Pompeii (film)

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For the BBC docudrama, see Pompeii: The Last Day.
A Volcano erupting. In the foreground and a man and a woman are embracing. In the centre of the poster the tagline: No Warning. No Escape
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Janet Scott Batchler
  • Lee Batchler
  • Michael Robert Johnson
Music by Clinton Shorter
Cinematography Glen MacPherson
Edited by Michelle Conroy
Distributed by
Release date(s)
  • February 18, 2014 (2014-02-18) (Buenos Aires)
  • February 21, 2014 (2014-02-21) (Canada)
  • February 27, 2014 (2014-02-27) (Germany)
Running time 104 minutes[1]
Country Germany
Language English
Budget $80 million[2][3]
Box office $101,819,748[4]

Pompeii (referred to in marketing as Pompeii in 3D) is a 2014 German-Canadian historical disaster film produced and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.[5] The film stars Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris, and Kiefer Sutherland. It premiered in France, Belgium, and Russia on February 19, 2014 and was released over the course of the next two days in many major territories, including the United States, Canada, India, and Australia.[6][7]


The film opens with scenes of plaster casts of the victims of Pompeii as quotes on the destruction are made.

In Britannia, 62 AD, a tribe of Celtic horsemen are brutally wiped out by Romans led by Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). The only survivor is a boy named Milo, whose mother Corvus killed personally. The boy is captured by slave traders. Seventeen years later, a slave owner named Graecus (Joe Pingue) watches a class of gladiators battle. He is unimpressed until he sees the grown Milo (Kit Harington), a talented gladiator the crowds call "the Celt". Milo is soon brought to Pompeii with his fellow slaves. On the road, they see a horse fall while leading a carriage carrying Cassia (Emily Browning) and her servant Ariadne (Jessica Lucas). Milo kills the horse to end its suffering and Cassia is drawn to him. Cassia is the daughter of the city ruler Severus (Jared Harris) and his wife Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss), happy to have her back after a year in Rome. Severus is hoping to have the new Emperor Titus invest in plans to rebuild Pompeii but Cassia warns him of Rome becoming more corrupt. A servant named Felix (Dalmar Abuzeid) takes Cassia’s horse for a ride only to be swallowed up when a quake from Mount Vesuvius opens up the Earth under him.

At the gladiator arena, Milo soon has a rivalry with Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a champion gladiator who by Roman law will be given his freedom after he attains one more victory. The gladiators are shown off at a party where Corvus (now a Senator) tells Severus the Emperor will not invest in his plans but Corvus will. It turns out Cassia left Rome to escape Corvus’ advances. When an earthquake causes horses to become excited, Milo helps calm one down. He then takes Cassia on a ride, telling her that they cannot be together. Returning to the villa, Corvus is ready to kill Milo (not recognizing him from the village massacre) but Cassia pleads for his life. Milo is lashed for his actions and Atticus admits respect for the man as they prepare to face each other at the upcoming festival.

In the Amphitheatre of Pompeii, to punish Milo, Corvus orders him killed in the first battle and wicked trainer Bellator (Currie Graham) convinces Graecus to sacrifice Atticus as well. The two men, and other gladiators, are chained to rocks as other gladiators come out as Roman soldiers, to recreate Corvus’ “glorious victory” over the Celts. Working together, Milo and Atticus survive the battle, Atticus realizing the Romans will never honor his freedom. During the battle, Corvus forces Cassia to agree to marry him by threatening to have her family killed for supposed treason against the Emperor. When Milo and Atticus win, Cassia defies Corvus by holding a “thumbs-up” for them to live and he has her taken to the villa to be locked up. Claiming an earthquake is a sign from Vulcan, Corvus has his officer Proculus (Sasha Roiz) fight Milo one-on-one. Their battle is interrupted when Mount Vesuvius erupts, creating quakes that cause the arena to collapse, sending Milo and Proculus crashing to the jail levels. Milo opens up the gates to allow his fellow gladiators a chance to attack, Proculus escaping while the gladiators kill Bellator. Seeing Corvus fallen under a collapsed beam, Severus tries to kill him, but Corvus stabs him and escapes.

The volcano unleashes balls of fire across the city as the populace tries to flee to the harbor. One fireball destroys a ship, killing the escaping Graecus. Aurelia tells Milo that Cassia is at the villa before dying. Milo races to the villa and manages to save Cassia, but Ariadne is killed when the villa collapses into the sea. Corvus and Proculus kill civilians blocking their path to safety. Atticus tries to reach the harbor, but a tsunami created by the volcano smashes into the city, destroying the outer walls and smashing apart ships, Atticus barely rescues a girl and her mother from the tidal wave. Reuniting with Atticus, Milo suggests searching the arena for horses to escape to the south. As the gladiators face Roman soldiers at the arena, Cassia sees to the bodies of her parents, only to be abducted by Corvus. Atticus has Milo chase after the chariot carrying the two while he faces off against Proculus. The Roman manages to mortally wound Atticus, but the gladiator rises up to break the blade and use it to kill the soldier.

Milo chases Corvus across the city, both barely avoiding balls of fire and collapsing roads and buildings. Cassia manages to free herself before the chariot crashes into the Temple of Apollo. Milo and Corvus battle it out in a duel as a fireball destroys the temple. Cassia chains Corvus to a building as Milo declares that his gods are coming to punish the Senator. Milo and Cassia ride off as a pyroclastic surge races down the mountain and into the city, incinerating Corvus. At the arena, Atticus, seeing the flow approaching, proudly meets his fate, proclaiming that he dies a free man. At the city outskirts, the horse throws off Milo and Cassia, and Milo tells Cassia to leave on her own. Instead, she sends the horse off, not wanting to spend her last few moments running as she knows that they will not survive. She and Milo passionately kiss as the pyroclastic flow engulfs them. The last shot is of the duo's carbonized bodies, locked in an eternal embrace.



The film was shot in Toronto, Ontario from March to July 2013.[14] The film was primarily shot at Cinespace Film Studios' Kipling Avenue facility. Said Steve Mirkopoulos, president of Cinespace Studios, "This is the third Germany/Canada co-production by this same revered team to grace our newest, largest film campus in West Toronto, and we are thrilled to have them back. We see this as a growing partnership between some of the most talented film producers and crew in the industry, and the highly experienced facility operators and staff here at Cinespace." Constantin Film and Don Carmody Productions formerly selected Cinespace as a shooting locale for Resident Evil: Retribution and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.[15]

Leading man Kit Harington underwent an extremely potent training regimen for the film in order bulk up for the role. Harrington stated he had "wanted to do a body transformation for something — it was one of those processes that I had never really done before...I became obsessed with it. To the point where I was going to the gym three times a day for six days a week. I was becoming exhausted. So the trainer stepped in and said, 'Look, you don't need to go through all of this. This is body dysmorphia now."[16]

Pompeii was the fourth time that director Anderson used 3D cameras in his films, the first being Resident Evil: Afterlife in 2010. Resident Evil producers Jeremy Bolt and Don Carmody reunited with Anderson for the film. FilmDistrict bought the distribution rights in the US, and because of Sony's relationship with the filmmakers, they chose to release the film with TriStar Pictures.[17] Summit Entertainment, who released Anderson's The Three Musketeers, handled distribution sales outside of Germany and the US.


Box Office[edit]

Pompeii grossed $10.3 million in its opening weekend, finishing in third, against strong competition from The Lego Movie.[18] As of June 30, 2014, the film has grossed $23.2 million in North America and $78.6 in other territories for a worldwide total of $101.8 million.[4]

Critical response[edit]

Pompeii received negative reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 28% rating on based on 140 reviews, with the site's consensus: "This big-budget sword-and-sandal adventure lacks the energy and storytelling heft to amount to more than a guilty pleasure."[19] On Metacritic, the film has an aggregate score of 39/100 based on 33 reviews, indicating "Generally unfavorable reviews".[20]

Glenn Kenny, reviewing for RogerEbert.com, awarded the film 2.5/4 stars, declaiming that the film is "a surprisingly old-fashioned disaster movie. In point of fact its old-fashioned-ness is really the only surprising thing about this eye-popping 3D spectacle", going on to say that "Anderson offers up a narrative device older still, a rich-girl/poor-boy variant". Of Sutherland's performance, Kenny remarks he had "a hell of a time playing the relentlessly villainous Corvus—you need really strong passions if you’re going to stick to your petty personal grudges even as fireballs are battering all those around you, so it stands to reason." He went on to state that "somewhat less entertaining is the fake-knowingness of the cliché dialogue...As much bloodletting as happens in this movie—and there’s quite a bit of it before the volcano action (presaged by a lot of building foundational cracks and such) gets underway—the movie is otherwise relentless in its wholesomeness...the action scenes are choice, and once the clouds of ash and shooting fire and churning seas start up, "Pompeii" achieves a momentum that most sensationalist studio fare can’t touch...one senses that Anderson and company were going for a little bit more, particularly in the, you know, profundity department."[21]

Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a "lukewarm" B grade approval rating.[22] Some critics were rather favorable as shown by Vulture.com's review which summarized the film as "...not a particularly original story, but it gallops along at a nice clip, with the good guys appropriately gallant and breathless and the bad guys appropriately smug and snarly... And whether it’s elaborate gladiatorial battles or a chariot chase through a burning city, Anderson directs with precision, rhythm, and ruthlessness – he has an eye and an ear for violence, for the visceral impact of a kill. At his best, he creates action sequences in which you feel anything might happen, even though you usually know how they'll turn out. And the ones in Pompeii are more engaging than those of any superhero movie I saw last year... Meanwhile, the disaster renders the villains even pettier, and the devoted lovers even more romantic. That is all as it should be. From Bulwer-Lytton to Leone, the Pompeii story has never not been schlock: It ain't the Bible, and it ain't Homer. In this gorgeous, silly, exciting new version, it finds its level. Pompeii 3-D wants merely to entertain. And it does, proudly."[23]

Historical accuracy[edit]

The film relies heavily on the works of Pliny the Younger in its historical construction. The film starts with Pliny the Younger's famous quote, in which he states, "You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore."[24] Anderson became enamored of his writings, particularly their near fantastical element and their eloquence, whose influence can be seen throughout the film in the destruction of Pompeii.[25]

The depiction of the eruption is based on eruptions which occurred all over the world over the last ten years. Anderson cites the volcanic eruption of Mount Etna in Italy and various eruptions of Japanese volcanoes as specific examples of volcanic eruptions which the production crew observed through footage which has been captured on film.[25] Furthermore, Anderson wanted to portray the lightning which is often seen in the ash cloud above eruptions, as he had never seen it portrayed before and he felt it was both magnificent and very terrifying. The animation team was so concerned with realism in the eruption that they would always have real photographs and footage of real eruptions visible to them on separate screens as they put together the eruption of Mount Vesuvius for the film.[25] Claims from Rosaly Lopes, a vulcanologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, support Anderson's work, stating that the film "realistically captured the earthquakes that preceded the eruption, the explosions and the pyroclastic flows of hot ash and gas that buried the city and its residents."[26]

The construction of the city was based on the actual ruins of Pompeii. To ensure complete accuracy, any shots of the ancient city would be built upon existing footage of the ruins. Anderson states, "we would do a real helicopter shot over the ruins of the city so that we knew we were getting the layout of the city correct...Then we would project a computer-generated image over the top of the real photography... That is how we got the architecture of the city precise."[25] Sarah Yeomans, an archaeologist at USC who has spent much of her life studying the city of Pompeii, further supports the accuracy of the city's recreation. She praises the attention to details such as the raised paving stones in the streets and the political graffiti on the buildings, as well as the amphitheatre where gladiatorial combat takes place.[26]

Anderson has described other aspects of the film as being less rigorously historical. For example, he states that the time of the events was compacted in order to keep the intensity levels high. His portrayal of some aspects of the eruption, in particular the inclusion of fireballs raining from the sky, were included for dramatic effect rather than historical accuracy.[25] He also received minor criticism from Yeomans for his portrayal of women, who would not have been seen alone in town, involved in political affairs, or wearing the revealing clothes they wore in the film.[26] Anderson portrayed these women in such a way in order to conform to modern social norms. The biggest historical inaccuracy are the characters themselves, all of whom are fictional. Anderson found inspiration for these characters in real people, taking the plaster casts of the "twin lovers" of Pompeii for Milo and Cassia, and finding inspiration for Atticus in the casts of the cowering man. Anderson said he received approval from every vulcanologist and historian he has shown the movie to, having received "high marks for both scientific and historical accuracy", which is what the team was striving for.[25]


  1. ^ "POMPEII (12A)". Entertainment One. British Board of Film Classification. February 21, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  2. ^ Ryan Faughnder (February 20, 2014). "'Lego Movie' to block newcomers 'Pompeii' and '3 Days to Kill'". Los Angeles Times. "to the tune of $80 million" 
  3. ^ http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Pompeii
  4. ^ a b "Pompeii (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  5. ^ Sandy Schaefer (September 18, 2012). "Paul W.S. Anderson To Helm ‘Pompeii’". Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  6. ^ Pamela McClintock (4/9/2013). "Paul W.S. Anderson's 'Pompeii' Will Flow Into Theaters in February 2014". 
  7. ^ "Pompeii to release worldwide including India on February 21". IANS. Biharprabha News. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  8. ^ "Kit Harington Will Face Paul W.S. Anderson's Pompeii". November 13, 2012. Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  9. ^ Peter Dimak (04/10/2013). "FilmDistrict lands on POMPEII". 
  10. ^ Hugh Armitage (Apr 8, 2013). "'Lost' star Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje joins Kit Harington movie 'Pompeii'". 
  11. ^ "Jessica Lucas Joins Paul W.S. Anderson's Pompeii". April 8, 2013. 
  12. ^ Jen yamato (March 13, 2013). "Paul W.S. Anderson’s 3D ‘Pompeii’ Adds Jared Harris". 
  13. ^ Borys Kit (2013-03-20). "Kiefer Sutherland to Play Villain in Disaster Movie 'Pompeii' (Exclusive)". 
  14. ^ "In Production in Toronto as of July 5, 2013" (PDF). Toronto Film, Television and Digital Media Office. Archived from the original on 2013-07-30. Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  15. ^ "Cinespace signs deal for Pompeii". January 31, 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04. 
  16. ^ Jennifer Vineyard (2014-02-14). "Kit Harrington Dysmorphia Pompeii". Archived from the original on 2014-03-07. 
  17. ^ Peter Dimako (04/10/2013). "FilmDistrict lands on POMPEII". Archived from the original on 20131203. Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  18. ^ Ray Subers (February 23, 2014). "Weekend Report: 'LEGO' Obliterates '3 Days,' 'Pompeii'". 
  19. ^ "Pompeii (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  20. ^ "Pompeii Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  21. ^ RogerEbert.com Review
  22. ^ Pamela McClintock (2014-02-22). "Box Office: 'Lego' Tops Friday With $7.3 Million, Destroys 'Pompeii,' '3 Days to Kill'". 
  23. ^ http://www.vulture.com/2014/02/movie-review-pompeii.html
  24. ^ "The Destruction of Pompeii, 79 AD", EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (1999).
  25. ^ a b c d e f Rojas, Alejandro (Feb 21, 2014). "Interview With Paul W. S. Anderson, Pompeii Director, on the Film's Scientific and Historical Accuracy". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 4, 2014. 
  26. ^ a b c Lewis, Tanya. "Lava Bombs and Tsunamis! How Accurate Is 'Pompeii' Movie?" LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 20 Feb. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

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