'Pompeii': What the Critics Are Saying

Paul W.S. Anderson's 3-D disaster film stars Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Jessica Lucas alongside Jared Harris and Kiefer Sutherland.

Paul W.S. Anderson's 3-D disaster film Pompeii hits theaters Friday, starring Game of Thrones' Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Jessica Lucas alongside Jared Harris and Kiefer Sutherland.

Set in 79 A.D., the feature recounts the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed the Roman city, and is expected to open south of $15 million -- a dismal start, considering the movie's $100 million-plus budget.

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Read what top critics are saying about Pompeii below:

The Hollywood Reporter's film critic Jordan Mintzer called the feature "a kitschy apocalyptic peplum whose visual epiphanies -- of which there are definitely a few -- cannot outdo a B- (or C- or D-) grade scenario that will have lots of eyes rolling by the time the big stack finally blows ... but with a central love story that feels contrived from the very first note, the major pleasure here is seeing it all blown to smithereens as quickly as possible."

The New York Times' Miriam Bale wrote much more kindly that "Mr. Anderson displays his mastery as a director in the sword-fighting scenes. The camera glides and tilts in exact counterpoint to the thrusts of the knives, as if a bloody ballet ... But the glares and eye rolls that bookend these scenes are what make this film both GIF-ready and campy fun."

Los Angeles Times' Gary Goldstein reviewed the film for what it promised to be -- "not the brainiest of outings," but packed with "tense, eye-popping and occasionally riveting" CGI-enhanced visuals. Though the cast "is at best serviceable and the dialogue frequently too basic, Pompeii succeeds as escapist entertainment."

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The Washington Post's Stephanie Merry noted that Pompeii is all too similar to Gladiator, and though the disaster visuals are harrowing, the film's half-star rating also points to Harington's performace -- or lack thereof. "His first starring role doesn’t showcase what he can do from an acting standpoint. Harington transformed his body for the role, but here’s the real disaster: His startlingly defined six-pack abs are the most memorable part of his character."

NPR's Ian Buckwalter described the film as part "Titanic with swords and sandals" and part "Fast & Furious on horseback." He continued, "If I sound flippant, it's only because Pompeii invites so many unintended laughs ... The lengths they go to in order to salvage a PG-13 rating — multiple slit throats result in almost no blood at all — make the whole thing seem like a pantomimed rehearsal. Meanwhile, the movie's final image, which I won't spoil here, caused an eruption of laughter at my screening that was louder than any response to most straight comedies."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee