“Pompeii” from Sony Pictures and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) is about a slave named Milo (Kit Harington), who becomes an unstoppable gladiator killing all opponents that stand in his way until he falls for a wealthy merchant’s daughter, Cassia (Emily Browning). After Cassia becomes the unwillingly fiancé to Roman Senator Corvus (Keifer Sutherland), Milo must race against an erupting volcano, flying fireballs of hot ash, and a determined Corvus to rescue his love, Cassia.
If you know your history then you already know how this ends.
Kit Harrington may play a bewildered “you know nothing Jon Snow” on “Game of Thrones” adequately amongst a stellar cast, but as a leading man in “Pompeii,” he’s not exactly given much to work with in the dialogue department. His role is mostly made up of physical fight scenes in which he excels. If you know anything about the next season of HBO’s “Game Of Thrones” then you know his role on there is about to become even more physical. I consider his “Milo” character really just more practice for what he does well, -looking good with a sword and his 6 pack abs. Look for him next in “Seventh Son” and of course on Game Of Thrones in April.
Kiefer Sutherland (24: Live Another Day) as the corrupt and controlling senator at first seems just like the same character he plays in every film, a different version of Kiefer Sutherland if you know what I mean. However, I will say that since he changes his accent and mannerisms in a way that I have never seen him do, I say kudos to the actor. His acumen in changing things up for this role was a smart move; And as a bad guy, that we haven’t seen since “Freeway.” I liked his portrayal of “Corvus.” I wouldn’t mind seeing him do more bad guys in the future.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, plays a gladiator named “Atticus,” who is one fight away from winning his freedom. Easily the most interesting character of the film. First, as the adversary then co-fighter to “Milo” he has some of the best lines in the film. Taunting the “Milo” character that he’s going to kill him the next day in the arena was especially well-done. He’s a solid actor with 36 TV shows and films to his credit. I’d like to see him in more leading roles as his talent deserves. He’s currently filming “Annie” in the role of “Nash.”
Sasha Roiz (Grimm) as “Proculus” he plays Corvus’s Roman soldier / loyal henchman. He didn’t have a lot of lines but nonetheless he was a believable Roman soldier. His fight scene at the end was magnificent and he died like a pro. He’s another actor who may be in a supporting role this time out but I predict that we see him achieving leading man status soon. And we haven’t forgotten your role on “Caprica” either.
The writing, plain and simple was weak.The actual story itself is pretty good but the dialogue and script is a mechanical, flat mess. Lifeless amongst beautiful back drops and CGI environments that have the ability to evoke intrigue and a vast array emotions but running counter-point to that is this lifeless script. If they had included more back story for some of the characters like “Atticus” we would have cared more when they perished. As it stands lots of characters die but we never even had a chance to care about them.
The action sequences are choreographed superbly even though Milo and company seem to have the unbelievable skill of dispatching an untold number of foes in a matter of moves, the dialogue that surrounds these sequences is just plain silly. The film was penned by four writers, and the first two wrote “Batman Forever” back in 1995, -the one with Val Kilmer,-which was pretty terrible (Janet Scott Batchler and Lee Batchler). I couldn’t believe that they were chosen to write this screen play with their limited resume. The third writer, and well known actor and part of the “Downtown Abby” writing/creator team Julian Fellowes, makes more sense. Knowing what I do about him though, I just can’t help but think he chimed in occasionally, because with his background you would have expected a way stronger screenplay. <writer note – while fact checking this “writers credit” between today and yesterday when I wrote this aritcle, -it seems his name has been removed from the list of credits). The fourth writer is Michael Robert Johnson who penned “Sherlock Holmes” (2009).
“Pomepeii” could have been epic but instead comes across borderline cheesy. Especially hard to watch was the daddy/daughter moments between actors Jared Harris (who wasn’t given much to work with in the lines department and deserves better) and teeny, tiny actress Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) who just seems like another pretty face with no substance. Not sure if it’s her acting ability, the script or both.
The fight scenes were well choreographed but I would have been more entertained if they hadn’t been so far-fetched. Two guys killing 30 in a few minutes with an axe and a sword while being chained at the ankle wasn’t that exciting because it was just too over the top. Though none of the actors were terrible none of them really had much opportunity to show any range of depth of character because the script is one-dimensional. Missed opportunities by writers to provide more back-story to the characters so we actually cared about them. The opening prologue attempted to do this but only for one character.
If you are looking for a “Titantic”-esque film this is not it. It misfires all along the way, except for the final plume of burning ash that wipes the screen clean. Wait for the DVD.
*Screened in Houston, Texas at Edwards Theater in 3D. Starring Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Jared Harris, Carrie-Anne Moss and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. 104 minutes. Opens Feb. 21 at major theatres. PG