Story

Pompeii begins in Britannia 62 AD. A young Celtic boy named Milo (Dylan Schombing) wakes to the sounds of his village being attacked by Roman soldiers. Milo witnesses the Romans executing every man, woman and child in his village including his own parents. Milo pretends to be dead and escapes. A short time later he is discovered and captured by a band of slavers.

Seventeen years later (79 AD), Milo ((Kit Harington) is a grown man and champion gladiator fighting for his life in the arenas of Britannia’s capital city, Londinium. Milo’s owner, a man named Graecus (Joe Pingue), decides that Milo is too good for Londinium’s arenas and should fight in the colosseum of Pompeii.

Along the road to Pompeii, Milo unexpectedly meets Princess Cassia (Emily Browning), who is returning from a visit to Rome. A romantic spark ignites between the two when Milo comes to the aid of Cassia’s injured horse, putting it out of its misery. On reaching Pompeii, Milo is taken to the colosseum’s dungeons where a gladiator slave named Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Adbaje) befriends him. Meanwhile Cassia goes to her family palace on the slope of Mount Vesuvius and is reunited with her father, Severus (Jared Harris), and mother, Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss). Soon after, a corrupt Roman senator named Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) arrives on Cassia’s doorstep and manipulates events to force Cassia into marrying him. Cassia’s and Milo’s paths cross again unexpectedly and they become romantically involved, with dire consequences for them both.

Things don’t go as planned for Corvus when Mount Vesuvius erupts violently and spews giant fireballs across Pompeii. This results in mass destruction to both the city and the colosseum. There is a race against time as Milo struggles against Roman soldiers and an erupting volcano to rescue Cassia from Corvus’s clutches and get her to safety.

Themes

Ancient Rome; rebellion; gladiatorial fighting; natural disasters; slavery

Violence

Pompeii has a lot of violence, an extremely high body count and medium-level blood and gore. It has intense battle sequences, combat violence with swords and axes, corporal punishment, massacres including mass executions, and apocalyptic natural disasters.

Here are some examples:

  • The ground in an arena is covered in bloody pools of water. A man fights several gladiators who have swords and axes splattered with blood. The man stabs, slashes and chops the other fighters to death. The man also kicks one of the fighters in the chest and pushes him against a pole embedded with metal spikes, which stick through him. After the fight dead bodies are dragged through the bloody pools of water.
  • During a brutal fist fight, two gladiators punch each other in the face. One man slams the other man’s head into a wall; one man holds the other man’s head under water to drown him. To save himself from being drowned, the man bites the fingers off the hand of the other man. Blood pours from the severed finger stumps.
  • As a punishment a man is stretched between two poles with his hands and feet bound. A whip lashes his back once and then the sound of the whip striking is heard. The man has a bloody mouth. The man’s lacerated back has deep bloody gashes, and a woman stitches up the cuts with a needle and thread.
  • During an extended gladiator fight, gladiators armed with swords and axes are chained to a pillar in the centre of the colosseum. A second group of gladiators hurl spears at the chained gladiators, and a violent battle breaks out. Gladiators slash each other across chests and necks with swords, embed axes in chests and stab swords through backs. A man is impaled in the chest with a spear, and another man dies when an axe goes through his neck and throat. Weapons are covered in blood. By the end of the battle the ground is littered with dozens of dead bodies, and blood drips from the hand of a man left standing.
  • During an extended scene showing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the walls and stands of a crowded colosseum collapse. Debris falls on spectators and crush them. Spectators fall to their death as stands collapse. People scream, panic and stampede. Many dead bodies lie on the ground while the arena burns. A woman is pinned beneath a fallen statue and dies slowly.
  • In Pompeii buildings burn and collapse onto people running in the streets. Rocks from the volcano rain down on the city, and one rock hits a man in the head. Giant fireballs explode out of the volcano and cause buildings to explode in flames. People are engulfed in flames. A severely burned arm sticks out of a group of dead bodies.
  • A woman standing in front of a building suddenly disappears into the sea below.
  • The sea recedes and a giant tsunami crashes into boats and city streets, sweeping large ships and crowds of people away.
  • A chariot speeds through the burning streets of Pompeii, driven recklessly by a man with a woman manacled to the chariot. The chariot dodges falling debris, rocks and fireballs until eventually it crashes and overturns and throws out its two occupants. Neither is hurt. Later the man slaps the girl across the face and knocks her to the ground.
  • An apocalyptic firestorm races down the sides of Mount Vesuvius, engulfing Pompeii and vaporising everything in its path. Many people are engulfed in the swirling firestorm.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Pompeii has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example, several scenes contain intense apocalyptic images of firestorms engulfing entire cities and people being engulfed by flames. 

From 5-8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Pompeii has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • Seven-year-old Milo witnesses Roman soldiers slaughtering the people of his tribe using swords and axes. Milo witnesses his father stabbed to death and sees his mother have her throat slashed after being trampled by horses. This scene shows minimal blood and gore.
  • Milo also witnesses the execution of dozens of villagers. As they kneel on the ground they have their throats cut one by one by a sword-wielding Roman soldier. Milo survives by pretending to be dead beneath a pile of dead bodies. After crawling from beneath the dead bodies Milo sees dozens of dead bodies hung upside down from the branches of a large tree. This scene could be particularly distressing for children in this age group.
  • A young boy is knocked unconscious by a blow to the head.
  • An injured horse lies on the ground and a man mercifully kills the horse by breaking its neck.
  • The destruction of the city by the volcano could also be upsetting for children in this age group. 

From 8-13

The violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above are likely to disturb children in this age group also. 

Over 13

The violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above might disturb children in this age group also. 

Sexual references

Pompeii has occasional low-level sexual references and innuendo. For example:

  • A man complains about being dragged away from a brothel to watch gladiators fight.
  • A woman asks another woman if she saw a man’s muscles.
  • At a party a middle-aged woman views several male slaves/gladiators on display. The woman tells the slavedriver that she wants to see them from behind and says that they are ‘firm’. The woman asks, ‘What of his weaponry?’ The slavedriver replies, ‘That’s an inspection you’ll have to pay for’.
  • A man says to a woman, ‘I thought we had an understanding’. The woman replies that she is not the ‘type of woman who drapes herself across your lap’.  

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Pompeii shows some use of substances. For example:

  • Someone refers to the city streets of Pompeii being blocked by drunkards.
  • A couple of scenes show images of people holding goblets that presumably contain wine.
  • In one scene a man pours wine over cuts on a man’s back. 

Nudity and sexual activity

Pompeii has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • Muscle-bound gladiators with bare chests feature throughout the movie.
  • A couple of scenes show images of women wearing period-appropriate low-cut tops that reveal their cleavage.
  • At the end of the movie a man and women kiss passionately. 

Product placement

Pompeii has no product placement. 

Coarse language

Pompeii has some low-level coarse language and some name-calling. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Pompeii is an epic movie featuring action, adventure, drama, romance and disaster.

The movie’s gladiator story, love story and volcano disaster story don’t hang together very well. The movie will attract the attention of older teenagers but it might struggle to hold adult attention. The acting performances are average at best, and the movie’s best feature is its 3D disaster special effects.

These are the main messages from Pompeii:

  • Natural disasters treat everyone equally and no-one can escape their devastating effects.
  • Fighting against tyrants and tyranny is worth risking your life and dying for.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the following:

  • Selflessness and courage: Milo risks both his life and his freedom to save Cassia from the destruction of Mount Vesuvius and rescue her from a Roman tyrant.
  • Self-worth and dignity: Milo refuses to bow down to Roman tyranny and always maintains his belief in his own self-worth.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as the direct and indirect effects of natural disasters. What would the consequences be on a global scale? Are all counties affected to the same extent by natural disasters? For example, would the same natural disaster affect a third-world country in the same way as a superpower? Would there be a difference in global impact?