Milo (Kit Harington) has been a slave and gladiator for the majority of his life after Roman forces, led by Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) and Proculus (Sasha Roiz), murder everyone in his tribe. A few years later, slave owner Graecus (Joe Pingue) is moving all this gladiators to Pompeii to participate in the upcoming Vinalia festivities, on the way Milo meets Cassia (Emily Browning) in what seems like an instant match made in heaven. As the days pass, Milo and Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), gladiator champion, know that fate has brought them together to fight each other in the arena, but Mother Nature has a different plan as Mount Vesuvius is on the verge of erupting on the unsuspecting population.
Hot off Game of Thrones, Kit Harington popularity seems to be on the rise with no end in sight and his appearance in Pompeii is very welcoming. Paul W.S. Anderson understands this and he gives Harington plenty of screen time along with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who together have plenty of good chemistry. But one thing that Anderson didn’t nail was a solid story. This has been his Achilles heel, a solid story is not his forte and Pompeii suffers from this.
Pompeii is another example of the disconnect that Hollywood has with historical events, however, if I wanted completely 100% accurate events I would go on a check out a documentary or take a class. Anderson’s sole goal here is to deliver the disaster that was the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the disaster that it laid on Pompeii. Indeed the destruction was delivered along with a sort of intriguing love story that barely stood on its own because the main spectacle of the film was saved for the second part of the film.
My main issue with Pompeii is the script and screenplay. For the first part of the story we see a set of characters whose main focus was Cassia and her love interest Milo. Kiefer Sutherland showcased how bad he is at replicating the British accent, but among some the mediocrity some good points can be found, Corvus as a character is not so bad and others like Proculus and Atticus are central parts of the story that work well. The chemistry between Harrington and Adewale is crucial to how the film evolves and reaches its climatic events.
Anderson manages to build up and save the best for last; the carnage, destruction, and death that ensues is of epic proportions. Isn’t that what we had been waiting for? The spectacle that must of been the eruption of Mount Vesuvius is handled well by Anderson as he also manages to create a pandemonium in the streets of Pompeii. This whole sequence ties in well with the love story that has been brewing since the first half of the story. The climax can be seen a mile away, but we can ignore it (at least I can) and focus of the camera work at work here. The 3D version really becomes alive as well during the volcanic eruption and I am convinced that this is the best version of Pompeii.
Pompeii is not great, but it’s not bad, it proved to be entertaining and enjoyable. By the time the second part of the film arrives it’s impossible to leave your seat. Don’t come in expecting historical accuracy, besides the Vesuvius erupting of course, because there’s little else that is anything close to historical. The film is just for pure entertainment.
Pompeii arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG4-AVC (MVC for 3D) encode and both the 2D and 3D version of the film are presented with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. We can start with the 2D version of the film; the image features a golden yellow tint through most of the film brilliantly favoring some of the yellows, reds and the bright orange colors. Black levels are deep and inky, but it seems that in a few scenes are overwhelmed by the black levels. Despite this issue, the finer details of the picture remain very revealing; close up shots are fantastic, and the details on the armors and clothing excellent. The contrast appears to be faulty in a few scenes and it’s obvious when comparing to the 3D version, which looks fantastic, but this is very minimal and the impact is minor.
The 3D version of Pompeii is equally or more impressive than the 2D version. Yes, you are reading that correctly, the 3D version is superior to the 2D version. With that in mind let’s begin. Pompeii was film natively in 3D using the Red Epic cameras, there are a few gimmick shots, but I can’t deny how much more engrossing the film becomes. There is always a sense of space in between the objects but best of all there are absolutely no signs of ghosting in the 3D images. The detailing is just as good as the 2D version, but the good news is that the contrast is much better. If there’s a version to see, the 3D version is the one to watch.
Pompeii arrives on Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track. This film is literally a story with two sides, the first half of the film is very quiet and the second part is an unrelenting and thunderous audio delivery worthy of a disaster movie. The dialogue is well prioritized even during the more intense sequences. There is great directionality throughout and the dynamic range is exceptional specially once the disaster begins. Once Mount Vesuvius decides to erupt, the real fun begins with this track, because it creates an incredible 360 degree soundstage the fully embraces the fury of the volcano. The rears offer plenty of support and the LFE channels is powerful but precise. The dynamic range is at full play here with all the falling rocks and different points of impact, The track is fantastic, like I said, the first half was more subtle, but the second half performs better than expected. Pompeii sounds fantastic!
Audio Commentary – The filmmakers discuss many different things from the story, the script, to the characters and the latter part of the conversation relates more to the technical aspect of the film as well as the directional choices. This is a very informational track, if you want to find out more about how the film was made, this is it.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (23:32) – There’s a total of 20 scenes.
The Assembly (7:14) – The actors and filmmakers talk about the story and the characters in the movie.
The Journey (7:42) – The filmmakers talk about the setting of Pompeii and the challenges of recreating the city as authentic as possible.
The Costume Shop (6:52) – Costume designer Wendy Partridge talk about the design of every different set of costumes that went into the film.
The Volcanic Eruption (7:06) – The filmmakers discuss how they build the virtual version of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius.
The Gladiators (6:23) – Stunt Coordinator Jean Frenette talks about the stunt work done on the movie.
Pompeii: Buried in Time (24:06) – This piece is sort of a combination of the other 5 featurettes on the disc. There are a few extended interviews, but the overall information is almost the same.
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Paul W.S. Anderson has a knack for creating some good action films and his technical and directional prowess is shown in Pompeii. Too bad the story didn’t quite work; this sort of meets the rest of Anderson’s work where some visual work is much better than the story. For all it is worth, Pompeii remains entertaining and that’s all that really matters. Technically speaking, the 2D and 3D versions look and sound great. The 3D version is definitely the version to watch without a doubt. If you need some entertainment Pompeii is a good choice!