The spirit of Steve Reeves lives on. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Reeves’ oeuvre, he was Hercules before Kevin Sorbo, a legend of beefcake historical drama movies. His movies were all about bulging muscles, swinging swords and damsels in revealing togas.
Which brings me to the spiritual cousin to the Reeves movies, Pompeii, which adds spewing lava, but not much else to the sword and sandal genre. Physically Jason Statham sound-a-like Kit Harrington is up to the heroic Reeves role but is slowed down by the thick layer of molten cheese covers almost every frame of this film.
Set in the shadow of the gurgling volcano Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii Game of Thrones heartthrob Harrington is the muscle bound Milo. His tribe, including his entire family, was wiped out by the vicious Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) dooming him to a lonely life of servitude under the thumb of Roman masters.
Years later as a gladiator in Pompeii’s coliseum he sees a way to exact revenge and save Cassia (Emily Browning), the most beautiful girl in the lush resort town. As warriors Milo and Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) battle Roman soldiers in the coliseum the volcano erupts, causing havoc.
Will Milo get vengeance and save Cassia before a rolling mountain of lava and ash covers the city?
Harrington, Sutherland and Browning are the above-the-title stars here, but the real scene-stealer is Mount Vesuvius. Unfortunately it takes way too long for the volcano to to blow its top and when it does the special effects aren't quite as spectacular as you might hope from a CGI extravaganza. As you might expect there are flying lava meteorites, bubbling lava and crumbling buildings, but it’s mostly just a bombastic CGI fest.
On top of that is muddy looking 3D that would make Steve Reeves squint. The film overall is dark as though the whole thing was shot through a cloud of volcanic ash.
I did get a kick out of a prison guard loudly waking up the jailed gladiators by shouting, "Wake up scum!" but by the time the credits started to roll I felt that slave trader Graecus was speaking directly to me when he said, “You dragged me from a perfectly good brothel for this?”