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by Louise Adams
Friday May 23, 2014

I went to a volcanic eruption and some gladiator fighting broke out. So goes the minor epic "Pompeii," set in 79 CE at the foot of a percolating Mount Vesuvius in a city "that was lost from human memory for over two thousand years."

The invented narrative, superimposed over the historic explosion, follows kidnapped Celtic horseman Milo (stoic-faced, six-pack-abbed Kit Harrington) to "the Vegas of the Roman Empire" to entertain at the coliseum during the Festival of the Vinalia, where he proclaims "For those about to die, we salute you."

He also captivates ingénue Cassia (wide-eyed and -lipped Emily Browning), her mom Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss), and African co-combatant Atticus (imposing Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who will earn his freedom after his next fight he says, not heeding the prison-rattling foreshocks.

The Celt also encounters the nemesis that slaughtered his family in Britannia, cocky Senator Corvus, played by Kiefer Sutherland still wearing modern Jack Bauer hair.

Pompeii’s earthquake, tsunami and eruption took place over only 12 hours and the citizens were "flash-fried by the pyroclastic surge."

The Blu-ray extras include commentary, deleted and alternate scenes, plus featurettes "The Assembly," "The Journey," "The Costume Shop," and "The Volcanic Eruption." "Pompeii: Buried in Time" muses on this time capsule of a disaster recounted by Pliny the Younger, only 12 hours of earthquake, tsunami and eruption, including pumice stone hail, where the citizens were "flash-fried by the pyroclastic surge," which traveled fast and incinerated everything like a nuclear blast.

All aspects of design - weapons, SFX, VFX - are discussed, as well as the production team's in-depth historical research, such as the 35,000 HD photos taken of the actual site. In "The Gladiators," the fight choreographer talks about how stunt and visual effects now coordinate more, especially for 3D shoots.

There's a cazzo-load of muscular and inventive fights throughout the film, but it's hard to care about those outcomes when we know how this world will end, with skies full of ash and everybody frozen in time. But it's an excellent visual primer for climate change-deniers.

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Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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