Pompeii (Blu-ray)

May 16, 2014 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

It’s a well-known fact that when a movie comes to DVD or Blu-ray and you could have just sworn that it was in theaters – it’s probably not that great of a movie.  Such is the case with Pompeii, a knock off of both Gladiator and Titanic (in a way) that tries to do what both of these movies did and failed miserably. Granted, the aforementioned two movies did win Best Picture and managed to rake in some cash as the same time. The point being, if written, directed and acted well –  a good movie can be made of anything. For those that don’t know, Pompeii was the city that was literally buried underneath the ash of Mount Vesuvius around 79AD. And when I say buried, I mean buried – we’re talking 20 feet of ash and pumice. A nice backdrop for a love story, no?  Ok, I’ve run out of semi-clever and historically-accurate things to say, let’s get on with it.

We meet a young Milo (later played by Kit Harrington) as his village is massacred and he the lone survivor.  Flash forward 17 years and Milo is now a gladiator and a good one at that.  We see that he immediately develops a rivalry with Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), though we all know that they’ll eventually be best buddies. As fate would have it, Milo puts a horse out of its misery and manages to catch the eye of Cassia (Emily Browning). Evidently the two are now star crossed lovers and pledge their eternal allegiance to one another.  Kiefer Sutherland plays Jack Bauer Corvus, a high-ranking Roman officer who, of course, has eyes for Cassia as well. And just so you know there’s more going on, every 15 minutes we’re treated to a scene in which Mount Vesuvius churns a bit. Naturally it comes down to a showdown in the arena, but with the impending volcanic eruption will love ever triumph?

I won’t say that I was looking forward to Pompeii or that I even thought it was going to be good. I pretty much figured that it was all about the special effects and, to be honest, they were pretty cool.  Still when I saw that Paul W.S. Anderson was directing, my hopes went up a little bit since I’m a big fan of most of the Resident Evil movies, but this just wasn’t meant to be.  The characters are paper thin, the plot predictable and I was even quoting lines of dialogue that had yet to happen – yes, that’s how transparent the entire movie is. Aside from Carrie Anne-Moss (who has about four lines of dialogue in the entire film) and Kiefer Sutherland, I really didn’t recognize anyone, so if any of these aspiring actors were hoping this would be their big break – well they might need to go read for some other parts as I don’t think Pompeii will stand the test of time (so to speak).

Video: How’s it look?

Putting the plot aside, I was actually pretty interested to see how they handled the “money shot” scene and I do have to say that it delivered.  Pompeii is presented in a 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer that looks just about as good as I thought it would. There’s also a 3D version of the movie included in the set we were sent, but I gave the 2D version a chance first (and didn’t feel like sitting through it again in 3D).  The movie has a very stylized look and feel to it and, like Gladiator, the men’s muscles are on display for all.  Detail looks good, as we’d expect and black levels are rock solid.  I noticed a tiny bit of jittering in a couple of the ending scenes, but nothing too bad.  If it’s a visual feast you want, then I’ll say that Pompeii delivers (well the last 15 minutes).

Audio: How’s it sound?

Well this one is a no-brainer as the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is worth the price of admission.  I mean if a volcano erupting doesn’t sound good, then I can’t imagine what will, right?  Vocals are strong and crisp, and Kiefer Sutherland’s pseudo Roman accent made me chuckle a few times.  Surrounds are used with great effect during a few of the battle scenes and, of course, during the eruption as are the LFE.  The front stage is very active throughout most of the film as well.  I’ll put it this way, the movie wasn’t great but if it’s good sound you’re after – this has it.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Perhaps knowing the movie itself might be a hard sell, Sony has loaded this two disc set with some supplements. Let’s take a look.

DVD Extras

  • Audio Commentary – This is actually called a “filmmakers’ commentary” which sounds a bit more distinguished.  Admittedly I only listened to the latter part of the track as sitting through the film again would be a form of personal hell for me. Still, Anderson seems pretty proud of his work here so I’ve got to give him credit for that.
  • The Assembly – Cast and Characters – We get a look at the ensemble cast.
  • The Volcanic Eruption – Special Effects – A volcano erupts in this movie? I’d have never guessed. Kidding aside, we do get a look at the money shot and it’s fairly interesting.

Blu-ray Exclusives

  • 20 Deleted & Alternate Scenes – I don’t know why they just didn’t put them in, but they’re here if you want them.
  • The Gladiators – Stunts – We see some of the stunts performed and how the actors and stunt men worked together.
  • The Journey – Production Design – Essentially setting the stage for Rome circa 79 AD.
  • The Costume Shop – Costume Design – See above, except for costumes. I think Gladiator did a much better job.
  • Pompeii: Buried in Time – Behind the Scenes of Ancient History’s Greatest Disaster – This was actually the best supplement on the disc as it was dealing with the actual history. If you do want to learn a bit about what really happened to Pompeii, this is a good start.
  • Blu-ray 3D/UltraViolet Copy

Disc Scores

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