(NEW YORK) -- August 24th, 79 A.D.: the day Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the ancient Roman city of Pompeii in 16 feet of pumice and ash. When unearthed by a group of 18th century explorers, they found the city and its inhabitants, caught in Vesuvius’s wrath, perfectly preserved. This unparalleled discovery influenced architecture and cultural tastes throughout Europe.
If, 2,000 years from now, explorers unearth a perfectly-preserved copy of the movie Pompeii from beneath 16 feet of pumice and ash, one can only hope they bury it deeper, so it influences no one.
Pompeii stars Game of Thrones star Kit Harington and his well-chiseled abs as Milo, a slave who, as a child, witnessed the Romans -- most notably Kiefer Sutherland’s Corvus -- slaughter his father and the rest of their tribe. These days, Milo is a brooding yet articulate adult whose thick dark locks never seem out of place, along with facial hair that never seems to grow, who fights at the pleasure of his slave master. When that slave master decides Milo's skills are too big for the quaint trappings of the Roman territory of Londinium, Milo's fate is sealed in lava.
This is when Pompeii becomes Titanic, courtesy of Emily Browning’s Cassia, the daughter of city administrator Severus (Jared Harris) and wife Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss). Cassia has just returned home after spending a year in Rome when one of the horses pulling her carriage sustains an injury. As fate would have it, Milo's part of the retinue accompanying Aurelia. He knows how to soothe the horse before humanely putting it out of its misery. He also knows how to soothe Cassia, who takes a liking to him.
The conflict? All these years later, Corvus is now a powerful senator and the Emperor’s emissary to Pompeii. He's also the guy Severus has to impress in order to gain much-needed funding from the emperor. Add to that the fact that Corvus has his eye on Cassia, who in turn likes Milo, and -- well, you see where this is going.
The saving grace of Pompeii is the 3D rendering of Vesuvius erupting. It’s impressive. Equally unimpressive is the lack of empathy you will feel for the people of Pompeii and the characters director Paul W.S. Anderson renders on screen. The poorly-written, cheesy dialogue elicits laughter instead of tears, and the people of Pompeii who perished that day deserve better than that. I can see some considering this piece of disaster porn a guilty pleasure. I just think it’s Pom-painful. Much like that pun.
One-and-a-half out of five stars.
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