Pompeii (2014)

Rating: C+

Dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
Star: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Jared Harris

For all those who thought, “Gladiator was alright, but it needed to be more like Dante’s Peak“, I give you this movie, which combines sword-swinging epic with disaster porn. And the results are about what you would expect, to be honest, though being a fan of both those genres, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Celt Milo (Harington) watches his family get slaughtered by Roman soldiers under the command of the clunkily-named Quintas Attius Corvus (Sutherland), and he is taken into slavery. Fast-forward 17 years, and Milo is now a promising gladiator who is taken to Naples. En route, he encounters noble daughter Cassia (Browning), and the two eventually begin a forbidden relationship.

Unfortunately, also sniffing around is Corvus, now a Senator and whose political machinations show no shortage of ambition. Milo hasn’t forgotten – in part because the Roman looks exactly the same as he did 17 years ago – and sets his sights on avenging his family, as well, of course, as protecting Cassia. Oh, and did I forget to mention the rumblings from the nearby, “extinct” volcano, Vesuvius? They might, or might not, be of significance. Oh, who am I trying to kid. They are the entire third act, raining giant fireballs on the town, as Milo scurries around, trying to rescue Cassia and obtain vengeance against Corvus: always the way, you keep putting things off, and then you have to do everything at the last minute, before your city is buried in a sudden pyroclastic flow.

Sarcasm aside, this is entertaining enough, with Harington swinging as sword to good effect – or, at least, as good effect as can be managed within the PG-13 rating, so by Spartacus standards of sex and violence, this is weak sauce. It’s only when the lava starts to run like… well, lava, that things really get interesting, and as usual, Anderson choreographs all the carnage with a good eye. Until that point, however, the dramatic aspects aren’t up to much, though Kiefer’s sleazy Senator is fun to watch. If the ending is a bit more poignant than I expected, this is one to see purely for the mayhem.