The narrative arc of Pompeii was always going to have to be special to maintain an audience’s attention, given that all the characters involved face certain fiery doom from the get-go. And this preposterous tale of a gladiator (Game of Thrones’ Harrington) who catches the eye of a young heiress (Browning), who’s trying to dodge the affections of Kiefer Sutherland’s sleazy, vicious general, is pretty far from spectacular. Indeed, it just cobbles together the most unsatisfying bits of Gladiator and Titanic.
The design is really quite striking; CGI rendering of the tragic city is big of scale and detail. But the flatness of Paul W.S. Anderson’s direction ensures that is one of few pleasures, as bland set-pieces are accompanied by even blander exposition delivered by the blandest of performances until Vesuvius spills her guts. Sutherland alone manages to provide some fun. So wildly slimy and camp, his turn would be right up/down there with the worst of the year were he not such welcome relief form all the other tedium. [Chris Fyvie]