Here’s the good news about Pompeii. Mount Vesuvius took two days to destroy the city. The movie takes a little more than an hour-and-a-half.
The bad news? The movie and its improbable and laughable love story makes you feel like you’ve been sitting on a hard theater seat for two days.
It’s that bad.
Set in A.D. 70, the film brings together a Celtic gladiator, a woman of Pompeii’s aristocracy, her family and a Roman senator with megalomaniacal tendencies.
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The arena fighter is Milo. His mom, dad and family were horse soldiers wiped out by the Romans under the senator’s rule. She’s Cassia, who falls for him when he helps an injured horse.
Her family wants Roman money to invest in the city infrastructure, and the senator wants Cassia, who rejected him when they both lived in Rome. The Celt is looking for revenge against the senator.
After uniting with another gladiator, Milo — already on the bad side of the senator — is ready to be done away with when the mountain changes his fate and that of all of the film’s cliched-characters.
Kit Harington (TV’s Game of Thrones) is Milo. Cassia is done by Emily Browning (Sleeping Beauty). Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix trilogy) and Jared Harris play her parents. Thor’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is Milo’s gladiator conspirator.
Kiefer Sutherland wraps up the cast as the film’s villainous senator.
Pompeii is produced and directed by Resident Evil Paul W.S. Anderson. It’s written by Janet Scott Batchler and Lee Batchler (Batman Forever). Oddly, not in the film’s credits but in the credits of some sources is a writing nod to Downton Abbey creator and writer Julian Fellowes and Sherlock Holmes writer Michael Robert Johnson.
If they are a part of this, and after personally seeing the final result, it would be of no surprise that Fellowes and Johnson insisted on the removal of their names. Again, it’s that bad.
The acting — in spite of having decent actors — is horrible. But not much is expected when a screenplay is this awful. It’s thrown at you in chunks almost as big as those flung at the cast and city in the climax.
You don’t expect a lot out of the lesser-known actors, but Sutherland is a great actor whose best talent is doing the bad guy. He’s completely wasted here.
Sutherland starts the film with a horrible accent. When that doesn’t work, he morphs it into an unintelligible mumble. That doesn’t work either, so Sutherland bags it and spends the second half of the movie unenthusiastically delivering his lines in normal voice.
At least it can be said that Sutherland tries. The other actors don’t.
Who can blame them? Anderson and his writers tease you with a rumble or two in the dragging out of the five minutes of plot. Then the mountain blows. Just when you get excited that something is finally going to happen, Anderson disappoints with special effects that reinvent cheesy.
Pompeii ends up an epic failure that doesn’t show off the Mount Vesuvius disaster as much as it duplicates it.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Stars: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Mr. Movie rating: 1 star
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It’s playing at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, at the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.