I have been a big fan of history related movies and was very excited for Pompeii. I was first introduced to the tragedy of Pompeii through my grandparent’s collection of National Geographic. The actual Pompeii is the longest continual archaeological dig in history.
Rumor has it that the screen write for this play came about from the following picture from the archaeological dig known as “The Lovers”. (Footnote3: for extra archaeological Pompeii images.)
The Cast: Kit Harington plays Milo the slave/hero. Emily Browning plays Cassia the daughter of Severus/love interest. Jared Harris plays Severus the ruler of Pompeii AND Carrie-Anne Moss is Aurelia the wife of Severus. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is Atticus the Gladiator champion. Kiefer Sutherland is Corvus of Roman Senator/bad guy. Sasha Roiz plays Proculus the right hand man/champion of Rome The movie starts in the Celts village of the horse people with the village being slaughtered in front of young Milo’s (Dylan Schombing) eyes. He can do nothing but watch as Corvus and Proculus slaughter all of his people, including his parents. He is the lone survivor; only able to survive by hiding under the corpses of the people in his village. As young Milo wanders the woods, he is captured by slave traders and sold into slavery. A flash forward is time, Milo is a successful gladiator on the lower circuit. His success causes him to be traded and taken to Pompeii for a larger competition. On route to Pompeii, Cassia is brought to the screen as she is driven past the slaves. An accident occurs that allows for an introduction between Milo and Cassia. The attraction is instant. Then Cassia is carted away. Then we get to travel to Pompeii. I loved the imagery for the city. The coastal entrance is just beautiful. The city itself is beautifully created. Once in Pompeii Milo finds out that he is roomed with Atticus, the gladiator champion. Not only that, they are to go one-on-one in the final battle of the next competition. Once Atticus kills Milo, he will be freed; 10h championship law of Rome. Enter: Senator Corvus. He has followed Cassia, unknown to her, from Rome o Pompeii with one goal: to force her to be his wife. He worms his way in to Pompeii by using his financial means. Pompeii is needing Roman support for improvements to the city and Corvus decides it will be his financial backing that helps Pompeii.
Once he makes his financial backing known, he then reveals the reason behind his interest; the hand of Cassia. Severus and Aurelia are cornered and don’t know how to get out of the situation.
The gladiator fights are well down. They bring some intense times to the movie and seem well portrayed. During the final gladiator battle then, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, erupts; it becomes a fight for your life. Destruction, disaster, and death all follow the eruption. Historically, the volcano hadn’t erupted in over a hundred years, so with the earthquakes (science teacher moment: Footnote2) people did not know or understand what the explosion meant until things went dreadfully wrong.
Milo has one goal; to save Cassia from the building that Senator Corvus has sent her to and locked her in. This building is in the opposite directions as where the people are going; it is closer to the volcano. Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:12 that he commands them to love one another. Then he states in verse 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. That’s exactly what Jesus did for us. Out of love, he was willing to be the last and only perfect sacrifice. 1John 3:16 Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
The explosion of the volcano is pretty accurate scientifically. Smaller pelting of lighter rocks followed by larger pieces from inside the volcano which would end your life as soon as it hit you. An eruption of ash, which blackened the sky, and then lava flowing like a river. The look of it was beautiful though. This was a gorgeous scene.
Up to this point I was pretty pleased with the movie. I really only had 3 things that bothered me:
1) [Up until the eruption the acting hasn’t been perfect, but it’s not terrible.] The person that I could never get behind was Kiefer Sutherland. In general I think he is a pretty decent actor. I was drawn in by his role in Flatliners, rooted for him in Young Guns I & II, and I enjoy 24. Senator Corvus, though: I just didn’t buy his accent or is character.
2) The unison of god praise that Senator Corvus brings about in the arena. (Footnote 1) The gods are mentioned throughout the movie; as a Christian, it just kind of kept digging at me.
3) The interaction of Cassia and Milo with her horse. Historically women didn’t have power over men, unless they were their personal slaves. Her insistence of being alone with Milo is not something I could buy into.
The last part of the movie ruined it for me.
The portrayal of Graecus (the gladiator controller) escaping on a ship and a volcanic fireball happens to crash into the ship he is in and directly on him. Lame shot.
The town’s destruction didn’t make any sense to me. In this scene we see fire everywhere and dead people from fire rocks everywhere, yet there are no holes in the building and pillars are still standing without damage. If these rocks were falling everywhere and killing people, there would be damage to the buildings as well and not just fire damage. (Yes, I was being picky here.)
The fighting at the end between Corvus and Milo went on too long. If it’s a good fight, great. It’s just not that great to watch. Plus the ash, fire sparks, and debris stop falling around them while they fight. Protective aura I guess.
In the end Proculus and Atticus battle. Proculus, the Roman champion and military leader, begs for is life. The screen writer needed to research Rome and their military before writing this part of the scene, let alone the director shooting it. You have a powerful man, a manly man, and a sure man throughout the movie and suddenly he starts beginning. His character just changes and the shot doesn’t make sense.
The worst part was the horse chase. There are times I think, “This just needs to end” during car chase scenes. This horse chase scene went on way too long. I appreciated the fact that they were real horse and that the actors were truly riding them/reigning them for the filming of this. However, to go on that long is excessive. I went from loving the imagery of the horse and chariot and thinking “That’s really cool” to a “Let’s end it already” attitude.
One historical part that I did like was Atticus dying in the arena. During the archaeological dig they found a large body in the arena that they believe is of African descent by his bone structure.
So, as you have probably gathered up to this point, this was a big letdown for me. It did not reach my hopes for the movie at all. I give it a 3 because there was some really good things about the movie. I don’t feel like I completely wasted my time watching it. I just felt like I was let down from what the trailers portrayed and what it could have been. The volcano explosion was my favorite part of the movie. I also appreciated some of the historical accuracies portrayed in the movie.
A 3 is the best that I can do, though.
Footnote1: There’s mentions of the gods throughout the movie. This eruption is recorded in history and takes place about 40-50 years after the death of Jesus. It is quite possible that Pompeii had zero Christian influence, though. The dig site and recorded records of the royalty there indicates a very pagan and immoral area.
Footnote2: earthquakes are quite common along a fault line, which Italy does lie directly on one.
Footnote3: The ending credits show images of what appear to be the forms of people made of ash.
In the actual Pompeii during the first digs, there were bodies found. Archaeologists chose to preserve their images by filling the lava rock where the bodies had been with plaster. They found the remains of people…
As well as animals.
They continue to find remains today and they are preserving the bones and remain materials found. They also preserve the buildings, pottery, gold, weapons, and so much more. It’s a fascinating dig if you ever get the time to research it. A warning though: art work in sculptures and from wall murals are not appropriate for young eyes. They were a very immoral civilization and fornication was rampant.