Reading down a list of his filmography, Paul W.S Anderson isn't getting very many people excited for his next theatrical entry. Most notable for his direction in the Resident Evil franchise, Anderson (Not to be confused with There Will Be Blood's Paul Thomas Anderson) has a knack for making action-focused films with heavy-handed drama dispersed between gunfire and explosions. For this reason, Pompeii wasn't something I kept high on my radar. Having it release in Mid-February, one of the more infamous months for Box Office duds (While also being a rare vehicle for movies to excel. See The Lego Movie), didn't help my interest either. But no one told me that Keifer Sutherland was portraying a Roman Senator who talks with a mix between The Joker and Dirty Harry. Anderson must have been reading my diary. But, could Sutherland's jester-act help keep Pompeii above water? 
After being left for dead following the murder of his people, Milo (Game of Thrones' Kit Harington) is sold into slavery and soon becomes a heavyweight in gladiator battles. Having caught the attention of a slave-owner, Milo is sent to Pompeii to battle the reigning champion, Atticus (Lost's Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). It's not long before Milo catches the eye of Cassia (Emily Browning), who has just been sold into marriage with the corrupt Roman Senator, Corvus (Sutherland). Unknown to the citizens of Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius is ready to erupt and devastate anything in its' way. 
Anderson has seemed to have listened to his critics as Pompeii has a very strong opening, full of great imagery and interesting plot developments. Young Milo standing underneath the grave of his people is an imagine still fresh in my head. Cinematography holds strong until we reach Pompeii, when interesting shots are traded for generic pans and angles. Even some action shots suffer from an overwhelming amount of camera-zooms that could easily cause nausea. Speaking of causing Nausea, let's talk about Sutherland's performance here. 
I'm a fan of good actors overacting a cheesy role. It's a vice. However, something with Sutherland's Senator Corvus didn't click with me the way I wanted it to. He plays despicable well, but there are countless moments where he could have fun and dive into the character in which he trades in for a typical jerk proposition. It's nothing new to audiences. It's for this reason that Corvus becomes stale after a while and we're all just waiting for him to swan dive into lava of the top diving board. Put Nicolas Cage in the shoes of Senator Corvus and Pompeii could have been a force to reckon with. As is, Sutherland doesn't ruin the movie, but slides underneath any expectation his career has set for him. 
That's not to say that he isn't having fun playing the baddie. Everyone involved seems to enjoy themselves, minus a sour-faced Carrie-Anne Moss. The highlight of the cast would have to go to the chemistry between Harington's Milo and Agbaje's Atticus. Even when these two are whispering sweet nothings and murder propositions to each other, it's exciting to see how their relationship will unfold in the film's second half. I haven't had a chance to watch Game of Thornes, so I am unaware of the level of skill Harington provides as Jon Snow, but in Pompeii, he practically exudes charm and intrigue. He can more than handle himself in battle and proves himself as a fine action star. If only the vehicle could better support his weight. 
The more consistent pleasure throught Pompeii was the quality of 3D presented. Commonly, in disaster pictures like this, directors would hold off the 3D until the big eruption and then throw whatever they have right at the screen. On the contrary, Pompeii has a surprising amount of depth to it that tricks one to believing this may actually be happening in front of their feet. Once Vesuvius erupts, the 3D has some highlights but mostly falls to the wayside, having most audience members forgetting they have their glasses on. 
For being a Paul W.S Anderson picture, Pompeii was a surprisingly enjoyable feature, albeit one with some major flaws and missed marks (Keep an eye out for Jared Harris' hilarious camera notice during a Villa party). If anything, Pompeii is worth it for a great big-screen discovery of Kit Harington, the return of Mr. Echo and some cool 3D effects. Otherwise, Pompeii is a hallow action film lacking the proper heat. 
Ryan Sterritt
Review by Ryan Sterritt
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