Pompeii is a film with an identity crisis, uncertain whether it's a disaster movie or a Gladiator-style action picture. It doesn't work especially well as either.
Every so often, there are shots of lava bubbling away or of Mount Vesuvius looming in the distance to remind us that the long-term prospects for the citizens of Pompeii in 79AD are on the apocalyptic side. ("It is the mountain. It grumbles from time to time," one character blithely remarks as the walls judder.)
Most of the film follows a young Celt, Milo (Kit Harington from Game of Thrones), whose family was massacred back in Britannia two decades before by the Romans. A slave turned gladiator, he catches the eye of a beautiful young aristocrat, Cassia (Emily Browning), with his mix of rugged good looks and horse-whispering skills. You can spot the borrowings here.
At times, the film plays like a version of James Cameron's Titanic done in togas and with a volcano instead of an iceberg. Kiefer Sutherland has a hint of George Sanders about him as the sneering Roman villain. We can tell that the film-makers have seen Spartacus and Ben-Hur, too. At least, when the eruption finally happens, the explosive special effects do not disappoint.