review of Pompeii
Production Company: Film District
Run Time: 98 minutes
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Stars: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Jared Harris, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Summary: Gladiator meets Titanic in this humorously entertaining guilty pleasure of the destruction of the famed city during an eruption of Mt.Vesuvius.
I can picture the meeting of the Hollywood executives who green lighted this production. They sat around the board room table and wanted an idea that combined the elements of those two successful Hollywood blockbusters Gladiator and Titanic. What a perfect pairing, right?
Well, after all, here we have a predictable ending – a destroyed city where we know, from history books, that nobody survived. I’m not spoiling the ending here. Titanic sank too. Believe me. I read the article in the New York Times.
But then again, let’s make the focus of the story not the sinking of the venerable city…or is that the destruction of the ship by flying lava? Oh forget it…I’ll never get that part right anyway.
Let’s focus on the star struck love story of the young princess of Pompeii (Emily Browning) with lovable hunk Milo the Horse Rider (Kit Harington) who was sold into slavery and condemned to fight gladiator battles in the coliseum of the doomed Italian port.
Harington is a poor man’s Russell Crowe, but he’s entertaining to watch in the arena nevertheless even though the fight scenes are ripped almost verbatim from the Ridley Scott Academy Award winning epic.
Baddie Kiefer Sutherland, affecting a really lousy pseudo British accent (why do Americans playing Romans always DO that?) was the General who destroyed Milo’s clan all those years ago.
So of course, in tribute when Corvus, now a Roman Senator, visits Pompeii, the opening battle in the arena will be a re-enactment of the battle from the British Isles where Corvus slew Milo’s clan.
And just like the scene in Gladiator where Russell Crowe rewrote history, so too does Milo and fellow slave Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), defeating not only the Roman legion led by a faux Corvus, but also desecrating the Roman crest defiantly before the cruel and calculating Senator who promptly retaliates by ordering the deaths of the two slaves and the impending marriage with defiant Cassia the princess.
The film continues to spiral down the path to oblivion and the characters also follow the preset path of formulaic predictability. We’ve seen all this before…and generally done much better than here.
Also, like Titanic, we’re introduced to a number of supporting characters who die at convenient times throughout the movie to illustrate just how destructive the volcano really is.
And then there are the bad guys who are dispatched along the way to prove that real men must die like men while those who sell their souls to evil must be conveniently disposed of BEFORE the rest of the world comes to an end. Such is the fate of Corvus and his legions
The heroes, though, will fight the losing battle through to the end. And in the end, a fateful choice will need to be made. A character might survive, but to what end?
Pliny the Elder’s words about the destruction of Pompeii grace the screen at the opening of the movie and we are given to understand that the people died horribly in the aftermath of Vesuvius’ wrath.
Ironically, though, director Paul W.S. Anderson, who normally produces quality cinematic work, here falters with a closing montage that implies beauty yet smacks of the inevitability of a bitter end awaiting all of us.
Hey, if we are to be entertained, couldn’t we at least have ended the movie on a lighter note? I give Pompeii 2-1/2 out of 5 stars.