In the days leading up to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a slave being sent to Naples is determined to get back home to save the woman he loves.

Year: 2014
Certificate: 12
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Emily Browning, Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Kiefer Sutherland, Paz Vega, Jessica Lucas, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jared Harris, Sasha Roiz, Currie Graham

Information Page: https://www.newonnetflix.info/info/70291608

After 66 (very long) minutes of desperately earnest historical drama, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD comes as blessed relief, ridding the world of “Pompeii’s” painfully dull characters, thanks to a combination of lava bombs, crumbling buildings and a colossal tsunami.

Infamous schlockster, Paul W.S. Anderson, and his team of writers pillage historical epics for a barebones plot with which to decorate the eponymous natural disaster. There’s a healthy dose of slave uprising, a vein of revenge, and of course a smattering of starred-crossed romance.

In a prologue, a young Celt, Milo, is taken to Londinium as a slave, after his parents are slaughtered before his eyes by rotten Roman Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). The orphan grows up to be Jon Snow himself, Kit Harrington, and fit Kit is such a good fighter that he earns himself a shackled gladiatorial transfer to Pompeii. In the doomed city, the surly Rome-basher locks eyes with governor’s daughter, Cassia (Emily Browning), who has been forcefully betrothed to Corvus, now a Senator.

I got bored writing that synopsis, in all honesty, and the hour-plus screen time it occupies is quite terrible, as wooden actors garble leaden dialogue. Poor old Harrington has nothing going on behind his floppy hair and killer abs and Sutherland nibbles the scenery, but with none of the ludicrous vigour that the role begs for.

Tremors turn to fissures during a fun central gladiator fight, as Mother Nature does her thing and tears the land asunder. The bloodlessly bombastic finale has some morbid curiosity and the gargantuan billowing ash clouds have a consuming beauty to them. The complete lack of engaging human stakes holds the finale back from the best earth-shattering disaster flicks, but it’s an impressive – and, apparently, reasonably scientifically accurate – spectacle, nonetheless.

“Pompeii” is a half-hour disaster spectacular encumbered by a hopeless sword-and-sandals tale. I’m not really a believer in “so bad, its good”, but it’s possible “Pompeii” may scratch that itch for some.

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About Benedict

Freelance culture journalist and Film Studies graduate. Netflix is his happy place.

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