Pompeii (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
May 17, 2014 by Dennis Amith
“Pompeii” is a visual effects heavy disaster film. While the visual effects and production/set design were fantastic, there was too much focus on the actual action and disaster rather than its characters. So, if you want a disaster film with a deep story, “Pompeii” is not it. But if you are wanting an easy to follow action film, then “Pompeii” is a film that may be worth your time!
Image are courtesy of © 2014 Constantin Film International GmbH and Impact Pictures (Pompeii) Inc. All Rights Reserved.
YEAR OF FILM: 2014
DURATION: 105 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2014
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Screenplay by Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler, Michael Robert Johnson
Produced by Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer, Martin Moszkowicz
Executive Producer: Peter Schlessel
Line Producer: Hartley Gorenstein
Music by Clinton Shorter
Cinematography by Glen MacPherson
Edited by Michele Conroy
Production Design by Paul D. Austerberry
Set Decoration by Jeffrey A. Melvin
Costume Design by Wendy Partridge
Kit Harington as Milo
Carrie-Anne Moss as Aurelia
Emily Browning as Cassia
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Atticus
Jessica Lucas as Ariadne
Jared Harris as Severus
Joe Pingue as Graecus
Kiefer Sutherland as Corvus
Currie Graham as Bellator
Dylan Schombing as Young Milo
Set in 79 A.D., POMPEII tells the epic story of Milo (Kit Harrington), a slave turned invincible gladiator who finds himself in a race against time to save his true love Cassia (Emily Browning), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant who has been unwillingly betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator (Kiefer Sutherland). As Mount Vesuvius erupts in a torrent of blazing lava, Milo must fight his way out of the arena in order to save his beloved as the once magnificent Pompeii crumbles around him.
When it comes to natural disasters, the story of the destruction of the ancient Roman city known as Pompeii is known.
The story of how the city was destroyed and buried by 20 ft. of ash and pumice after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius back in 79 A.D. and the excavation of the site to find well-preserved ash layers have given society a look into the past of how these individuals died but also to reveal many intact buildings and wall paintings.
Inspired by the writings of Pliny the Younger, who’s uncle (Pliny the Elder) was killed due to gas poisoning during the eruption of Vesuvius, the writings have been regarded as important documents for volcanoligists which resulted into the first major detail of the eruption of Vesuvius known as “Plinian eruption”.
And while films, documentaries and books have been written about Pompeii, a disaster film would interest writers Janet Scott and Lee Batchler (“Batman Forever”) and Michael Robert Johnson (“Sherlock Holmes”) and eventually win over filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson (“Death Race”, “Resident Evil”, “AVP: Alien vs. Predator”), who wanted to create an action/drama disaster film but paying attention to details of how things looked in Pompeii.
The film would star Kit Harrington (“Silent Hill: Revelation”, “Game of Thrones”), Carrie-Anne Moss (“The Matrix” films, “Memento”, “Chocolat”), Emily Browning (“Sucker Punch”, “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”, “The Uninvited”), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, “Thor: The Dark World”, “The Bourne Identity”), Jessica Lucas (“Cloverfield”, “That Awkward Moment”), Jared Harris (“Lincoln”, “Natural Born Killers”, “Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows”), Joe Pingue (“Drive”, “The Book of Eli”, “Pacific Rim”) and Kiefer Sutherland (“24”, “The Lost Boys”, “Phone Booth”).
The film was released worldwide on Feb. 2014 and will now be released on Blu-ray in May 2014.
The film begins in Brittania and a young Milo wakes up to the annihilation of his parents and his tribe of Celtic horsemen by the Romans led by Corvus (portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland).
The last surviving member of his tribe, Milo is captured by slave traders.
Fastforward 17 years later and Milo (portrayed by Kit Harrington) has become a great gladiator, so much that slave owner Graecus (portrayed by Joe Pingue) is impressed by “the Celt”. Seeing this as a way to impress the Romans, Graecus hass Corvus brought to Pompeii with other slaves.
As Milo follows a carriage ridden by Cassia (portrayed by Emily Browning) and her servant Ariadne (portrayed by Jessica Lucas), he is alarmed by the treatment of a horse who falls and is suffering. As Milo kills the horse to end its suffering, Cassia notices him.
As Cassia and Ariadne head to Pompeii, it is revealed that Cassia is the daughter of Severus (portrayed by Jared Harris), ruler of Pompeii. She visits him and her mother Aurelia (portrayed by Carrie-Anne Moss) after a year away in Rome.
As Severus is looking forward to the new Emperor Titus in rebuilding Pompeii, Cassia warns him that Rome is corrupt. But we learn quickly how unstable Pompeii is with several earthquakes and one of their servants is swallowed up inside a quake caused by the nearby volcano, Mount Vesuvius.
With Corvus planning to be in attendance in Pompeii, Severus hosts a gladiator game in which Milo must take on Atticus (portrayed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a man fighting for one more victory which would grant him freedom.
Meanwhile, Corvus tells Severus that the Emperor can not invest in the rebuilding of Pompeii but he would. We learn not long after that the reason why Cassia has left Rome was because Corvus has been trying to get close to her.
As another earthquake rocks Pompeii, Milo sees Cassia and both take off with the horses as Romans go after them. As she wants to give Milo his freedom, he knows they can not escape and so, Cassia tries to explain that it was her fault and that Milo had saved her after the horses became excited. Despite being a hero, seeing how Cassia is trying to protect Milo, Corvus has Milo punished by several whips.
As Cassia tries to get her father to stop the punishment, her father tells her that she was able to prevent Milo’s execution and was able to keep him alive.
With Corvus’ continued jealousy, he wants Milo dead and at the gladiator Amphitheatre, he has Milo, Atticus and other gladiators chained to rocks in order to recreate Corvus “glorious victory” over the Celts. Both Milo and Atticus form a partnership and as the two men fight back and defeat the Romans, in disgust, Corvus threatens Severus that if Cassia does not marry him, he will have his family killed for treason against the Emperor.
And as everyone begins to cheer for Milo and Atticus in the amphitheatre and Corvus now wanting both men dead, by any means necessary, what everyone in the amphitheatre is unaware, is that Mount Vesuvius is about to blow.
“Pompeii” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). If there was one thing that I could say about “Pompeii”, it’s how wonderful the set design was in recreating Pompeii. Even historians have given positive criticism of the film for its attention to historical detail and it was one of the focus for director Paul W.S. Anderson and his staff.
As one can expect, the film does utilize a lot of CG. This is a disaster film and we literally see the destruction of Pompeii and a great look of Mt. Vesuvius exploding and if anything, the whole disaster was positively accomplished, considering the fact that a lot of the explosions was to play with the film’s use of 3D.
But for the most part, the film is vibrant and colorful. Colors instantly pop, skin tones are natural and overall, the film looks great in HD. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.
“Pompeii” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Audio Descriptive Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. As for the lossless soundtrack, for a disaster film full of action, you expect great use of surround channels and LFE and fortunately, “Pompeii” delivers! Great use of sound effects as large rocks are flung out of Mt. Vesuvius and crashing into boats, swords clanging and the destruction of the buildings and amphitheater also sounded magnificent in HD. If anything, lossless audio was a positive for this film.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.
“Pompeii” comes with the following special features:
- Filmmakers Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from Paul W.S. Anderson.
- Deleted & Alternate Scenes- (23:32) Featuring 20 deleted and alternate scenes.
- The Assembly – (7:14) The cast and crew discuss working on the film and cast discuss their character.
- The Journey – (7:42) A featurette about the crew working in Pompeii and recreating the old world for the film.
- The Costume Shop – (6:52) Wendy Partridge, costume designer discusses the armor, costumes, jewelry of the time and discusses how she wanted to make the costume authentic to compliment the frescoes of Pompeii.
- The Volcanic Eruption – (6:;55) Paul W.S. Anderson discusses working on a disaster film and using Pinny the Younger’s writings as an influence for the film.
- The Gladiators – (6:21) The fight training in the film and making of action scenes.
- Pompeii: Buried in Time – (5:30) Cast and crew discuss working in Pompeii and the historical accuracy of the film.
Disaster films are one of the difficult films to create. For one, most films focus on the destruction and special effects rather than storyline, and far too often, film critics are not fans of this genre, especially when a romantic element is introduced in the film.
While films such as “Gravity”, “Titanic”, “Towering Inferno”, “Twister”, “The Impossible” were big hits in the box office and are able to captivate the attention of audiences due to the human element, “Pompeii” is a film about a real life natural disaster that plays out like the film “2012”. A disaster film laden with amazing special effects but with a storyline that is not too memorable.
Part of the problem with “Pompeii” is that it strives too hard to develop this romantic storyline within a major disaster. “Titanic” was able to accomplish it due to its long duration, but at 105 minutes long, the storyline pacing for both Milo and Cassia goes far too quickly and focuses mostly on the gladiator action and the disaster. If anything, the film becomes more of a popcorn action film that doesn’t make us feel the sadness about the disaster. As a film like “Titanic” or even “The Impossible” is able to focus on a disaster that affects normal people and makes you feel sympathy, “Pompeii” wants you to focus on the destruction of “Pompeii”.
Another problem is that the antagonist Corvus plays off like an evil Jack Bauer. Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t look too different from his anti-terrorism persona, he has his nicely shaved head and is looking much to modern for this film that is set in 79 A.D.
But with that being said, the special effects and the destruction of “Pompeii” was quite fascinating. As mentioned, the production/set design is amazing, the CG effects was well-done and if anything, the film manages to capture the destruction of Pompeii through well-done special effects, but visual effects can only go so far with the film.
Because of its reliance on action, the film becomes more action-driven with dramatic elements and while an average popcorn action film, it’s also an average disaster film overall. And for an action film, it matches with Paul W.S. Anderson’s style of work. But I wished the film would strive to become much more deeper and built more of that storyline that would hook audiences for its story rather than how a city and its people were destroyed by a volcano.
But volcano disaster films are not always easy to do. When I think back of the many volcano-themed films that I did enjoy, there are not many, with the exception of the 1981 film “St. Helens”, which focused on capturing the human element of loss, through its main characters. Characters that were developed throughout the film. For “Pompeii”, Milo and Cassia are never given any strong direction in this film other than Milo is good at fighting, Cassia loves her family and falling for Milo. And next thing you know, both are facing a major disaster and a jealous Roman.
The Blu-ray release of “Pompeii” features wonderful picture quality as the visual effects were outstanding and I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding. The lossless soundtrack was also impressive thanks to its immersive soundtrack. And there are a number of special features that go into the research done for the making of this film.
Overall, “Pompeii” is a visual effects heavy disaster film. While the visual effects and production/set design were fantastic, there was too much focus on the actual action and disaster rather than its characters. So, if you want a disaster film with a deep story, “Pompeii” is not it. But if you are wanting an easy to follow action film, then “Pompeii” is a film that may be worth your time!
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