The beginning of Pompeii is not encouraging. A man emerges from somewhere and soon guesses that this is the villain because he lets a child die. Then another one appears, in slow motion, and you can know that this is the good guy, because it is strong, beautiful and takes care of helpless animals. Even comes a beautiful girl, who immediately looks at the strong gladiator, and both fall in love at first sight. She also says some catch phrase like “I can see the goodness in your heart.” These moments do not inspire confidence, but the film makes up for the lack of subtlety and little intelligence script with an impressive visual spectacle.
Director Paul W. S. Anderson seems to have so much fun with the camera and with the potential of this plot. Incidentally, that is the history of the Italian city and the volcano Vesuvius is mere backdrop for director massacring an entire population in less than two hours. The title could also be “A million ways to die in Pompeii“: Anderson creates deaths by sword, chains, asphyxia, lava volcano, tsunami, crushing, stonin… all with the pleasure of a child playing with dolls and dreams of the massive destruction of imaginary scenarios.
This sadistic show is shot with force: the director uses and abuses of air planes, images of buildings collapsing and cracking, and gets to put a camera in view of the fireballs spewed by the volcano. The various action scenes that follow each other without dead times in the script, are sewn by a rapid assembly and feature a generous amount of sound effects. In an exciting time fighting (the scene of the “massacre” of the gladiators), the direction of sound overlaps the noises of swords moans of the actors, the ovation from the crowd, the noise of the fire in the volcano, the noise of the blade penetrating the flesh combatants and an insistent percussion on the soundtrack. Everything is exaggerated, but done in a way to print an intense and effective pace.
This does not prevent the production is quite kitsch. The best example of this is the way it portrays Milo Anderson (Kit Harington), protagonist of this story, that despite having little more than ten lines of dialogue in the whole plot, is present in most of the images, shot like an underwear model : the character is seen lying in his cell, or leaning against the railings, flexing muscles, with the curls of hair falling gently over the eyes and a small wound on his forehead always open, as a sign of virility. Harington does not act, he poses as a photo essay, giving the impression that the director wants to turn it into a new fri teen symbol.
The love story is short, so Cassia (Emily Browning) does nothing more than paper filing for a girl of action movie, waiting to be rescued. The most interesting is the bromance between Milo and another gladiator, Attico (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). This is the only relationship that develops incrementally over the plot, with both being saved and becoming great friends and partners. The fact that this link between two men be deeper and longer than the romance with Cassia motivated intimations of homoeroticism from critics – interpretation favored by the blatant display of male bodies, while Cassia and other women remain covered up to the neck.
But the real protagonist of Pompeii are the special effects. The 3D is proudly displays, including several images with infinite depth and even playing small ash from the volcano toward the viewer. The trail of desperate citizens before the disaster of Vesuvius is a moment of incredible hysteria, with the protagonists running and screaming in front of the giant digital landscape. Perhaps this is the action movie with the largest number of green screen (those green screens that are designed computerized images) in many years, but with full awareness of its artificiality.
The viewer can complain – rightly – that Pompeii is a fool and predictable movie, but it certainly can not say that the session was not worth the ticket, and did not exactly what it promised. After all, production displays an insane, amusing with a huge amount of chaos and destruction.
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Stars: Kit Harington, Emily Browning,Kiefer Sutherland