Paul W.S. Anderson should not be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson. The latter is an innovative mind who thrives on making great movies. Paul Thomas Anderson has made such hits as “There Will Be Blood,” “Magnolia,” “Punch-Drunk Love” “Boogie Nights” and most recently “The Master.” I am highly excited for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice,” which will be released sometime later this year. I am dragging my feet right now because I don’t want to discuss Paul W.S. Anderson, someone who should change their name completely because the very murmur of it has the power to send film fans into cardiac arrest. The only good thing I can say about Paul W.S. Anderson is that he is married to Milla Jovovich, other than that, everything he touches turns to crap. “Resident Evil,” “Alien vs. Predator,” “The Three Musketeers” I don’t know how he continually gets projects nor why anybody bothers to work with him.
Paul W.S. Anderson directed “Pompeii” which is a shameless rip-off and mesh between “Gladiator” and “Dante’s Peak.” It is a near frame-by-frame recapturing of “Gladiator” more than anything else. Except this gladiator story is soulless, boring and a complete wallow. One would think that sense the film is called “Pompeii” there would be a feasible emphasis on the volcano, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Paul W.S. Anderson really had an urge to make a shallow “Gladiator” rip-off, complete with his signature poor special effects.
Kit Harington plays The Celt, a slave within the Roman Empire who has been a gladiator for most of his life. His entire clan was ravaged by Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), a powerful Roman who killed The Celt’s mother personally. Ripe with revenge, The Celt plans to fight his way to the top of slavery so that he can win his freedom and get back at Corvus. The situation gets more personal when The Celt lays eyes on Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of a rich Roman family (Jared Harris, Carrie Ann-Moss) who are trying to make a deal with Corvus, a deal which features Corvus marrying Cassia. So The Celt and Cassia fall in love (after not knowing each other for very long at all) and they try to run away with their forbidden love until a volcano erupts and kills them. The End.
I love Kit Harington on “Game of Thrones” and I am personally hoping Jon Snow makes on top in that show, but he is not given a single good scene or piece of dialogue all movie long. It also seems that Kiefer Sutherland is determined to play the most obnoxiously unbearable Roman in the history of celluloid. Seriously, I have never seen him so terrible before. Sutherland is an actor I greatly admire, but he wails his head, sprouting horrendous dialogue while running around the streets of doomed Pompeii, not exactly what I had in mind for Jack Bauer. I think Jared Harris and Carrie Ann-Moss do what they can, but they not given nearly enough screen time to really show their talent. Neither does Adawale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays a rival gladiator who later befriends The Celt, much like Russell Crow and Djimon Hounsou in “Gladiator” except with a lot less grace and joy. Oh, and Emily Browning seems to only do one thing, open her eyes wide, that is all, end of character.
While this “Gladiator” knock-off is in hyper-drive, we only get small glimpses of the volcano at work. The entire point of the movie for this volcano to explode and it is treated like a complete afterthought. What was the point of making a movie about Pompeii in the first place? If the event is not front and center, why even include it at all. “Pompeii” suffers from the same problem that “Pearl Harbor” and “Titantic” did. It is a movie about a tragedy, but the tragedy gets shoehorned next to an intoxicating love story with uninteresting leads. I will never understand the point of making historical disaster movies in this format, and I’ll never understand how they sell.
You will learn more from a History documentary on this subject than will from this movie. So go ahead and skip it.
FINAL GRADE: F