REVIEW: Pompeii (3D) (12A)

He’s had his hits (‘Resident Evil’, ‘Event Horizon’) and even bigger misses (‘Alien VS Predator’, 2011’s dreadful ‘The Three Musketeers’), now director Paul W.S. Anderson takes on an infamous moment in history in ‘Pompeii’.

‘Game of Thrones’ star Kit Harington plays Milo, a prominent gladiator known to the public as ‘The Celt’. He is sent to Pompeii to compete in a series of games for an upcoming festival. On his journey there, he meets and falls for Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of Pompeii’s ruler (Jared Harris). The pair’s love is thwarted by society and circumstance, as the oncoming eruption of a nearby volcano means he must save Cassia from certain death, and the clutches of the corrupt Senator Corvus (Keifer Sutherland), the man who also killed his family as a child.

While there are a few different sub-plots flying around to keep things interesting, ‘Pompeii’ suffers from borrowing too broadly from films past – elements of ‘Titanic’, ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Spartacus’ are very obvious, to the point where most of the key moments range from hugely cliché to a bit corny (such as the first meeting of Milo and Cassia, where the former cares for an injured horse). Secondly, the dialogue is just dreadful. Packed with exposition-filled speeches (so nobody has to think for too long), the script lets down the talented group of actors assembled.

Swapping the bear skins and Northern accents for sandals and muscle oil, Harington makes his case for movie stardom. He certainly looks the part, and gets plenty of chances to prove his worth in actions scenes and staring longingly at co-star Browning (equally pretty, equally let down by the script). Elsewhere, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is machismo personified as Milo’s friend/fellow gladiator Atticus. So far, so average, but the most terrible performance surely comes from the most reliable name.

Kiefer Sutherland’s bizarre baddie gesticulates wildly, talking in an accent of his own creation (somewhat similar to Dustin Hoffman in ‘Hook’) and gliding about the place like Liberace on a chariot. You’ve got to admire the commitment, but the performance is so differently pitched to the rest of the film it’s distracting.

A deeply unsatisfying ending caps off Anderson’s drab disaster movie. All the promising elements are compromised by a terrible script and effects that often would feel more at home on a PlayStation than the multiplex. While it looks like it must have been fun to make, ultimately ‘Pompeii’ is struck down by a huge fireball of clichés.