Tuesday, March 11, 2014

POMPEII (2014)

Written by Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler & Michael Robert Johnson

Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson

Where & When: MJR Cinemas, Westland, MI.  February 21, 2014  9:30PM

"Pompeii" takes the tale of the ancient Italian town leveled by a powerful volcano and wraps a wan and implausible love story around that city's final days. Paul W.S. Anderson, best known for the "Resident Evil" franchise, has crafted an overly familiar gladiator epic that offers absolutely nothing novel or inspired.

The film opens with the massacre of a tribe of Celtics with the lone survivor being a boy, Milo. Playing possum, the child witnesses his mother slaughtered by the malevolent General Corvus, played by a woefully miscast Kiefer Sutherland. Wandering aimlessly, Milo is captured and placed in to slavery.

Years later, the boy has grown in to a strapping young gladiator and in the fine ripped form of Kit Harrington from HBO's "Game of Thrones". I'm probably one of the few people that doesn't watch the popular program but the brooding, swarthy actor has encouraged me to take a peek at what I'm been missing. After a slave owner witnesses Milo effortlessly take down an opponent, he is whisked off to Pompeii to compete. While being transported in chains to the city, Milo captures the heart of Cassia (Emily Browning) while putting an injured horse out of it's misery. She just happens to be the daughter of Severus (Jared Harris), the emperor of Pompeii. He and his wife (Carrie-Anne Moss) are thrilled that their beautiful offspring has returned home after a year in Rome.

Milo doesn't say much, keeping to himself which riles the other slaves. Despite Milo's skills as a gladiator, the champion of the arena, Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is far from impressed. With one last battle before winning his freedom, Atticus is confident of his victory. During a celebration to display the warriors for the next day's games, Milo crosses paths once again with Cassia causing sparks to fly hot and heavy. It is also here where Milo discovers that the murderous Corvus, now a Roman senator, is in Pompeii to negotiate with Severus to invest in the struggling city. Corvus is more than willing to help as long as he can have Cassia as his bride.

Once Mt. Vesuvius violently erupts, you would think people would be anxiously rushing to get out of town. They do, of course, however as burning rocks soar past, the air fills with thick clouds of ash and the earth crumbles beneath their feet, Milo and Corvus find time to have not one but two impassioned battles. As Pompeii falls around them, they engage in a ferocious, foolish clash for honor, revenge and the hand of the fair, Cassia.

The awe-inspiring visuals (in 3D, no less) are propelled front and center while the performances and plot are designated as necessary bother. Mr. Anderson is not going to let little things like history or logic stand in the way of a thrilling action flick. "Pompeii" has cribbed the now cliched moments from many of the the current sword-and-sandal films while attempting to add the sweeping tragic romance of "Titanic". But the outcome is far less meaningful, engaging or interesting than any of the movies that are being emulated. "Pompeii" offers a high-energy, action-packed distraction but not long after it's over, much like the now-lost city, the memory of it's existence will fade like a puff of smoke.