Pompeii (12A)

The downfall of director Paul W.S Anderson’ s movie is that anyone with an interest in Roman history knows that when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Pompeii and all of its inhabitants were wiped out.

To create a romantic, albeit half-baked, action movie about the event lacks intelligence. What is the point of character development if you know that everyone is going to meet their maker soon?

But Anderson’s Pompeii doesn’t sweat the small stuff. His camera is mostly trained on the big picture: billowing smoke, tidal-waves, and fireballs streaking through the sky. What’s happening to the people on the ground doesn’t matter to him, so long as we’re aware that 95% of them are being squashed or torched.

The exception is a gladiator named Milo, played by Game of Thrones start Kit Harington, who serves as the movie’s hero and heartthrob.

Milo becomes embroiled in a tedious romance-revenge plot. He is intent on wooing Cassia (Emily Browning), a noblewoman who has also caught the eye of the villainous Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), who was the man who put Milo’s family to death many years ago in northern Britannia. Who would have guessed it? Oh yea, that’s right the terrible writers that produced this atrocity. Watching this movie was quite tedious as you may have gathered by now.

Much like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, Harington is effectively the warm-up act for a natural disaster and for the first hour or so Pompeii plays up his doomed romance and gladiatorial ups and downs. Meanwhile, Sutherland gives a very Jack Bauer style performance, perhaps in an attempt to show how much he resents having to star in this flop.

Then comes the eruption and finally some action appears, the downside is that the story is tossed to one side. As Mount Vesuvius erupts in a torrent of blazing lava, Milo must fight his way out of the arena in order to save his beloved as the once magnificent Pompeii crumbles around him. See what I mean?

Watching the lethargic cast scuttle around in a doomed attempt to thwart death you can’t help but notice how many of them have been drawn from television drama series that are contain about 10 times more excitement, sex and intrigue in a single, hour-long episode than Pompeii manages in almost twice that time.

As well as battling to get over the Harington-Westeros connection and Sutherland’s ongoing work in 24, Jared Harris, who appears as Cassia’s doting father, was exceptionally better as Lane Pryce from Mad Men, and gladiator Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje fared much better as Lost’s Mr. Eko.

If this movie was developed properly then these associations would pale into insignificance, but the fact is that they don’t. It’s such a missed opportunity. I just don’t understand how an action movie about the destruction of an entire city and its inhabitants can be so dull.

Pompeii is a cardboard cut-out of an action movie. It looks nice, it seems fit for purpose but ultimately it isn’t as good as the real thing.

By Ruth Walker
★☆☆☆☆

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