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Pompeii (Blu-ray Review)

Pompeii - www.whysoblu.comOne of my favorite, if not MY favorite big budget B-movie director Paul W.S. Anderson has returned with his latest spectacle piece in the historical albeit fictional account of the Pompeii volcano eruption more than 2,000 years ago. Armed with an attractive cast and attractive budget Anderson has returned to grace the screen with his latest film that just so happens to be a disaster epic wrapped up in a love story. Will it work, will it suck, and will Kiefer Sutherland sport a Roman-British accent and fail miserably at both? All that and much more in our review!

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Pompeii

Film 

I remember some of the marketing materials and commentary saying that Pompeii was Titanic meets a giant volcano. You’d have the lower clansmen fall in love with an unattainable girl from a prosperous background while battling against a tyrant all under the looming stare of a giant volcano waiting to erupt and wash away any memory of these people. Well, they were partially right in that regard. Pompeii is the story of Milo,  (Kit Harrington) a slave who is the best gladiator under the empire. Cassia (Emily Browning) is a wealthy merchant’s daughter. Mr. Jack Baur himself (Kiefer Sutherland) plays the evil Corvus, who has much power, as he is a Roman Senator.

Paths will collide as Milo tries to escape his destiny of dying in the arena while trying to woo Cassia. Corvus will also have a part to play, as he was directly responsible for the death of Milo’s parents many years earlier. Yes, there are multiple subplots in Pompeii but they’re easy enough to follow. You really just came here to see a big volcano blow its top, right? Well, that’s what happens, and you didn’t even have to watch the trailers to find that out! That wasn’t a spoiler, by the way.

Paul W.S. Anderson has crafted a very simple, big budget feature that sprinkles in plenty of brutal but bloodless fights (the film is PG-13 after all) and mixes in the mythology about the lethal volcano that is getting ready to blow at any minute. Of course the folks that inhabit Pompeii think it’s a warning from the Gods and go about their daily lives. The love story elements in Pompeii are the weakest of the bunch, because I really didn’t see Cassia falling in love with Milo that fast. Titanic was over three hours and this one clocks in under two. Sorry, but you know Pompeii’s love angle will not work.

What will work is everything else. Just as I had a blast watching Renny Harlin’s Legend of Hercules I also had a blast watching Pompeii. I enjoyed the bloodless fights, the corny dialogue, Kiefer freakin’ Sutherland and his ever-changing accents (he’s having a total blast and it shows), and a few other actors that I am a fan of kicking butt, as well. I really enjoyed the disaster scenes as they looked and sounded fantastic in my home theater. There’s a certain sense of dread when you start to feel and hear the rumblings of the earth and then to have it explode and tremble really pushed the film into overdrive.

Make no mistake Pompeii is CHEESE of the highest order but it’s delicious cheese. Paul W.S. Anderson will get flack until the end of his days for not being Steven Spielberg and that’s perfectly fine. He knows what he wants to do in terms of making a film and now that he has some built in clout in Hollywood and Europe he can stage some staggeringly cool big budget B-movies for the rest of us nerds that like big budget B-movies. Everyone wins except the snobs. On an entertainment level Pompeii rocks hard. As a historical and accurate undertaking it fails. That’s okay, though, because sometimes you just want explosions. Pompeii gives it to you and then some.

Pompeii

Video

Encoding: AVC MPEG-4 (MVC 3-D version)

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: Pompeii on Blu-ray is near reference. Sharpness levels are clean and crisp as are contrast levels. I did not detect any annoying postproduction tinkering, with the exception of some weird motion effect towards the end, but I will assume that that was inherent to the 3-D source. Outside of that Pompeii looks fantastic.      

Depth: Well, there is a 3-D copy of the film, and assuming I had watched that version over the 2-D one I would probably say that it just leapt of off the screen. That’s not a knock on the 2-D version, because the 2-D version looks great!

Black Levels: There were no signs of crush or anomalies during the nighttime scenes.

Color Reproduction: The entire film has an oil painting quality to it. Colors are big and bold but can retreat and mute at a moment’s notice.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones look exquisite and once the elements come into play look dirty and grainy due to their exposure to the ash and grit falling from above.

Noise/Artifacts: This was a very clean digital file absent of any noise, dirt, artifacts, and anomalies.

 

Pompeii

Audio  

Audio Formats(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English Audio Descriptive Track

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Pompeii is a disaster epic after all and it gets the sound design right during those scenes in particular and it also knows when to scale it back during scenes of expositions and during the even quieter scenes involving Milo and Cassia.

Low Frequency Extension: Wait until Mt. Vesuvius erupts. You will feel deep into your guts! Along with every other hit, crunch, tidal wave, and earthquake, the LFE channel excels!

Surround Sound Presentation: Duck for cover on this one. You’re going to have big freakin’ rocks landing all over the place along with giant waves of water and giant waves of flame trying to engulf you. This is a sonic tour-de-force.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue levels are clean, clear, and crisp. You’ll be able to hear Kiefer Sutherland chewing up the scenery with complete clarity.

 

Pompeii

Extras 

Pompeii comes equipped with several featurettes that chronicle the making of the film along with a neat audio commentary by Anderson and his producing partner Jeremy Bolt.

  • Filmmakers’ Commentary – Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt discuss the making of Pompeii in a very informative and entertaining fashion. At this point, you guys should already be familiar with an Anderson/Bolt commentary track. They’re fun and informative. This is no different.
  • 20 Deleted Scenes  (HD, 23:32)  – Yes, you get TWENTY deleted scenes for your viewing pleasure. Most were removed for pacing issues and the fact it would have pushed the final runtime over two hours, which was never the intention.
  • The Assembly (HD, 7:14) – Fluffy interviews with the cast and how excited they were to participate on a film like Pompeii.
  • The Journey (HD, 7:42) – This featurette focuses on the crew of Pompeii and what they had to do to bring it to life.
  • The Costume Shop (HD, 6:52) – Here’s a neat little featurette covering the fabrication of all the costumes. Yes, they were all hand made and they had a separate metal shop to create all of the armor on set.
  • The Volcanic Eruption (HD, 7:06) – This featurette talks about the visual effects that went into the various set pieces in Pompeii. It wasn’t just a volcano that obligated Pompeii but a combination of an earthquake, tidal wave, and ultimately the volcano. Work on the destruction began 5 months before actual filming began.
  • The Gladiators (HD, 6:23) – Big and beefy guys wave their swords around and the principals’ talk about what they did to get into tip-top shape in addition to their weapons and stunt training.
  • Pompeii: Buried In Time (HD, 24:06) – This is a short documentary that covers everything that was previously featured and turns it into an almost “history channel” type of show. It was neat.

Pompeii

Summary 

Anderson has never been one for redefining the genre. The man makes films he wants to see on the screen and on his own terms. Do they work on a snobby and intellectual level? No. Do they entertain? Hell yes they do. Pompeii is no different than any of his other films. I did like it less than the severely ignored Three Musketeers.  I did enjoy the spectacle of it all as the action and special effects was all top notch. The Blu-ray presentation is phenomenal and the supplemental features are above average, with a very cool audio commentary to boot.  If you’re already a fan of Paul W.S. Anderson’s films then Pompeii is a no-brainer. If you’re not a fan but are interested in the subject matter then you may be surprised at how elegantly simple Pompeii is. That’s not a bad thing.

 

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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