The idea of taking a contemporary action-thriller plot and planting it under the ashen-grey skies of a deadly volcano in 79 AD is so gloriously stupid that it’s sort of impossible to resist. Sadly, by the end of Pompeii, you may find yourself cheering for the volcano.
Paul W.S. Anderson bashes out this goofy disaster-romance mash-up with such a ruthless, heavy metal artlessness that it makes his popcorn-chomping Resident Evil series look Haneke-esque by comparison. The Titanic-by-way-of-Die Hard plot sees muscle-bound slave turned gladiator Milo (Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington) fall for gorgeous rich girl Cassia (Emily Browning).
After meeting on the roadside and being instantly smitten, Milo is sent to a lavish feast thrown by Cassia’s family. One of the party’s main events is a to-the-death battle between Milo and the reigning gladiator champ, Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).
Also on deck for added intrigue: crooked Roman senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), who just happens to be the evil bastard that slaughtered Milo’s family...
That’s a lot of love, lust and murder for one man to handle, and things get even more complicated when Mount Vesuvius decides to crash the party. Unlike the actual volcano, which smothered the residents of Pompeii under clouds of ash, the cinematic Vesuvius takes a more blockbuster-friendly approach to death: spewing molten missiles at the city in an orgy of fiery destruction.
This alarming new development leaves our hunky hero with the task of having to kill bad guys and find his damsel in distress before he’s swallowed by lava or flash-melted into ash, all while wearing sandals.
Essentially, the entire movie is a delivery system for the CGI-created eruption, which is indeed very impressive. Everything else? Blandly beautiful people and zero emotional involvement. It’s like the world’s longest videogame trailer.
While it offers spectacular CGI devastation and a chiselled hero, Pompeii is so soulless and empty that you won’t shed any tears when the ‘cano blows its top.