Sunday, November 12, 2023


Movie Name:
Year of Release: 2014
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Starring: Kit Harrington, Emily Browning, Carrie Anne Moss, Jared Harris, Kiefer Sutherland, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Sasha Roiz, Jessica Lucas, Dalmar Abuzeid
Genre: Action, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review
In between directing episodes of the "Resident Evil" saga, writer/producer/director Paul W. S. Anderson stretched his skills with other narrative types, tackling with "Pompeii" the sword and sandal type married with catastrophe film. The film focuses its narrative on a young gladiator by the name of Milo. Milo whose family was killed when he was just a boy, is currently a slave, and his owner brings him to Pompeii alongside other gladiators. En route, he accidentally meets Cassia, who is also returning to the city to be with her family after a brief stint living in Rome. While in Pompeii Milo develops a rivalry with another gladiator, but they soon earn each other's trust and become friends. Cassia on the other hand has to deal with the advances of a senator by the name of Corvus, who also pursued her in Rome, and the reason why she left the city. He's the responsible for the deaths of Milo's parents, and threatens Cassia with the same fate for her own, unless she agrees to marry him. During a Gladiator show, Milo and Atticus realize the deceit behind the Romans strategy, and while they manage to defeat their opponents, it's only Cassia's last minute intervention that saves them. As Milo and Proculus, Corvus' immediate underling battle it out, Mount Vesuvius erupts, causing panic across the entire city, whose inhabitants are all frantically trying to escape.
Somewhere in the gestation of this feature, I can personally imagine a few studio executives coming up with the pitch for this concept: "It's Titanic meets Gladiator meets The Day After Tomorrow". A melange of styles, including a love story, of two young lovers from different social backgrounds meeting cute, and defying all odds, vanquishing a creepy villain with vague motivations, but also having to portend with a natural disaster of unimaginable proportions. Oh and doing all this with chiseled looks, great hair and impeccably shot. And it could have worked, had these characters some dimension to them, besides barely there motivations, including the hero seeking to revenge his family, who is nonetheless noble (though he's a gladiator and kills people in the ring), and the central heroine, who is also very strong willed, plucky and immediately enamored with a gladiator who cares for a horse (and has chiseled looks and great hair). Most of the problem with the film doesn't really pertain to Paul W. S. Anderson's take on the material, which oscillates between his typical action oriented material, and some of the catastrophe/end of the world scenario type of work that Rolland Emmerich typically does: it's primarily the fact that the script can't really give these characters much to do, or even discernibly create some motivation for them to exist (well at least until the volcano erupts, upon which it's everyone fending for themselves). Paul W. S. Anderson always manages to give his most successful endeavors a B-movie quality to it, where the characters, though broadly showcased, have sufficient motivation to get from point A to point B (there's an understanding as to what exactly is motivating them, and what their backdrop actually is). The screenwriters in this case tried to squeeze some items from Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" and pepper it with James Cameron's "Titanic", but forgot to make these characters more than just archetypes/puppets. They come across as artificial, bland and instantly forgettable. The cast tries their best with the material, but Kit Harrington and Emily Browning are fairly forgettable, while Carrie Anne Moss and Jared Harris, whose plot-line promised something, quickly get discarded. Kiefer Sutherland, much like Billy Zane in "Titanic" is a paper-thin villain, without much to do, playing the role in the same note through and through. The production crew is solid, including the cinematography from Glen MacPherson, score from Clinton Shorter and production design from Paul D. Austerberry. It's a film that falls trap of a rather pedestrian  script, though it is watchable and quickly forgettable.