Essential bad-movie fan viewing from Paul WS Anderson, with ill-judged performances and lashings of CGI chaos
Following up on his 2012 version of The Three Musketeers, which fancifully adorned Dumas’ classic tale with exploding airships, critically reviled director Paul WS Anderson turns his attention to volcanic action with Pompeii. The results are as disastrous as expected, but essential viewing for bad-movie fans, with ill-judged performances and lashings of CGI chaos to enliven the melodrama.
Game of Thrones star Kit Harington looks good in his loincloth as Milo, traumatised as a child by seeing his family and community in Britannia decimated by the ruthless Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) circa 62AD. Seventeen years later, Milo finds himself in Pompeii and soon to be dead meat in the gladiatorial arena, an outsider in a much anticipated bout against the super-buff Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Milo’s skills with horses win him the affections of Cassia (Emily Browning), but her upwardly mobile parents have unwisely allowed her to be betrothed to Corvus; the brewing lava inside the nearby volcano, however, is only biding its time before interrupting the proceedings with a rain of fiery death.
James Cameron’s Titanic seems to have been the template for Anderson’s endearingly silly film, with thwarted lovers defying authority, logic and physics in an effort to be together before they’re turned to dust. Pompeii is wildly inaccurate on every level, with felicitous dialogue including such Anchorman-style exclamations of 'by Juno’s tit!’ And Kiefer Sutherland appears to have based Corvus on Michael Palin in Life of Brian, his lip-smacking, lisping, maniacal performance recalls silent-movie stylings, comedy gold amongst the ashes.
The explosions, lava flumes and tidal waves that conclude Pompeii may be unconvincing, but they’re certainly spectacular; much like Anderson’s The Three Musketeers, the details are highly dubious, but the effect is strangely pleasing in its daft, anything-goes showmanship.
General release from Fri 2 May.