One look at Paul W.S. Anderson’s list of previous films and one should know what to expect from Pompeii. Almost all his previous films have been visually stunning yet they have never taken themselves seriously thereby they were reduced to and often deservingly so, as pure onetime entertainment and they remained at that. With Pompeii he seems to be trying to make something more than pure entertainment. But unfortunately he is unable to deliver anything more than what he had done before with his previous achievements. He takes the visual wizardry of his previous films and just puts it in prehistoric roman era with lots of hard talking and very little character development.
The story follows the path of one Celt Milo (Kit Harington) who sees his family murdered by Romans led by Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). Many years later he finds himself as a gladiator in the city of Pompeii face to face with Corvus once again. But time has changed and so have the stakes. Corvus is a senator now and is on his way to forcefully marrying Cassia (Emily Browning). Cassia however is the love interest of Milo and as Pompeii crumbles all around him with Mount Vesuvius erupting in its entire monstrosity, Milo finds himself in a race against time to save his love from the wrath of the nature and also Corvus.
The film takes little time to get to the point and once the basic characters are established its just one action set piece after the other. The only bright light for the film is in the fact that the action sequences look pretty. Be it the gladiator fights or the final and prolonged eruption of the Mount Vesuvius and the ensuing battle sequences, the visual effects and the actions leave nothing to be desired. The aerial shots of the city created using mostly CGI would also leave many astounded. I particularly loved the sequence where the Roman ships are shown entering the harbor and the one towards the end where a huge tidal wave destroys the harbor completely.
Performance wise, the cast sleep walk through their roles. It’s just Emily Browning who makes some impact with her resplendent performance and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the Atticus is noticeable. Kit Harington is a lame Milo and he may have the six packs but doesn’t even have the physicality to match Kiefer Sutherland. He is one of the weakest links of the film. Overall, Pompeii is a weak film in every department except the visual effects and action. Those are the only two reason for which it might deserve a watch.