Pompeii appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the most part, the image satisfied.
A bit of softness crept into the presentation at times, though not to a substantial degree. I saw the occasional slightly fuzzy shot but not more than that. Those instances didn’t dominate, so the majority of the film appeared accurate and concise. I witnessed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement seemed absent. Print flaws also never reared their ugly head, as the movie looked clean at all times.
Like most modern action films, Pompeii opted for a stylized palette; here, blues and tans dominated. Within those choices, the hues appeared well-rendered. Blacks seemed dense and firm, while shadows appeared fairly smooth and clear. The image wasn’t flawless, but it seemed solid for the most part.
As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Pompeii, it worked well, as the movie presented an engaging soundfield. Not surprisingly, its best moments related to the mix of gladiator and volcano scenes. These helped open up the spectrum pretty nicely and added real zing to the proceedings.
We got good stereo impressions from the music along with solid environmental material. The latter reverberated in the rear speakers to positive effect, and some unique action material popped up there as well. As one might expect, the climactic volcanic eruption added the most dynamic material and helped involve us in the proceedings.
No problems with audio quality occurred. Speech was always concise and natural, and I noticed no edginess or other concerns. Music seemed bright and lively. Effects showed good distinctiveness, and they offered nice low-end when appropriate. All of this created a strong sonic impression that made the movie more involving.
In this two-disc package, we get both the 2D and 3D versions of the film. The picture quality comments above reflect the nature of the 2D edition – does the 3D image add much to the proceedings? To a decent degree, yes, though I don’t think the 3D elements dazzle.
As one might expect, the volcanic components do most of the heavy lifting here. Much of the movie opts for general dimensionality, and that side of the image works fine. When the mayhem begins, the 3D becomes a bit more immersive, especially when we get ash and floating debris. None of this turns into a stellar 3D affair, but it gives us reasonable involvement.
3D picture quality also seems good, with strong delineation on display; this was one of the sharpest 3D images I’ve seen. Inevitably, colors and shadow detail take a hit due to the dimness that comes with 3D presentations, but the semi-desaturated palette minimizes the impact on the hues. Low-light shots can be a bit dense – a factor exacerbated by all the dark moments in the climax – but they remain adequate. The 2D image offers stronger clarity, but the 3D version also looks very good.
Alongside the film, we find an audio commentary from director Paul WS Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt. They discuss what led them to the project, story/character areas, history and accuracy, cast and performances, sets and locations, various effects, production design, costumes and music, and a mix of other topics.
I don’t love their movies, but Anderson and Bolt consistently record fine commentaries. That trend continues here, as they offer a pretty thorough take on Pompeii. Other than a few lulls, this becomes an informative, peppy chat.
20 Alternate and Deleted Scenes fill a total of 23 minutes, 32 seconds. These tend toward character moments, with an emphasis on Cassia’s father and his business dealings; that becomes the major subplot seen here. We also get a longer look at a local festival. Though these add some background, none of them would make the movie more interesting.
A mix of featurettes ensue. The Assembly goes for seven minutes, 14 seconds and offers notes from Anderson and actors Emily Browning, Kit Harington, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jared Harris, Jessica Lucas, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. The show looks at cast, characters and performances. Nothing fascinating appears here, so expect a pretty forgettable take on the topics.
With The Journey, we find a seven-minute, 42-second piece. It features Anderson, Bolt, producer Don Carmody, director of photography Glen MacPherson, and production designer Paul Denham Austerberry. This piece examines attempts at realism, sets, cinematography and production design. Though not the meatiest show, it gives us more substance than "Assembly”, especially when we get close-ups of the sets.
Next comes the six-minute, 52-second The Costume Shop. In it, we hear from Moss, Browning, Sutherland, Harington, and costume designer Wendy Partridge. As expected, this one concentrates on outfits. It follows “Journey” to become a quick but insightful piece.
For a look at effects, we go to The Volcanic Eruption. The seven-minute, six-second reel provides info from Anderson, visual effects supervisor Dennis Berardi, and special effects coordinator Tony Kenny. We get info about the practical and CG effects used in the film. Expect another useful program.
The Gladiators lasts six minutes, 23 seconds and includes Harington, Sutherland, Akinnuoye-Agbaje and stunt coordinator Jean Frenette, “Gladiators” discusses action and stunts. It continues our movie-specific featurettes in a satisfying manner.
Finally, Buried in Time goes for 24 minutes, six seconds and gives us comments from Anderson, Bolt, Harington, Sutherland, Moss, Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Browning, Austerberry, Partridge, Kenny, Berardi, MacPherson, University of Cincinnati Professor Steven Ellis, prop master Chris Geggie and actors Currie Graham and Jared Harris. “Time” looks at some of the history behind the project, Anderson’s approach to it, cast, characters and performances, action and fight scenes, production design and costumes, weapons and effects, camerawork and shooting 3D.
I hoped “Time” would give us a nice history of the real events in Pompeii, but instead it turns into a basic behind the scenes show. It’s not a very satisfying one, unfortunately, as it’s too general and occasionally repeats info from other featurettes. This isn’t a bad program, but it’s lackluster.
The disc opens with ads for That Awkward Moment, The Monuments Men, A Fighting Man and Afflicted. These also appear under Previews along with a promo for Stalingrad. Disc Two provides a 3D clip for Amazing Spider-Man 2 as well. No trailer for Pompeii pops up here.
I hoped Pompeii would deliver an exciting historically-based disaster movie. Unfortunately, it sags under the weight of its dull romantic elements and fails to create much to keep the audience interested. The Blu-ray provides strong picture and audio as well as a good mix of bonus materials. While I think this becomes a solid Blu-ray, the movie itself disappoints.