Pompeii Movie ReviewSony Pictures
Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, disaster-related action and brief sexual content.
Running time: 105 minutes.
One and a half stars out of four

Is it wrong to root for the volcano?

Mount Vesuvius is the most interesting and expressive character of all in “Pompeii,” a mind-numbingly dull and unintentionally hilarious sword-and-sandal epic/disaster flick/romance. (Who says you can’t have it all?) Director Paul W.S. Anderson, he of the “Resident Evil” franchise, takes one part “Gladiator,” one part “Titanic,” one part “The Horse Whisperer” and pieces of various ’70s end-of-the-world dramas, mixes them all up and smothers them with cheese. And lava.

In the middle of all this mayhem, we are supposed to care about the blossoming forbidden romance between hunky slave boy Milo (Kit Harington of “Game of Thrones”) and rebellious rich girl Cassia (Emily Browning). Their beauty is matched only by their blandness, and when they stop to look longingly into one another’s eyes to pitch woo as Pompeii burns and collapses all around them, you’re more likely to giggle than swoon. I was also tempted to scream at the screen: “Run! Run you idiots! Quit canoodling and get the hell out of there!” No one would have heard me anyway over the film’s incessant roar.

But first! We get back story. As a child during ancient times, Milo watched as marauding Romans brutally killed his parents and his entire clan of Celtic horsemen. Leading the charge was the evil Corvus, played with scenery-chewing villainy by Kiefer Sutherland. Forced into slavery, Milo transformed himself over the years into a quick and wily fighter, becoming so famous and formidable that he’s known simply as “The Celt.” He also found time to go to the gym, apparently, as well as to the beauty supply store for hair product.

Flash forward to 79 A.D. Milo and Cassia meet cute along a dirt road when the carriage bringing her home to Pompeii crashes, severely injuring one of the horses. Milo, who’d been walking alongside the carriage with his fellow slaves in a chain gang, bends down and puts the horse out of its misery. Naturally, Cassia is instantly smitten.

Their paths cross again at her family’s villa, where she has returned to live with her parents, Pompeian power couple Severus (Jared Harris) and Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss), after spending a rocky year in Rome. Cassia’s family is throwing a lavish party as part of an annual festival, with planned entertainment including gladiators beating each other to a bloody pulp and slashing each other to bits. Among them is — you guessed it — our generically sexy hero, who’s scheduled to battle to the death against the reigning champion, Atticus (the intimidating Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). But of course, because they’re supposed to kill each other, they become best friends.

(Long before the volcano goes boom, “Pompeii” is extremely violent, with a surprising amount of blood for a PG-13 movie. I’m still not exactly sure why there were kids around 8 years old at the screening I attended.)

Also in town for the festivities is Corvus, who’s now a corrupt Roman senator. This allows Milo to do his version of the you-killed-my-father, prepare-to-die speech from “The Princess Bride” when he sees Corvus again for the first time since he was a child. But Corvus also has his eye on Cassia and insists on dragging her back to Rome to make her his trophy wife.

All the while, the volcano watches and waits and rumbles and grumbles. And when it finally blows, it is a rather impressive spectacle to behold. (Say what you will about Anderson’s movies, but he does use 3-D rather effectively.) Fireballs shoot in every direction, sending the innocent people of Pompeii scurrying for safety. Some of them seem to have a GPS tracking system embedded within them, they hit their targets with such speed and accuracy. And the pandemonium that occurs at the harbor when the fury of the volcano’s force causes massive waves, is admittedly a kind of awesome sight in all its glossy computer-generated glory.

If only the people in peril were as engaging.

17 Comments on “Pompeii

  1.  by  Johnson

    Best review I’ve read in some time due to the use of “pitch woo”. I’ve never even heard of this movie. Thanks for the chuckle!

  2.  by  Christy Lemire

    Thanks very much for reading! We aim to entertain around here.

  3.  by  JozieLee

    Hahahaha. Christy, that was hilarious, especially because I plan to see the film. I’ll look for hair gel, Instant attraction and hoards with GPS tracking. LOL. So you might ask why I’m throwing away good money for a B-flick . . . spurting lava, gladiators wielding swords fighting til we see blood in 3-D. Give me great special effects and I’m there.

  4. Pingback: The Tally: Nothing can bust those blocks | coolihoma

  5.  by  Alison

    Christy, Thanks for the heads-up. The outside scenes were filmed in my neighbourhood. We loved seeing the old wagons, horses & mules and warriors riding through our local countryside.

    To add to the humour – I understood that the town was buried under ash, not lava. But imagine the ‘unspectacular’ effects of grey ashes which rained down for 6 days.

  6.  by  Dennis Ritchie

    I enjoyed your review. I must confess, I rooted for the volcano. I walked out of this movie and slipped into another poorly written Clooney farce and returned for the volcano eruption scene. I missed nothing in between. That’s how awful and denigrating this POS is. Who cares about the two lovers? They could have thrown in a softcore orgy scene very relevant to the times when Pompeii was at the height of its prominence. Definitely nude scenes and an R rating would have made it more watchable and more realistic.
    Sutherland’s lame accentuation married to Moss looking organically modified and wooden only put this creation to a level of hilarity. Moss has never done much for me since her debut in Matrix (first one only) and she walks around Vancouver like anyone gives two …it is her. Pull your head from your…. Moss. Hah! Legend in their own minds. Even Sutherland’ s bad boy persona with his typical way does not help this movie. It simply hurts all over….

    Pompeii deserves so much better. I would prefer it played out in Italian with unknown actors about a realistic family dying together. Period. Instead we get million dollar budgets with empty words and actions around a city where thousands of tragedies played out as ash buried people alive in a marvel of a resort town. Where is the pleasure in this town?

    And, the CGI did not save this movie but made it passively watchable like those boring museum documentaries that recreate a place for our edification with vacant, hollow extras. Do not waste your time on this Anderson creation. Pompeii needs another movie done pronto to wipe this one out of history.

    •  by  Doug

      Dennis — while the movie was not the greatest — it was much better than your self serving review.

    •  by  WookieInHeat

      “I would prefer it played out in Italian…”

      that would make about as much sense as them speaking english. the romans did not speak italian, they spoke latin.

  7.  by  Mike

    Hair Product….great review..still chuckling

  8.  by  P. B. Maxx

    i think it’s o.k. to root for the volcano. i saw ‘gravity” yesterday and realized i was rooting for the space debris.

  9. Pingback: Pompeii (2014) | One Good Movie

  10.  by  Karl

    Who is cute?

    “Milo and Cassia meet cute”

  11.  by  Mark Ellam


    thanks Christy, I haven’t laughed that hard in a while- a full on roar.

    keep it up/ you’ve made a fan.


  12.  by  Gilberto

    I’ve been waiting for a while for a good, Saturday-afternoon B movie to try to recreate (and maybe rediscover) my interest in my adolescent love of the Hercules and Goliath movies of Steve Reeves and lesser know Italian actors. Pompeii sounds perfect.

  13.  by  Jonny

    Love the one line review on rotten tomatoes. Totally needed a laugh after such an atrocious film. Thanks

  14.  by  Ben

    To say I disagree with these reviews would be an understatement.

  15.  by  Brock

    Wow. What a miserable review. If a movie is bad, then just point it out. I don’t understand why critics like you try to be funny. You try to be funny and end up being unbearably miserable.