pompeiiWhen The Ground Trembles
Stars: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Jared Harris, Jessica Lucas, Adewala Akkinouye-Agbaje and Carrie-Anne Moss
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Scriptwriters: Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler and Michael Robert Johnson
Composer: Clinton Shorter
Cinematographer: Glen MacPherson
Tri Star Pictures
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 1:45 minutes
It is sword and sandal and shield and toga time. “Pompeii” gives us the death throes of a city buried by volcanic ash, plus a great part of its inhabitants. That no one paid much attention to the rumblings and ground heaving is part of that period of history, It was just something that happened upon occasion. The story centers around a slave trained to be a gladiator (Kit Harington), a noble woman (Emily Browning) set to wed a ruthless Roman (Kiefer Sutherland) and friendships that endure. Pompeii and a neighboring city, Herculaneum, were seaside resort towns of pleasure, but some people’s idea of pleasure was pain to another. So be it. The volcano still ruled the day.
The film begins in Britain about 62 AD when a village is destroyed by the Romans, lead by Corvus (Keifer Sutherland.) One boy escapes and remembers who did this. Years later, in 79 AD, Milo (the now grown boy) is a slave-fighter and efficient at his craft. He catches the eye of Princess Cassia (Emily Browning) and it is instant attraction. Here is a man who kills with his hands, yet is kind to animals. Corvus is there and jealous. Cassia’s parents are Severus (Jared Harris) and Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss). Milo has a friend among the other fighters, Atticus (Adewale Akkinouye-Agbaje), who is close to winning his freedom. Corvus tries to keep the lovers apart with ruthless tactics, but in the end, it is the interruption of Mount Vesuvius that prevails when the ground shakes, games are stopped, citizens try to flee and revenge is still on some people’s minds. The volcano blows its top and it is every person for themselves, which is why the ruins of Pompeii, a resort town at that time, and Herculaneum are interesting to visit, as the hot air and ash stopped people in their tracks, much as a nuclear blast would do in this modern world. Not only that, but the sea didn't behave itself, either, and earthquakes came at inopportune times, or maybe fortuitous, depending on the circumstance. Special effects are good and 3D brings the situation into your theater row.
Acting is adequate, but other than a few lines for each main characters, the action does it all, in the fights and when the volcano shows its stuff.  There is the good guy, his friends, the good girl, her parents, the bad guy and his henchmen, and that’s about it. Women’s roles are sympathetic. If you haven't seen television’s “Game of Thrones,” you won't know who Kit Harington, is (Jon Snow). Kiefer Sutherland (“24”) is priming himself for a return to that role, and his role as Corvus, is a practice run.
All in all, “Pompeii” is an OK film for action/disaster fans. Kit Harington may be the new action star on the horizon. The fight scenes are well done. In 79 AD, arena fighting for the pleasure of the crowds was still entertainment. Today, professional wrestling uses cages, ladders, chairs, things-from-under-the-ring and anything else within reach to win a match. Not much has changed in 1900 years, including active volcanoes.
Copyright 2014 Marie Asner