Like many love story/action movies before it (We're looking at you "Pearl Harbor"), "Pompeii" really wants to be the next "Titanic". It has all the elements of the latter such as the poor boy/rich girl conflict, the evil boyfriend, and the impending doom of a historical disaster. But what made "Titanic" work is that it uses the natural drama of the Titanic disaster to tell its story. "Pompeii" instead is a convoluted mess of a movie with the Pompeii storyline merely an afterthought.
"Pompeii" stars "Game of Thrones'", Kit Harington as Milo, the only survivor of a Celtic clan of horsemen. Milo hates the Romans because one of them, Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), killed his entire family right in front of him when he was a boy. Milo becomes a slave of the Romans and grows up fighting as a gladiator. Due to his success in the arena, he is brought to Pompeii where he catches the eye of Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of a wealthy merchant. However, things get complicated when Corvus comes to Pompeii to force Cassia into marriage.
One of the many, many problems with "Pompeii" is that way too much time is spent building up Milo's back story. The viewer sees his family killed, we see him kidnapped by slave traders and we see him fight as a gladiator. Then another large chunk of the movie is spent trying to be "Gladiator" with an in depth look at the horrors of being forced to fight to the death. The only bright spot in the gladiator storyline is Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) as a rival to Milo who is promised by the Romans his freedom if he wins his last fight. Akinnuoye-Agbaje does a good job of bringing humor and depth to an otherwise boring and superficial film.
Harington and Browning however, have no chemistry and are two of the most one dimensional characters to be shown on film this year. Her subplot contains contrived political and romantic drama between her parents, herself, and Corvus. By the end of the movie one won't care if these two make it out alive.
Furthermore, hidden underneath all these unnecessary subplots is the actual disaster of Pompeii. It's disappointing, "Pompeii" is the first movie to portray the events of 79 AD, but all the organic story lines that could have come from that is cast away for the utterly ridiculous plot of "Pompeii". The only thing this reviewer got from watching this film was the realization that Kiefer Sutherland (the only one who doesn't take this film so seriously and seems to have had a great time playing the villain) is the son of the Emmy winning actor Donald Sutherland. It's a sad day when that's the only thing one gets from a film. Don't see this Hartford.