Directed By: Paul W. S. Anderson

Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris, and Kiefer Sutherland

Gladiator is one of my all-time favorite movies.  The noble character Russell Crowe gives us as Maximus, the delicious sicko to which Joaquin Phoenix treats us with Commodus, and the rousing yet beautiful filmmaking from director Ridley Scott all make the film an unrivaled modern epic of the highest caliber.  With this kind of success, there have been many imitators over the years who have tried to find similar cinematic glory in the arena.  We've already been tortured with the disastrous The Legend of Hercules this year.  Now, Paul W. S. Anderson is trying to recreate the same movie magic with this weekend's Pompeii.

During the Celtic Horseman Rebellion, a young Milo (Dylan Schombing) plays dead and watches his mother and people as they're massacred by Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) and his men.  When the grieving boy finally leaves the rotting carcasses of his people, he's captured by a slave trader.  For the next seventeen years, the life of this young man is in the hands of another. All grown up, Milo (Kit Harington) becomes a fierce gladiator who goes by the moniker "The Celt".  He makes a name for himself and is taken to the city of Pompeii where he'll fight in their grand arena.  Along the way, he meets a beautiful woman named Cassia (Emily Browning).  It's love at first sight.

Cassia returns to her family in Pompeii early from Rome.  She tells her parents Severus and Aurelia (Jared Harris & Carrie-Anne Moss) that she's disenchanted with the eternal city.  Soon thereafter, the reason for her disenchantment arrives, a lovesick Senator Corvus interested in financing Pompeii's revitalization.  Meanwhile, Milo gets comfortable in a cell with his future opponent in the arena, an African gladiator named Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).  Little does Milo know that the man who took his people and the woman who has stolen his heart are both in town.  With Milo's debut at the upcoming gladiator games, one bloody love triangle is about to come to fruition.  However, all this will come to a screeching halt in the near future.  Mount Vesuvius is about to erupt.

Paul W. S. Anderson does nothing to hide the fact that Pompeii is an imitation Gladiator with a volcano.  We have a guy whose family is slaughtered by a Roman politician.  This guy is sold into slavery and holds a vendetta for said politician.  He ends up becoming a gladiator and going to the city where this politician is reigning down a political terror upon the people.  The girl whom this gladiator loves ends up in a twisted coerced romance with the politician.  Eventually, it all becomes one sordid love affair with all issues to be resolved in the arena.  Let's not even talk about the fact that this gladiator’s cellmate and buddy is an African guy whose family was butchered by Romans as well.  Then, the volcano erupts.  There's absolutely no creativity here, and we as moviegoers suffer for it.

Another thing I find hard to swallow is Pompeii’s budget.  There is no way in hell that this movie cost $100 million to make.  If that's the case, then Anderson has wasted a lot of money on rather cheap visual effects.  I don't understand why he's not offering us a world-class production with that kind of budget in his coffers.  If you're going to make Gladiator with a volcano, then you make it the best damn volcano we’ve ever seen.  He's not exactly paying for A-list actors, so there's no reason he couldn't have footed the bill for a more realistic volcano.  We don’t even see too much lava.  It's just unacceptable for a movie with this kind of financing.

The cast delivers mixed performances as well.  For his part as the Celt Milo, Kit Harington gives us Jon Snow as a gladiator.  Slavery as a gladiator is like the Night's Watch, just without the Others.  The only difference is that Pompeii is much hotter than the cold that lies beyond the Wall.  Instead of paying for this movie, I could have just re-watched some episodes of Game of Thrones in preparation for its upcoming fourth season.  As Milo's on-screen nemesis Senator Corvus, Kiefer Sutherland isn't half bad.  Though he can't save the movie, he's quite amusing at times.  Still, Sutherland has potential portraying conniving villains.  For their parts as Cassia, Severus, and Aurelia, Emily Browning, Jared Harris, and Carrie-Anne Moss all give horrendously bland performances.  I expect better from all three of these talented actors.

Pompeii leaves a lot to be desired.  I hope you all don't waste your money on this ill-conceived spectacle.  If you do, however, make sure to grab a few Cosmos beforehand.  Pompeii gets a 0.09% rating.