Year: 2014
Studio: Tristar Pictures
Director: Paul W S Anderson
Producer: Paul W S Anderson
Writer: Janet Scott Batchler/Lee Batchler/Michael Robert Johnson
Cast: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jared Harris, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie-Ann Moss

You'd think there'd be at least one thing to like in a movie someone spent $100m on. Maybe the characters wouldn't all be cardboard cutouts from a hundred other far superior movies. Maybe the story would offer something we'd never seen from the eleventy-zillionth Romeo and Juliet redux. Maybe at the very least the special effects of volcanic carnage and destruction would be a guilty pleasure the way Ronald Emmerich's movies are.

No, no and thrice no. Pompeii is so devoid of any redeeming features it could almost be a meta-analysis on every bad movie trope ever. It's as if Resident Evil helmer Paul W S Anderson is smarter than any of us (the studio included) and challenged himself to spend a blockbuster budget on a film without a single frame containing any originality or quality.

The special effects resulting from Mt Vesuvius looming over the Roman-era town are like something a 14 year old did on a home PC to put on YouTube. The actors and their roles (every one of them) are like brilliant parodies of every bad character trope appropriate to their age, sex, race and every other stereotype – not quite as clumsy as a comic satire version would be, but finely skirting laughable with every hackneyed line or constant scowl.

The whole plot, if you need it (you don't), concerns a slave driven by revenge who becomes a champion gladiator and falls in love with a princess before she becomes betrothed to the villain. Yes, a computer program could have vomited it up after synthesising a few B grade scripts, but a small semblance of quality in the drama, characters, script, effects, staging, plotting, performances or any other filmmaking craft might have raised it a little bit.

Instead, Anderson has somehow wrangled the worst possible result from every department and performer around him, and the final product isn't even so bad it's good. It's just plain, straight up and down bad.

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