Guy is bad. Guy likes girl. Girl is in trouble. Guy becomes good so he can help girl—pretty much every rom-com you’ve seen this year, or ever.
It seems counterintuitive that these terribly boring clichés would be so abundant in a film that markets itself as an epic drama. Paul W. S. Anderson’s new film, Pompeii, is lacking in almost every department, with except for hackneyed tropes.
The film opens with our protagonist, young Milo, who witnesses the death of his mother amid the wartime takeover of his hometown.
Milo grows up to be played by Game of Thrones hunk Kit Harington, but even the glistening abs don’t help detract from the poor acting. Harington, famous for his role as Jon Snow, can’t seem to escape the pigeonhole of his emotional character from the small screen.
Milo, now a grown man and a slave, is taken to the city of Pompeii, and the film takes place in the year A.D. 79. A known swordsman, he is placed in a cell with a man he going to have to challenge in a battle to the death. The dialogue they exchange is hilarious, as they attempt to be disdainful towards one another, but much like grade school crushes, they end up being best friends.
The film moves into the introduction of Milo’s love interest, Cassia, played by Emily Browning. They never actually meet, falling in love the old fashioned way: by making eyes at one another from across the room. Besides being totally unbelieveable, the romance makes for more laughs than tears.
Kiefer Sutherland plays the villain, Senator Corvis. Predictably, the conflict stems from their mutual interest in Cassia. Cassia tries to distance herself from the Senator, but the film never gives up the details of what happens between the two, leaving the audience in the dark about what could otherwise be an interesting plot line.
All of this is happening as the famous volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, begins to show signs of a coming explosion. In an interview with the Voice, Harington noted that the volcano erupts just as Milo reshapes his character. The poor scriptwriting and cinematography, however, make it difficult for this change to seem like a mature plot twist. Instead, the volcano feels more like a waste of some pretty swanky, if not overdone, CGI.
Game of Thrones fans who watch the film will be in for some serious disappointment. The poor script, mediocre acting, and overreliance on computer effects don’t amount even slightly to the standard set forth by Harington’s previous project. Then again, the five minutes of his killer abs might make the other hundred pretty worth it.