Paul W. S. Anderson is probably best known for his movie adaptations of the Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil video games, and for marrying model-actress Milla Jovovich, the star of his Resident Evil films. With Pompeii, Anderson tackles real history with a disaster movie that includes equal parts of both Titanic and Gladiator. Though Pompeii boasts a well-known cast, including 24’s Keifer Sutherland and Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington, his wife, Milla is absent. The main female roles are handled by Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning and The Matrix’s Carrie-Anne Moss.
Overwhelmingly panned by critics and generally avoided by audiences, the big budget Pompeii actually did better in the worldwide box office than break even. Though a 3D version of the Blu-ray disc wasn’t provided for review, the cinematography really appeared to beg for the format. The constant monitoring of Mount Vesuvius throughout the film loses its impact in 2D, to the point where it seems gratuitous. That along with the pace and length of the film are this reviewer’s biggest gripes. Clocking in at just over a hundred minutes, there isn’t enough time to really get to know any of the characters.
It’s OK that Pompeii isn’t a very original film, it’s just that the film that it apes were done so much better. Anderson worked hard to make his tragic love story as historically accurate as possible. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t likely to be long remembered. Both Titanic and Gladiator made you understand and care about the main characters, while Pompeii only gives a token origin story to Kit Harrington’s Milo. The rest of the star-studded cast gets nothing. Surprisingly, they all perform admirably with little to really sink their teeth into. So even with a talented cast, a decent script and competent cinematography, Pompeii will likely disappear into history as its namesake did almost 2000 years ago.
Though Pompeii’s ending certainly doesn’t allow for it, I really wished there was just more to the movie. The blu-ray does include a handful of extra features, most of which you would expect. There is of course an audio commentary track, featuring the insights of producer and director Paul W. S. Anderson and co-producer Jeremy Bolt. Additionally, there are a number of deleted and alternate scenes that probably should have been included as a director’s cut. A few short “making of” featurettes are also included along with a longer “Pompeii: Buried in Time” piece that provides an overview of the entire production process.
Sony is no slouch when it comes to blu-ray transfers and Pompeii is no exception. Pompeii’s 2.40:1 aspect ratio in 1080p high definition is crisp with great contrast, though it never breaks the illusion as some high resolution transfers do. Likewise, the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio English track is precise and balanced. As you would expect in a high quality 3D film, the audio has to keep up. From ambient sound and dialogue to big events and the soundtrack, the audio pulls its weight. With so much done right in this movie, it’s a shame that there is so little meat on bones. What ends of being a decent 3D popcorn flick could easily have been something better.
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