The story of Pompeii is fertile ground for fiction. When the bustling city was demolished by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 C.E., it was occupied by over 20,000 people and was one small component of the world’s current economic and military superpower: the Roman Empire.
A supposedly “modern city” with a thriving port and a complex water system laid low, seemingly out of nowhere, by the oft-forgotten forces of nature.
A film based on this particular moment could be a thrilling experience—an exploration of the fragility of human splendor, or a compelling look at how ancient peoples dealt with natural disaster amidst
Instead, audiences have been delivered “Pompeii”: a formulaic bore-fest that brings nothing new to either the disaster or action movie genres.
The film follows Milo (Kit Harington), a Celtic warrior sold into slavery after the scheming Roman senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) kills his family. The film doesn’t delve much into Milo’s backstory—it just assumes that, because his parents were murdered, Milo would grow up into a muscle-bound killing machine who can speak to horses. When the Romans learn of his martial prowess, they send him to Pompeii to compete in the city’s festival.
From there, everything that happens is what anyone who has seen movie in the last 10 years would expect. Cassia (Emily Browning), the puckish young daughter of the city’s governor, falls in love with Milo because he breaks a horse’s neck (in a really tender way) and then spends the rest of the film getting chained to things and saved by her sweating lover. Corvus hangs at the peripheral, killing the necessary amount of innocent people and talking a lot about the difference between Romans and “savages.” People are stabbed, mountains explode—nothing else really happens.
The movie is just bad. It’s not even bad in a good way, because none of it is remotely novel. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you took any single line from the movie and entered into a database of Hollywood scripts, you wouldn’t fine a single sentence of dialogue that was unique from a dozen other forgettable action movies.
But enough of that. Anyone who watched the trailer could have probably ascertained for themselves how bad this movie is. Instead of wasting any more time telling folks how bad this obviously bad movie is, I decided to make a short list of other ways to spend $12 that will be infinitely more enjoyable than seeing this movie.
1. Go to Elliott Bay Book Company and buy the book this movie is based on, by Robert Harris. Or just buy a book about Pompeii itself and learn something, instead of watching a couple of guys hit each other for two hours.
2. Buy 12 $1 notebooks and write 12 scripts that will undoubtedly be more interesting than the one used for “Pompeii.”
3. Buy baking soda and clay and make your own volcano, a process that will probably take just as long as watching this movie and will be 10 times as thrilling.
4. Send as many letters as possible to TriStar Pictures and tell them to stop putting money into movies that are unapologetically terrible and add nothing to human life.