There is a lot of unrecognised talent in this world. People who possess an artistic gift that should be admired by the world. A lot of these people will go their whole lives and not be recognized. So how Paul W. S. Anderson is still making movies is bewildering. Not to be confused with the talented Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia). W.S. Anderson is better known for his “masterpieces” Mortal Kombat and the Resident Evil series, and here he is again with the epic (fail) disaster movie Pompeii.
The real-life story involves a volcanic eruption wiping out the Roman city of Pompeii by Mount Vesuvius. The word Pompeii is nowadays used as a metaphor for the Gods’ wrath, as the event inspired a myth that the city was disintegrated by deities due to the city’s overwhelming corruption.
Even though Pompeii is “based” on a true disaster, it does not justify the disastrously huge blockbuster budget. There is no drama to this story: volcano erupts, people die, the end. The movie knows this, which is why the eruption only happens at the end of the film. The rest of the film is some rehash of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. A slave is made a gladiator and must fight for his freedom. There is also a pointless romance between protagonist Milo, played by Kit Harington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones), and the rich Cassia, played by Emily Browning (Baby Doll from Sucker Punch).
This movie is Gladiator meets Titanic without the talented Ridley Scott or James Cameron behind the camera. There was a time when epic stories would only be given to big-time directors with an impressive background. Now, talentless hacks like W.S. Anderson can have big budget extravaganzas. Whereas Gladiator followed the story of a general whose tragic story the audience could sympathize with, Milo is not an interesting character for two reasons: Harington is not a compelling actor, and his dialogue is nothing more than every hero-cliché line imaginable. Titanic worked because the sinking of the ship was slow and demonstrated how humans can turn on each other when their survival is at stake. The scene with the musicians deciding to play one last melody before their inevitable doom is heartbreaking. Mount Vesuvius’ cataclysm was instant.
Supporting actors include Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys) and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr Eko from Lost). Sutherland apparently saw his dad’s performance as President Snow in The Hunger Games and decided he wanted to play the same character. He plays the stereotypical villain who killed Milo’s family when he was a baby, and that is where you have your contrived revenge story. Akinnuoye-Agbaje has by far the best character. He is Milo’s right hand man and is the only one who seems to have fun in his role. Even though he was the one shining bright star in this disaster, it is impossible not to notice his character is very reminiscent of Djimon Hounsou’s character in Gladiator.
In a nutshell, been there, done that and seen done better. There is no reason to go see this movie at the cinema, and definitely no reason to pay extra for the 3D. Even though Pompeii is about a disaster, the way W.S. Anderson directs this is disastrous. Pompeii is suitable on a weekday night and it comes on television for free, if there is nothing better to do. The only suitable audience for this movie are teenage girls who have a crush on Kit Harington, for there are many scenes where Harington is topless. But for everyone else, stay home and watch Lawrence of Arabia or Ben-Hur, epic movies done right.
Opinion By Ignacio Gatti