Main cast: Kit Harington (Milo), Emily Browning (Cassia), Kiefer Sutherland (Senator Quintas Attius Corvus), Carrie-Anne Moss (Aurelia), Jared Harris (Severus), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Atticus), Jessica Lucas (Ariadne), Joe Pingue (Graecus), Currie Graham (Bellator), Sasha Roiz (Marcus Proculus), and Dalmar Abuzeid (Felix)
Director: Paul WS Anderson
What happened to Paul WS Anderson? I’m not ashamed to say that I greatly enjoyed his movie adaptation of Mortal Kombat, and I will always argue that Event Horizon is an underrated horror gem. Did directing the Resident Evil movies decay his skills or something, because I can’t imagine he could ever come up with something as dull as Pompeii.
On paper, the concept probably sounds like a fail-proof money-maker. Let’s combine the pathos of Titanic with the heroic tragedy of Gladiator! Let’s have Jon Snow play Milo, an orphan whose family was slaughtered by Senator Quintas Attius Corvus when he was a boy, grow up to be a gladiator and have him fall for rich man’s daughter Cassia. Of course, with this being set in Pompeii, we have a volcano instead of an iceberg, and we even double the villainy of bad guys here. Instead of only Billy Zane and his assistant, we have Corvus and his second-in-command Proculus who go on an indiscriminate cackles-and-murder spree even when things are going to hell because these two have zero sense of priorities at all. Oh, they are all going to die? Who cares, let’s have a long-drawn showdown with the good guys because there is plenty of time. Oh, and because Djimon Hounsou was already in for Gladiator, let’s have Adewale Akkinnuoye-Agbaje play the black dude who exists merely to prop the hero up.
The cast isn’t even trying – they don’t even bother to put on an uniform accent here, mind you – and the script is pretty dire. The love story is basically a couple of scenes enacted by a chemistry-free couple, and Kiefer Sutherland hams it up to a degree that will embarrass even Elmer Fudd. Jared Harris and Carrie-Anne Moss are completely wasted in their underwritten and underutilized roles, and Atticus’s story arc is almost embarrassing as the black guy who serves only to prop Milo’s character. And when the volcano explodes, many people die and the camera lingers over all the CGIs they spent a lot of money on. Unfortunately, I don’t care because I don’t know these people. Unlike Titanic, which attempts to flesh out even if superficially some characters before setting up their deaths, here in Pompeii people just die and I don’t know or care about them at all. In fact, I’m so bored of the tedious and never-ending blank slates Milo and Cassia versus ham villains Corvus and Proculus drama that I am actively cheering for the volcano to kill them all quickly and free me up to do something else.
When Pompeii ends, I realize that I don’t remember a damn thing about it, except maybe for the CGI overload towards the end. Even then, the near-fatal cringe that is the final scene nullifies any good that comes from killing off these annoying characters. Really, people, forget this thing. Go watch Titanic or Gladiator instead.