"Pompeii" came and went in theaters while not making much of a splash along the way. Many blame the release of "The Lego Movie" at the same time for this misfortune. Others blame it on poor word-of-mouth and a lack of interest in the subject matter. Either way, it's arrived on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Download guarantees many will give it a second chance in the comfort of their own homes.
On the eve of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a slave named Milo (Kit Harington) is brought to the great city of Pompeii to participate in the gladiatorial arena. Upon his arrival, he catches the eye of the daughter (Emily Browning) of the city's ruler (Jarred Harris). As the arena battles rage on, the towering volcano begins spewing molten lava and raining fiery rock onto the citizens of the ancient metropolis. In the midst of all the confusion and destruction, Milo escapes and finds himself leading the ruler's daughter to safety as the city crumbles around them.
First off, if you're walking into "Pompeii" expecting complete historical accuracy you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Keep in mind that it is a Hollywood film. Although Director Paul W.S. Anderson went to great lengths to make the eruption of the volcano and the layout of Pompeii as authentic as possible, he himself even admits that the story and other scientific elements aren't completely precise.
What Anderson and Writers Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler, and Michael Robert Johnson do is build up a few characters the best they can in a movie with a running time of an hour and forty-four minutes. If this were an old-school 1970's disaster film, they would've made it over two hours long and spent the first hour and a half getting the audience acquainted and invested in all the lives of the people seen onscreen. In a world where there has to be an explosion every four to five minutes or viewers lose interest, that's just not possible.
The cast of "Pompeii" seems legitimately interested in participating in the movie. Leads Kit Harington and Emily Browning both fit their roles of star-crossed lovers quite well as they gaze into each other's eyes from afar and Harington risks life and limb to save Browning from certain doom. Kiefer Sutherland chews the scenery every chance he gets as the deplorable Roman Senator Corvus.
All the explosions and fiery destruction is beautifully enhanced by a high-definition transfer for "Pompeii's" Blu-ray release. The surround sound puts the viewer in the middle of all the mayhem, leaving little to the imagination as earthquakes rumble loudly and flaming boulders scream through the sky before crashing into the city. Movies like this are what home theaters were made for.
The Blu-ray for "Pompeii" is packed full of bonus material that will educate viewers on what went on behind the scenes of the film. Filmmakers provide commentary for the feature. Six featurettes focus on the special effects, cast and characters, stunts, production and costume design, and a historical view of the last days of Pompeii. Deleted and alternate scenes are included as well.
"Pompeii" is rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, disaster-related action, and brief sexual content. Plenty of people die horrible deaths in the movie for all to see. Some die bloody deaths as gladiators while others perish from being buried in volcanic debris. The "brief sexual content" refers to scenes of women shopping for slaves to have their ways with them and some passionate kissing between characters.
As a fan of disaster films, "Pompeii" successfully met my expectations. It's not often you can find a way to blend together the destructive elements of "Armageddon," "The Poseidon Adventure," "Earthquake," and "The Day After Tomorrow" into one movie. When you add a hefty spoonful of "Gladiator" to the concoction, there's not much more you can do to satisfy the hunger of action movie fans anywhere.