Follow TV Tropes


Film / Pompeii

Go To

Pompeii is a 2014 American Epic Disaster Action film produced and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. It stars Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jared Harris, Jessica Lucas and Kiefer Sutherland.

At the time of the early Roman Empire in 79 AD, a young slave gladiator, Milo, is the last surviving member of a village of Celts escaping death, only to find captivity. When he finds himself in Pompeii, he strikes up a romance with Lady Cassia, and finds himself caught up tangentially in a whirlwind of politics, romance, and violence... only for it all to be interrupted with the eruption of a nearby volcano, the Vesuvius.


This film contains the following tropes:

  • Advancing Wall of Doom: The tsunami and later, the pyroclastic flow.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Senator Corvus does this to Cassia, putting her entire family at his mercy.
  • And Starring: Jared Harris and Kiefer Sutherland.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Several instances. See Villains Want Mercy below for details.
  • Animal Motif: Horses. Milo was part of the Celtic Horse Tribe, while Cassia loves to take care of them. It is even implied that the horse they were riding towards the end is the only survivor.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0: Pompeii is wiped off the map, but the rest of the world continues on.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The town of Pompeii is very accurate to the real city with one very major and puzzling change. The town is flipped so that instead of being in the South East corner the amphitheater is in the North East Corner closer to Mount Vesuvius.
  • Advertisement:
  • Artistic License – Geology: Volcanic eruptions can generate tsunamis, but they do so when the eruption causes part of the mountain to break off and slide into the ocean at high speed (creating a wave that moves away from the mountain). In the film, Vesuvius releases a blast of hot wind that pushes the ocean back, after which the water rushes back to shore as a tsunami.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Historical gladiators were essentially the rock stars of their day; they were slaves, yes, but they weren't mistreated or killed off rather than let them go free. Also, rather than being slim and muscular, they were fat and muscular, so they could take more cuts, bleed more, put on a better show and generally last longer.
    • Pompeii by historical accounts was something of a Roman resort town, so it's very unlikely any who lived there harbored animosity towards Rome.
    • Roman soldiers would not be stationed in or outside of Pompeii they would have been stationed across the bay in the town or Misenum where the Navy Base was located.
    • The black and purple armor worm by the Roman Soldiers looks cool but is historically inaccurate. Purple was reserved only for the Imperial Roman family, Roman soldiers would have worn a red or white tunic. Likewise the armor of roman soldiers would not have been blackened.
    • By Roman naming customs, Cassia's name should've been Severa as girls were simply given the female version of their father's nomen (the middle of the three names that Roman men had). Either that or her father's nomen (and thus what people would most likely call him) should've been Cassius. For example, Gaius Julius Caesar's daughter was named Julia.
    • Londinium was not the capital of Roman Britain in AD 79, though it may have become so later; Camulodunum (modern Colchester) would have been the capital at the time.
  • Asshole Victim: Did anyone here cry when Corvus got incinerated by the pyroclastic flow?
  • A Taste of the Lash: Milo is on the receiving end of this.
  • Badass Baritone: A champion gladiator Atticus has a deep voice.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Cassia looks great even covered in ash.
  • Black Dude Dies First:
    • Atticus actually does a good job of surviving. He does die before Milo, but only by a little bit, by dint of being closer to Vesuvius.
    • A straighter example is Felix, who is the first named character to die when Vesuvius opens the earth from under him when he's taking Cassia's horse out.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Played with. Corvus and Proculus do remember destroying Milo's village (they even consider it their greatest achievement) but have no idea who Milo is. In their defense, he was a child when it happened and they think everyone was killed.
  • Butt-Monkey: The nameless brute of a gladiator that has it out for Milo from the beginning. First he's Forced to Watch when his brother gets effortlessly slaughtered in the arena by Milo. He tries to avenge him later in the barracks and gets the crap beaten out of him, again by Milo. Once he and the other gladiators have been transferred to Pompeii, he attempts to backstab Milo with a shiv while our hero is brawling with Atticus on the arena floor. He gets Atticus's boot in the face for his troubles, knocking him out cold - again. Finally, things are looking up for him when he's chosen for a staged arena battle whose odds are heavily weighted in his side's favor. All his comrades end up dead anyway, and he gets curbstomped by Milo again, this time for good.
  • Chariot Race: There's a chase involving horses and a chariot near the climax of the movie.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: What story of Pompeii would be complete without the volcano that buried it?
  • Clothing Damage: After the eruption of Vesuvius, Cassia has a severe case of tactically ripped clothing, providing some Fanservice.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Proculus, despite as good or even a better fighter then then Milo or Atticus, doesn't care unnecessary risks like giving Milo a blunted sword to replace the one that got broken or running instead of facing a mob of angry gladiators.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Milo, unarmed, versus three heavily-armed gladiators. He kills them all in under ten seconds.
  • Damsel in Distress: Cassia gets kidnapped by Corvus and is chained to his carriage.
  • Death from Above: Volcanoes tend to inflict this on the surrounding regions once they start coughing up lava bombs and pyroclastic flows. Pompeii is no exception.
  • Defiant to the End: Both Atticus and Corvus. The first counterattacks, successfully killing his opponent, while the latter revolts against his seemingly undeserved ending.
  • Died Standing Up: Atticus does a damn good impersonation of Raoh in the face of the ash cloud.
  • Disaster Porn: Once Vesuvius erupts, we get LOTS of shots of apocalyptic clouds, falling lava-rocks, earthquakes, tsunamis, and a pyroclastic cloud that annihilates everything it touches.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Severus when he tries to kill Corvus, though there is a twist as he isn't actually mortally wounded up until his attempt.
  • Don't Create a Martyr: Cassia uses this trope to prevent Corvus from having Milo and Atticus killed by archers, saying that popular gladiators being killed in such a way would cause Pompeiians to upstart a revolution, and it would cause serious damage to the senator's reputation in Rome.
  • Doomed Home Town: Duh!
    • Also, Milo's hometown. Everyone is executed in the opening scene.
  • Downer Beginning: The movie starts with Milo's village being ransacked and his people being killed.
  • Downer Ending: Fire and ash fall, everyone dies.
  • Dual Wielding: Several fighters dual-wield swords on occasion, Milo and Corvus among them. And of course there are plenty of Roman legionnaires fighting with sword and shield.
  • Dull Surprise: Milo - and by extension his actor - isn't exactly big on displaying emotions; not even when a freaking volcano explodes only a couple kilometers away. The only times his face shows any reaction at all (aside from pain during combat) is when he sees Cassia. A benevolent reading might chalk it up to the trauma he experienced as a child and that just kept torturing him ever since.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: Milo and Cassia manage to get out of the city, but can't escape the pyroclastic flow. The only living thing that might have survived is the horse they were riding.
  • Evil Wears Black: Proculus and his elite guard wear black lorica segmentata armor to leave no doubts as to who's the bad guy in town. Corvus dons one as well once he stops pretending to be a benefector to Cassia and her family.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Milo, Cassia and Atticus. Also, Atticus gives Proculus a lesson in what gladiators do NOT do.
  • Fat Bastard: Subverted with Graecus. He owns the gladiator slaves and buys his way into being one of the only people on an escaping ship, but he's actually one of the smarter characters in the movie; he knows to treat the slaves well because they're a source of income, he's the first to notice the coliseum's shaky state and warns Severus about it, and he's also the first to consider leaving town for a few days. Not that it saves him.
  • Female Gaze: Milo spends most of the first and second acts with most (or all) of his chest out in the open.
    • The scene in which the gladiators are lined up in front of Pompeii's female nobility is this In-Universe.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Milo and Atticus start off as gladiators who are going to fight in a duel to death, but eventually become friends after saving each other in a coliseum battle.
  • First and Last Kiss: Milo and Cassia share one just as the ash cloud engulfs them.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Vesuvius is going to erupt, and Pompeii is going to be destroyed. The only question is who is going to survive. The answer is: no one.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: During the Chariot Race, Cassia frees herself from a chain by picking up the lock with a splinter torn from the chariot's platform.
  • The Heavy: Mount Vesuvius is the true Big Bad, but Senator Corvus serves as a more tangible nemesis that Milo can (figuratively and literally) cross swords with.
  • The Hero Dies: Milo ends up biting it in the last eight minutes of the movie.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Proculus gets done in by a mortally wounded Atticus, who drives Proculus' broken sword into his neck.
    Atticus: Let's see if a Roman can die the equal of a gladiator... Gladiators do not beg!
  • I Die Free: Atticus says this as the pyroclastic flow hits him.
  • Instant Sedation: Cassia loses consciousness shortly after a shack in which she's locked up catches on fire.
  • Invincible Hero: Through no readily explained reason, Milo is an absolute stunning fighter with unlimited amounts of stamina, fighting ability and pain tolerance. For example, the day before he has to engage in the fight of his life, he endures 15 lashes without even calling out, let alone losing consciousness. Afterwards the whip lashes are treated as a minor inconvenience, and he's able to outfight everyone the next day without any problems (even put on armor and slapped on the back without reacting). In real life, he would need a month to recover at the very least (if he survived at all). Instead he goes on to fight many, many battles against perfectly healthy opponents and he easily defeats them all, one after another. The best explanation given is that he was descended from the "horse clan," but that was 17 years ago, and we didn't even see him have any training.
  • Jerkass: There's quite a lot, but Corvus just takes it up to eleven.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Aurelia urges her husband to kill Corvus when the latter lies down, seemingly unconscious.
  • Karmic Death: Milo and Cassia die instantly from thermal shock and Atticus looks like he went out the same way. Corvus doesn't suffer such a mercy and dies screaming in agony as the pyroclastic flow burns him alive. Seems the volcano didn't like him either.
  • Large Ham: Kiefer Sutherland really wants us to know he's the bad guy.
  • Last Of His Tribe: Milo is the Sole Survivor of his Celtic horse tribe, which Corvus had slaughtered.
  • "London, England" Syndrome: A Roman version with 'Londinium, Capital of Britannia'.
  • Made a Slave: Milo ends up being enslaved at the very beginning of the movie.
  • Male Gaze: Cassia and Ariadne are granted cleavage and leg shots towards the end of the movie.
  • Mama Bear: Aurelia would want to keep her daughter Cassia safe from Senator Corvus' advances as soon as Cassia's uneasiness becomes clear to her, but the senator's political high ground makes her unable to do anything against him. After Vesuvius's eruption has began, she urges Severus to kill the seemingly unconscious Corvus.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": All hell breaks loose when Vesuvius erupts.
  • Men Are Tough: Multiple examples of muscle advantage are shown, such as a bunch of men putting a carriage back on the road, kidnapping of a woman and males having battle advantage over female warriors.
  • Mercy Kill: Milo puts Cassia's horse out of its misery. With a Neck Snap, of all things.
  • Money Is Not Power: Averted. Graecus is able to buy passage on board a ship fleeing the volcano. Not that it does him any good.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Milo. Both In-Universe and out.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: Inverted with Milo and Corvus.
  • Older Sidekick: Atticus, though he is more of The Lancer than an actual sidekick.
  • Outrun The Pyroclastic Flow: Initially, but it turns out to be subverted. Milo and Cassia try to outrace the ash cloud, but eventually realize that they can't and they release the horse so that the animal has a better chance of survival and Face Death with Dignity.
  • Parental Abandonment: Milo, courtesy of Senator Corvus. Later Cassia, thanks to the volcanic eruption (her mom) and, again, Senator Corvus (her dad).
  • The Place: Except the prologue, the events of the film takes place in the titular city.
  • Recycled INSPACE: It's Titanic... BUT WITH A VOLCANO! Or, Dante's Peak... BUT WITH VESUVIUS!
  • Retirony: Vesuvius erupts on the last day of Atticus's slavery. (Not that they were actually going to let him live anyway...)
  • Rule of Cool: Admitted by the production staff. They knew volcanic bombs don't actually look like meteors and don't fly that far from the volcano, but it looked cool.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Senator Corvus makes one to Cassia in the amphitheatre scene: if she doesn't agree to marry him, he will inform Emperor Titus of supposed treason from her parents' part, which would lead to them being hanged.
  • Scenery Porn: Ancient Pompeii does look very impressive in this movie, especially the arena and the villa.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Atticus and Milo are about to fight in the arena. Atticus fights for freedom, Milo fights for his own survival and a chance for revenge on the monster who massacred his home. There isn't any way both of them are leaving alive. And then their match is turned into a re-enactment of that same slaughter. Only for Mt. Vesuvius to erupt... and both die free men, with Cassia in Milo's arms.
  • Shown Their Work: To give them their due, the people making this film did tons of research to make the eruption of Vesuvius look as realistic as possible... but also admit that they added the fireballs so it would look cooler.
  • Smug Snake: Senator Corvus.
  • Sole Survivor: Milo to his tribe until the end of the film. Presumably, the horse he and Cassia were riding towards the end made it out alive.
  • Spoiler Cover: The film's poster shows the movie's last scene.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Cassia's mother Aurelia, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, towers over all the female characters and stands as tall as most of the males except Atticus and Proculus.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Both Atticus and Proculus stand above 6 feet and are prone to snarky comments (especially the former).
  • Tempting Fate: Severus (no, not that one) refuses to postpone the gladiator games after seeing cracks beneath the amphitheater, saying that the structure has withstood earthquakes for a century.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Milo kills at least one opponent by throwing his sword into the latter's chest. The victim's brother is not amused.
  • Together in Death: Aurelia and Severus, and Milo and Cassia at the end.
  • The Queen's Latin: Almost everyone speaks with a British accent. Exceptions include Atticus for some reason, but this is perhaps explained by the fact that despite having an Estuary accent in real life, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje always performs with a Nigerian accent. Slightly odder is Carrie-Anne Moss, who doesn't even attempt an English accent, and uses her own Canadian accent — which is quite jarring.
  • Villainous Crush: Senator Corvus on Cassia.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Mercy is begged by Bellator as the gladiators he cruelly abused beat him to death, Proculus right before Atticus impales his neck with Proculus' own cut sword and the chained Corvus as Milo and Cassia leave him to the mercy of Vesuvius.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Gladiator battles feature heavily into the story, so naturally there're a lot of muscular, half-naked men to admire. Both male protagonists spend much of their screentime showing lots of skin under their light armor.
  • Women Are Delicate: Ariadne is unable to free Cassia from the shack until a male hero appears.
  • You Killed My Father: You Killed My Parents...and burned my village to the ground.