Australian Council on Children and the Media

Pompeii

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Not suitable for under 13’s’ PG to 15 (Intense violence, apocalyptic themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Pompeii
  • a review of Pompeii completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 13 March 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable
Children over the age of 13 Parental Guidance recommended

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Pompeii
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Contains intense battle sequences, disaster-related action and brief sexual content
Length 105 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in Britannia 62 AD, a young Celtic (horse-tribe) boy named Milo (Dylan Schombing) wakes up to the sounds of his village being attacked by Roman soldiers. Milo witnesses the execution of every man, woman and child in his village by the Romans including his own Mother and Father while he feigns death to survive. Milo manages to escape the carnage, but a short time later is discovered and captured by a band of slavers.

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

Along the road to Pompeii, Milo unexpectedly meets the 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 dungeons of the coliseum where he is befriended by a gladiator slave named Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Adbaje). Meanwhile Cassia goes to the family villa (palace) on the slope of Mt. 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. At the same time, Cassia and Milo’s paths again cross unexpectedly with the pair becoming romantically entwined, but not without dire consequences for them both.

However, things do not go as planned for Corvus when Mt Vesuvius erupts violently spewing giant fireballs across the city of Pompeii resulting in mass destruction to both the city and the coliseum.

There is a race against time as Milo struggles against Roman soldiers and an erupting volcano to rescue Cassia from the clutches of Corvus and get her to safety before being engulfed by the destruction being caused by the erupting Mt Vesuvius.                          

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

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

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film Pompeii contains a high level of violence; an extremely high body count and the depiction of medium-level blood and gore; intense battle sequences, combat style violence with the use of sword and axe; corporal punishment;  massacres including mass executions; and apocalyptic natural disasters.
Examples include:

  •  In an arena (the ground is covered in bloody pools of water) a man fights several sword and axe wielding gladiators; their weapons are 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 propelling the man against a pole imbedded with metal spike and impaling him on the metal spikes. After the fight dead bodies are shown being dragged through the bloody pools of water:
  • A brutal fist fight between two gladiators occurs during which the two men punch each other in the face. One man has his head slammed into a wall; one man holds the other man’s head under water in an attempt to drown him. To save himself from being drowned a man bites the fingers off the hand of the man attempting to drown him; 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 is shown lashing his back once and then the sound of the whip striking is heard. The man has a bloody mouth. The man’s lacerated back is seen showing deep bloody gashes and a woman stitches up the cuts with a needle and thread. 
  • During an extended gladiator fight, gladiator/slavers armed with swords and axes are chained to a pillar in the centre of the coliseum. A second group of gladiators hurl spears at the chained gladiators and a violent battle erupts between them. There are multiple instances of gladiators killed by swords and axes including swords slashed across chests and necks, axes embedded in chests, swords stabbed in backs, a man is impaled in the chest with a thrown spear, and an axe hurled at a man imbeds in the man’s throat. Weapons are covered in blood. By the end of the battle the ground is littered with dozens of dead bodies and blood is dripping from the hand of a man left standing. 
  • During an extended scene depicting the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, the walls and stands of a crowded coliseum collapse with debris falling on and crushing spectators. Spectators fall to their death as stands collapse. People are screaming, panicking and stampeding and lots of dead bodies are shown lying on the ground with the arena in flames. A woman is pinned beneath a fallen statue and dies slowly.
  • In the streets of the city of Pompeii buildings are on fire and collapse, falling on people running in the streets. Rocks hurl from the volcano raining down on the city and one rock hits a man in the head. Giant fireballs explode out of the volcano causing buildings to explode in flames and people are engulfed in flames. A severely burnt arm is seen sticking out from 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 is speeding 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 throwing out its two occupants; both are uninjured. Later we see the man slap the girl across the face knocking her to the ground.
  • An apocalyptic fire storm races down the sides of Mt Vesuvius engulfing the city of Pompeii vaporising all in its path and a number of people are seen engulfed in the swirling firestorm.               

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  •  Several scenes contain intense apocalyptic images of firestorms engulfing entire cities and people are seen engulfed in flames.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Milo (aged seven years) witnesses Roman soldier slaughtering the people of his tribe using swords and axes to slash and stab people in the chest, back and throat. Milo witnesses his Father stabbed to death and sees his Mother have her throat slashed after being trampled by horses: minimal blood and gore is depicted. Milo also witnesses the execution of dozens of villagers; kneeling 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 views 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 is seen lying 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.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

No additional images.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

No additional images.

Product placement

No product placement

Sexual references

The film Pompeii contains occasional low-level sexual references and innuendo. Examples include:

  • A man complains about being dragged away from a brothel to watch gladiators fight.
  • A woman is asked by another woman if she saw a man’s muscles.
  • At a party several male slaves/gladiators are displayed for the viewing of a middle age woman. The woman tells the slaves’ keeper that she wants to see them from behind with the woman making reference to them being “firm”. The woman then asks “What of his weaponry?” the question having sexual connotation with the keeper replying “That’s an inspection you’ll have to pay for”.      
  • A man says to a woman “I thought we had an understanding” the statement having sexual connotations. The woman replies that she was not the “type of woman who drapes herself across your lap”.  

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Throughout the film we see muscle bound gladiator men with bare chests.
  • A couple of scenes contain images of women wearing (period appropriate) sensually cut low tops that reveal their cleavage.
  • At the end of the film a man and women passionately kiss. 

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

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

Coarse language

The film contains a scattering of low-level coarse language and some name calling. Examples include:
Hellhole, he’s a savage, arrogant man, Juno’s tit, on several occasions men are referred to as animals and scum, poor bastard, bloody spectacle, you bitch.

In a nutshell

The film Pompeii is an action, adventure, drama, romance, ‘gladiators fighting to the death’, and disaster film of epic proportions. In general, the film is somewhat disjointed with the gladiator story, love story and volcano disaster story seeming like three separate, unrelated stories. The film will attract the attention of older adolescents (male and female) however it may struggle to hold the attention of adults. Acting performances are at best average, while the film’s best feature is its 3D disaster special effects.
The main messages from this movie are:
• Natural disasters treat everyone equally in that 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 parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

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


This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • Parents may wish to discuss with their children real-life consequences of natural disasters in terms of those that the disaster affects directly and indirectly. 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 manner as a superpower, would there be a difference in global impact?

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