Kit Harrington and Emily Browning in Pompeii
Kit Harrington and Emily Browning in Pompeii

It's weird to accept that Pompeii isn't a horrible movie.

Bad? Without question. Paul W.S. Anderson's attempt at ancient epic storytelling is, at its best, mid-grade schlock. There are one-dimensional bad guys, underdeveloped romances, and soap opera-level politics.

It apes Titanic and Gladiator so egregiously you can practically see the actors mimicking scenes from them while watching on monitors off-camera.

Oh, and thank the gods for Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, because there's not that much worthwhile talent on display otherwise.

Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, stars in this, and boy is he still acting like such a Crow. As Milo, the cleanest-looking Celtic slave there ever was, Harrington smirks and struts with a level of arrogance surpassed only by that of the evil Senator Corvis (Kiefer Sutherland), who coldly murdered Milo's parents and who has a historically horrible accent. Sutherland attempts to mirror the aristocratic dialect of on-screen foe Jared Harris and ends up sounding like a community theater actor's worst Rex Harrison impersonator. Funny, since Sutherland was born in London.

Milo's revenge tale happens side-by-side with a love story, which unfolds because a beautiful princess (Emily Browning) discovers his horse-whispering ability. Their relationship has no depth, but I guess Romeo and Juliet's didn't either ... right?


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Other annoyances include the characters' curious decision-making, the dreadfully serious dialogue, or the cheesy bookend scenes.

How does this film survive?

The action scenes are actually pretty cool.

Gladiator battles are always fun, especially when the massive Akinnuoye-Agbaje is in the middle of them. (And he's just great in general; as he showed on Lost and Oz, Akinnuoye-Agbaje can make even the most mundane one-word sentences sound interesting.) But the real spectacle is the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which looks appropriately breathtaking and terrifying in all its 3D glory.

The end is intended to be poignant, but mostly everyone will just laugh. It's like Anderson remembered at the last minute that this movie was supposed to stink.

Grade: C

Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, disaster-related action and brief sexual content.

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