It’s tough to write a sequel to “Titanic,” considering the way that story ended.
“Pompeii,” however, is an extremely weak attempt to re-use the Titanic formula, substituting an active volcano for a deadly iceberg.
Let’s just say that director Paul W.S. Anderson is no James Cameron.
Decent special effects depicting the 79 A.D. destruction of the city of Pompeii aren’t nearly enough to rescue the cheesy and cliche-ridden film.
Not satisfied in being a disaster film, “Pompeii” also attempts to be a gladiator movie (“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”) and a romance, revolving around a young boy orphaned by the Romans and trained to be a killing machine in the arena.
Kit Harington, armed with a steely gaze and abs of steel, gets to use the swordplay skills honed as Jon Snow on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Known as “The Celt” (Milo to his friends), Harington, unfortunately, doesn’t show much beyond that permanent gaze, even as he falls for Cassia (Emily Browning of “Sucker Punch”), the lovely daughter of a rich merchant.
The two would-be lovers spend very little time together on the screen and don’t ignite the tiniest spark — even with thousands of tons of molten lava simmering nearby.
Kiefer Sutherland overacts somewhat gleefully as the movie’s unredeemable bad guy, Senator Corvus, who is not only responsible for the death of the Celt’s family but also wants to force a marriage with the unwilling Cassia.
Familiar faces Carrie-Ann Moss (“The Matrix”) and Jared Harris (“Mad Men”) play Cassia’s parents, though the film’s best performance comes from hulking Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko on TV’s “Lost”) as the noble and defiant gladiator Atticus.
The lackluster love story and familiar gladiator battles will leave most viewers begging for the eruptive finale to begin. It’s hinted at throughout, with earth tremors and spewing gas and constant pictures of the mountain in the background.