A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pompeii is a gladiator tale set in the last days of the doomed Roman city, and is very heavy on combat and carnage. Gladiators fight to the death, soldiers massacre villagers, prisoners batter each other over petty slights, and numerous scenes end with piles of corpses in the background. There's hardly any swearing, sex, or drinking to interrupt the fight scenes, just lots and lots of death.
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What's the story?
Milo (Kit Harington) is the only survivor after Roman soldiers massacre everyone in his village of horsemen. In POMPEII, he eventually grows up to be a champion gladiator who leaves a pile of corpses in his wake whenever he sets foot in the arena. Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of a nobleman, falls for Milo, but their dangerous romance means he has incurred the wrath of a Roman senator (Kiefer Sutherland) besotted with Cassia. As Mt. Vesuvius erupts, the couple must find a way to escape him and their doomed city.
Is it any good?
Pompeii is set in the Roman city, but doesn't really feel like a historical drama. The gladiator characters provides a reason for scene after scene filled with hand-to-hand combat sequences, and the neighboring volcano justifies some big-scale fire-and-flood destruction. Somewhere in there, the filmmakers manage to squeeze in an improbable love affair between a handsome gladiator and the daughter of a local nobleman, and their courtship unfurls like a modern-day dramedy, complete with a star-crossed lovers storyline, stereotypical parents (the dad complains of her having too much luggage, a complaint that doesn't feel like it belongs in a period movie) who may not understand their affections; a best friend to confer with, and a lecherous politician (Sutherland, not his best role) who wants what he can't have.
Pompeii loses steam long before the historic eruption quickens the pace of the movie. The parts don't meld together to create a coherent tale; they just serve to stitch together the fight scenes, which are intense and brutal, but hardly original. See it for the 3D eruption, which is quite impressive.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about history in movies. How does Pompeii compare with other historical epics? Does it seem accurate? Does the natural disaster take a back seat to the story unfolding within the city.
Do you think the many, many scenes of battle should have earned the film a stronger MPAA rating? What methods did the filmmakers use to lessen the impact of the violence?
- In theaters: February 21, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: May 20, 2014
- Cast: Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Kit Harington
- Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
- Studios: FilmDistrict, TriStar Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: History
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense battle sequences, disaster-related action and brief sexual content
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