Welcome back! It's been a few years since we've seen you on the big screen. 1997 wasn't it? Dante's Peak? I understand that devoting yourself to family - and your various charity projects - left you precious little time to pursue your acting career (kudos for turning down SyFy's script for Volc-nado, by the way; it was beneath you). You're smart, you played the waiting game, and it certainly worked in your favour. There have been a lot of technological advances since your last film work, and now, thanks to 3D, you are without a doubt the superstar of Pompeii.
Since it took you so long to come out of your trailer, they had to start the movie without you. Here's what you missed: Milo (Kit Harrington), is the last of the Celtic Horse tribe. As a child he watched his people die brutally at the hands of the Romans, led by Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). Now a slave and omnipotent gladiator, Milo is brought to Pompeii to fight. The beautiful and wealthy Cassia (Emily Browning) has returned to her family in Pompeii after an extended stay in Rome. Her father Severus (Jared Harris), in an attempt to secure city expansion funds from the Emperor, promises Cassia's hand in marriage to the brutal Corvus. Cassia and Milo have fallen for one another and Milo vows revenge against Corvus…
…but none of this is of any consequence since (spoiler alert!) everyone is going to die.
As the film begins, the camera pans slowly over what appear to be statues, but which turn our to be the petrified remains of the citizens of Pompeii. These are the most multi-dimensional people we see on screen. Until you arrive, of course. Maybe the writers were trying to spare us the pain of rooting for fully-fleshed out characters when they were destined to be blasted into ash by you. This was your first time working with action-porn director Paul W.S. Anderson (of the _Resident Evil _franchise), so you had to know he was going to make you work harder than you've ever worked before. It even looks like you put on a significant amount of weight in preparation for the role of Vesuvius. All your efforts paid off, because I, for one, couldn't wait for you to show up and do your thing.
There are some well-choreographed yet utterly unconvincing fight scenes to watch while waiting for your arrival, and Kit Harrington's abs are more than a little distracting, but it's all just prolonging the inevitable. First you rumble like an upset tummy. Then you roil, causing buildings to tremble and pillars to fall. The CGI specialists (would they be considered your hair, make-up, and costume team?) really outdid themselves, bringing out all your best features. When you belch black clouds of smoke into the sky, blocking out the sun, your background in method acting really shows. I truly believed you wanted to kill all those people, and I thought to myself: what took you so long? When you finally erupted, and spewed lava and fury through the defenseless port city, the screaming citizens of Pompeii knew they were outmatched--and I knew that I'd been rooting for the right hero all along.
I hope we don't have to wait so long to see you onscreen again. Your absence was truly felt. You would have been perfect in the Twilight series, or countless Nicholas Sparks adaptations, or pretty much every Adam Sandler movie since the turn of the century. You're hot right now, but I'd understand if you wanted to take the ol' one-for-the-studio/one-for-me approach when choosing your next project (I heard you were collaborating with the Duplass brothers on that mumblecore flick about Krakatoa). I hope you got points on Pompeii's back end. You earned them.