The 400-Word Review: Pompeii
By Sean Collier
February 24, 2014
It’s hard to think of a film more callous than Pompeii, a 3-D monstrosity from worthless director Paul W.S. Anderson. An act of disaster porn of the most exploitative sort, Pompeii spends 80 minutes or so copying pages from the regressive-fable playbook — for the sole purpose of creating characters it can obliterate, one-by-one, in the final act.
In short: the people who made Pompeii hate you. Nearly as much as they hate their own characters.
Milo (Kit Harrington) is a Celtic slave who witnessed Roman heavy Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) slaughtering his family at an early age. When he’s brought to the base of Mount Vesuvius for some gladiatorial work, he crosses paths with Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of a local notable; she happens to be the apple of Corvus’s eye as well, and those two meatheads spend the middle reel fighting over her hand.
Then the volcano blows up and everybody dies. Sorry — I guess that was a spoiler to those who know nothing about history.
The bulk of Pompeii takes place before Vesuvius stars spewing; all that happens, though, is a desperate set of tired clichés that thoughtful filmmakers have abandoned decades ago. The damsel — she is in distress! The overbearing politician is going to force himself on her! If only some hero type (with chiseled abs, please) would rescue this helpless maiden! If only we had bought tickets to a different film!
Then, yes, the volcano goes. The remarkable thing about the historical explosion was the rapid rate at which it buried the city of Pompeii, preserving its buildings and inhabitants for the archeologists of the future. Here, though, the volcano occasionally stops erupting to allow the plot to move forward.
When it’s not out taking a smoke break, though, Vesuvius is hurling chunks of flaming rock directly at every character. Anderson and his quartet of writers created these folks only to murder them all. The film’s thesis: Volcanoes killing people is awesome.
If the explosion and ensuing chaos were visually captivating, there might be some brief moments of Pompeii worthy of praise. But pointless 3-D muddies the images, and the wholly-computer-generated effects only flirt with competence in a few shots. Pompeii takes one of the most remarkable natural disasters in history and makes it a bore. It took a lot to screw this one up, but Anderson was game for the task.
My Rating: 2/10
Aggregate Rating from CriticsChoice.com: 56/100