Filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson specializes in flashy video game cinema (Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat) and/or pulpy science-fiction (Event Horizon, Soldier), so he doesn't necessarily seem the obvious choice to direct a Titanic-style love story - set against the backdrop of an infamous historical natural disaster - with the upcoming Pompeii. Then again, he also breathed newfound life into Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers a couple years ago, so maybe Anderson felt like going back in time again.
In Pompeii, finely-chiseled Celtic slave Kit Harington spends his days fighting in the gladiator arena, even while he carries a torch for his Roman master's daughter (Emily Browning). Unfortunately for Jon Snow, she is betrothed to a much older senator (Kiefer Sutherland): a dangerous man who believes in maintaining the social order.
Of course, the political intrigue and tragic romance aspects of the story get pushed to the back of the line once Mt. Vesuvius begins to erupt, as evidenced by the large amounts of 3D spectacle, action sequences and set pieces that are featured throughout the Pompeii teaser trailer and the film's newly-unveiled full-length trailer alike.
In addition to Game of Thrones star Harington, the Pompeii cast includes Jared Harris (The Mortal Instruments), Carrie-Anne Moss (Vegas), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Thor: The Dark World) and Jessica Lucas (Evil Dead).
Check out three new images from Pompeii, in the gallery below (via USA Today):
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Interestingly, though you might not guess it from the preview footage, Anderson's historical blockbuster relies fairly heavily on practical effects, as Sutherland has informed USA Today "There are amazing computer effects, but only a third of the set was green screen. The rest was huge props, big sets, elaborate costumes, which I love."
Anderson's Resident Evil movies - he's written all of them and directed three (not including the developing sixth installment) - have arguably suffered from diminishing returns of late, but Pompeii looks and sounds more like the kind of entertaining B-movie that he's made his stock and trade. On some level, a narrative set around the Vesuvius meltdown is even timely, as Sutherland also told USA Today that:
"I've seen more natural disasters in the last five years than I have in my entire life. (The film) isn't a history lesson, but it raises real issues that I think are worth discussing. It could happen again."
Pompeii was scripted by Janet Scott and Lee Batchler (Batman Forever), Michael Robert Johnson (Sherlock Holmes) and Julian Fellowes (Romeo and Juliet (2013)); that mix of talent recalls how Anderson's Three Musketeers was also penned by a blend of modern B-movie writers and storytellers who specialize in prestigious period drama fare. I won't defend Anderson's take on that classic literature as great filmmaking, but I had a blast watching it (and would argue that it embodies the spirit of Dumas' source material better than you might think, at a passing glance).
In short: Pompeii seems like an enjoyable old-school Hollywood historical melodrama throwback, as realized through the eyes of a director whose speciality is low-grade action entertainment (and 3D moviemaking, nowadays).
Pompeii erupts in 2D and 3D theaters on February 21st, 2014.
Source: USA Today, Yahoo! Movies