British director Paul WS Anderson (Resident Evil) embraces hoary cliches of the disaster movie with this unintentionally amusing swords and sandals epic set in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.
Not since the summer of 1997, when Dante’s Peak and Volcano went head-to-head at the box office, has the fiery wrath of Mother Nature been unleashed with such pyrotechnic-laden fury.
Anderson understands the mechanics of an outrageous action sequence and he engineers some humdingers as fiery rocks rain down on Pompeii’s stricken inhabitants.
A prolonged climax expertly cuts together aerial shots of devastation with close-ups of the scantily clad cast falling victim to magma and a tsunami, systematically cutting off the various escape routes until the only option left is to run.
As the city tumbles to its corrupt foundations, the three scriptwriters insist on finding reasons for the two-dimensional characters to delay their exodus.
Consequently, one gladiatorial slave tells his pal, “I’ll get the horses,” and heads to the stables, which were ready to collapse before the first rumble from Vesuvius.
The action scenes are thrilling and hilariously preposterous and the romantic subplot twixt Milo and Cassia falls woefully short of the sweeping tragedy of Titanic to which Anderson aspires.