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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Historical Tidbit / Movie Review: Pompeii

So this past week I finally got around to watching the film, Pompeii, which I've been wanting to see for awhile. Because it's based on a true event, I thought I'd combine the review with a historical tidbit. I'll do the tidbit first--the truth behind Pompeii's history--and the movie review will be below.

Pompeii Forum and Vesuvius in distance. (Source)
Pompeii was a city/town near modern-day Naples. It sat roughly 8 miles from the base of Mount Vesuvius. On August 24, of 79 A.D., the volcano erupted, famously killing most of Pompeii's 20,000 residents by covering them in 13-25 feet of ash. Reports of people still lying in their beds and bread still baking in their ovens are famous facts surrounding this ancient tragedy. No one could understand why the people didn't run or how they wouldn't have understood that the volcano was erupting.

Plaster casts of victims where they fell.
In 2010, a multi-disciplinary report found that it was probably heat, rather than ash suffocation that killed the residents. Only six miles from the volcano's vent, residents were exposed to temperatures of 485+ degrees Fahrenheit, which would have caused instant death, even to those sheltered in buildings. They were then covered in 25 layers of tephra (fragmental material produced by the eruption) which kept out moisture and the elements, aiding preservation.

Plaster was put between layers of ash so that when it fell away, the forms and positions of bodies and structures would be preserved, even if the ash couldn't be.

Today, Pompei is a major tourist attraction, and has been since it's rediscovery in the mid-1700s. Unfortunately, conservation has been difficult, and while only 2/3 of the city has been excavated, the portion that is, is falling into ruin. In 2010, the House of Gladiators collapsed, probably due to neglect. 

(For more info, check out this source.)

Movie Review: Pompeii

Plot: Pompeii is the story of Milo, a young boy who watches his parents and their tribe be butchered, before he himself is captured and sold into slavery. He grows up to be a gladiator and eventually makes his way to Pompeii, not long before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. While there, he meets a young noble woman, Cassia, and the two of them make eyes at one another. Meanwhile, the man who killed his mother and oversaw the deaths of his tribe is now a Roman senator, Corvus, and he, too, has come to Pompeii, seeking Cassia's hand in marriage. Ah, Roman drama.

Actors: Kit Harrington (Jon Snow of Game of Thrones) plays his role well. Mostly he's swoon-worthy eye candy, but I thought he did a good job. Same with Emily Browning, who plays Cassia. Kiefer Sutherland plays Corvus with a weasely air, complete with high-pitched, nasal voice. Quite the opposite of Jack Bauer. Carrie-Ann Moss, Jessica Lucas and Jared Harris all make appearances as well. So, basically there are no A-listers in this film, but I enjoyed all the performances anyway.

The Eruption: The drama is all focused on the forbidden love story, the evil manipulations of Corvus, and a friendship Milo strikes up with fellow gladiator, Atticus, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Echo from Lost. Love him!) But in the background, the earth keeps quaking, more than usual, and the citizens of Pompei dismiss it as the normal rumblings of the mountain or the talking of the gods. The special affects when the volcano starts to vomit and the weather really freaks out are cool, but not astounding. Still, they got their point across. 

Ending: As you might expect, it's not entirely happy, but it's poignant. I especially loved the ending concerning Atticus, and it serves as a tragic, mostly unrequited (cut short due to the impending tragedy) love story between people who just never saw the danger coming and had no chance to outrun it.

Overall: As I said, neither the effects or the acting will probably win any awards, but I still liked it overall. It was a good story and a great depiction of what probably happened. I'd totally watch it again. It didn't make me think any super-deep thoughts but, as a girl, I was plenty happy chilling with my sisters and staring at Kit Harrington in a gladiator outfit for two hours. With a six pack. While riding a white horse. Yeah, it was that kind of film. :D

Check out the trailer below:

Has anyone else seen Pompei? What do you think of this ancient mystery/tragedy?


  1. This is a terrifying tragedy Liesel, but I didn't know it got to 485+ degrees Fahrenheit! I'll have to watch this movie on DVD. Thanks for the review and I hope you have a marvelous day.

    1. Yeah, that's a crazy fact to learn, isn't it? Thanks for stopping by. Hope you like the film when you get around to it. :D

  2. I had my doubts about seeing this movie now i have something to look for this weekend, thanks for the review and the historical tidbit,

    1. Sure thing, Julian. Thanks so much for stopping by, Julian. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. :D