Posted by Joel Copling on February 21, 2014

The ultimate tragedy of Pompeii is that, despite all of their struggles and triumphs, this was a city whose complete destruction was external: at the thousand fires of a volcanic event since unparalleled. No one in this era--circa the year 79--understood the science involved in this event (How could they?), and no matter the desperate cries of a few upon their gods as to why they let it happen or greedy Senator Corvus' (Kiefer Sutherland) attempt to convince himself and his constituents that the rumble of build-up is actually a deity's voice, Paul W.S. Anderson's film is far too artificial to capitalize on these moments before a devastating tragedy occurs.

Our main protagonist is Milo (Kit Harington), whose childhood was marred by being the only survivor of a massacre in North Brittania 17 years earlier (He faked his own death in the process, and the film's most chilling shot is of a young boy burrowing his way out of a pile of bodies) and orphaned in the process. Senator Corvus and his right-hand man Proculus (Sasha Roiz) were the instigators of the massacre and the former was directly the cause of Milo's parents' (Jean-Francois Lachapelle, Rebecca Eady) death. As a young man, Milo is considered a gladiator, a slave-boy who fights to the death for the benefit of his master slaver (Jean Frenette). Love-at-first-sight arrives in the form of Lady Cassia (Emily Browning), set to marry Corvus but drawn inexorably and inevitably to Milo.

"Pompeii" is almost startlingly thin on plot, which would be fine if it were any sort of study about the way tragedy brings people on all sides together. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler, and Michael Robert Johnson is more focused on the passionless love story at its center, performed by Harington and Browning about as romantically as siblings. Dialogue is embarrassing; indeed, Sutherland is the only actor to escape alive here, tackling his role with ham and cheese and only a twirl-worthy mustache missing from action. The glaring omission of anything about which to care is at odds with the innately human tragedy at play but executed as if it's the exciting home-stretch of a roller coaster. It doesn't even excite.

Film Information

Kit Harington (Milo), Emily Browning (Cassia), Kiefer Sutherland (Corvus), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Atticus), Sasha Roiz (Proculus) Carrie-Anne Moss (Aurelia), Jared Harris (Severus), Jessica Lucas (Ariadne), Rebecca Eady (Milo's Mother), Jean Frenette (Boss Slaver), Currie Graham (Bellator), Ron Kennell (The Weasel), Jean-Francois Lachapelle (Milo's Father).

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and written by Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler, and Michael Robert Johnson.

Rated PG-13 (intense battle sequences, disaster-related action, brief sexual content).

98 minutes.

Released on February 21, 2014.