Pompeii – Movie Discussion

If you took the Gladiator storyline, the color scheme and feel of 300, and the love story and true epic destruction of Titanic and threw them all together, you would have Pompeii—only it’s not a sinking ship that ensures everyone’s destruction; it’s a volcano.  That’s not to say it’s wasn’t good as far as entertainment goes.  I enjoyed (largely, but not without reservation) much of its source material—and it worked well all put together.  (I will say—it did follow those things AWFULLY closely, even exactly at points—if I was a teacher, and that movie was a paper a student wrote, I would probably accuse that student of plagiarism.  BUT—that’s not tot say that it wasn’t enjoyable.)  It was tragic, and I liked the characters, but surprisingly, it wasn’t a tear jerker – at all.  I didn’t catch anyone crying in the end.  Whether that was well-done or a miss, I can’t say, but personally, I was glad. 

A Few Concepts in Pompeii worth discussing:

As a child, Milo witnessed the slaughter of his village and his parents.  I cannot imagine witnessing something like that myself, much less a young child.  I was struck by the gruesome things so many children around the world are forced to witness, forced to endure.  Milo was then sold into slavery (and eventually forced to fight as a gladiator)—also a reality for so many children throughout the world, whether through sex trafficking, sweat shops, or forced military like the Lord’s Resistance Army.  It’s not just in other countries, either.  Just this past week, I heard multiple tales of horrific abuse that people, friends of mine, were forced to witness and/or endure as children.  Things they have never recovered from.  Are we so safe in our bubble that we miss what’s going on around us?  How can we help?  No kid should have to watch the slaughter of his people; no kid should be sold into slavery; no kid should suffer abuse— and yet it happens.

  • How did you respond to the opening scenes when Milo watched as his parents and village were slaughtered?  How did it make you feel?  What did you think about?
  • Did you have to endure unthinkable horrors as a child yourself?
  • What can you do?  To raise awareness (maybe you need to raise yours?!)?  To help?  What organizations do you know of that are trying to either stop the abuses, or help the victims?


In the ancient Roman culture, they believed in a lot of gods—gods that were imperfect, often entitled, emotional and insecure beings (just like man) with exorbitant powers.  So, when the mountain began to erupt, the question immediately on everyone’s lips was whether or not the gods were angry.  Milo thought that maybe the gods were “on his side” and were doing it to revenge his parents’ deaths.  Still others wondered if there were gods at all—surely not if such things were happening.  We see similar responses when tragedy and natural disasters strike.  Is God angry?  Are we being punished?   Is God really all powerful, and if so, why would He allow this?  Or maybe God doesn’t exist at all?

  • How do you respond when tragedy strikes?  Does it change your opinion of God?
  • How do you answer the question of why bad things happen to good people?
  • How do you feel when people assume that because something bad is happening, you must deserve it in some way?  (Did you know this was what happened in the book of Job?  His friends wrongly assumed that Job somehow deserved all the bad things that happened to him.)
  • Do circumstances determine your opinion of God, or does God determine your view of circumstances?
  • How do Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose;” and Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for the good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” apply to this topic?

My favorite little nugget from this movie, however, has to do with a horse.  Not, actually, because of the horse though, but because of what happens and because of the message.  Cassia is returning home in a horse drawn carriage that hits a rut in the road.  As it happens, one of the horses gets hurt (it appears he’s broken something).  He’s on the ground, in pain.  Milo offers to help.  He examines the horse, helps ease the pain and suffering, and then in a snap, he breaks the horse’s neck.  Of course, everyone was shocked and appalled.  How could he do such a thing?

Cassia alone, however, had a different reaction.  She was amazed at his strength—not his physical strength, but his emotional strength.  She realized that he was doing the kindest thing possible for the horse.  It was the only way.  The horse wouldn’t have survived the injury and it would be cruel to prolong his suffering.  Milo, in his great love and respect for the horse, eased its pain and gently ended its suffering.  It was kind for the horse, but Cassia recognized the strength of character and will that Milo had to possess to do it.

Milo was misjudged by most.  He was criticized, told he was barbaric and cruel, when he was doing the most humane thing possible.  (It was ironic, really.  The criticisms came from his captors, themselves the barbarians, forcing him to fight other men to the death in the arena.)  But this is how it is.  So often, the thing that seems harsh or cruel is actually the kindest, gentlest, most loving thing to do.   And sometimes we are Milo, sometimes we are the horse.  Sometimes we are the ones having to make the hard call—a parent having to discipline their child, a friend having to confront someone with the truth, a doctor, having to split a person open in order to help them heal…  And sometimes we are on the receiving end, having to trust that the person confronting us or telling us no, or operating or disciplining us… is actually  trustworthy and acting on our behalf and doing the most loving, kindest , gentlest thing possible.  Harsh for the moment, perhaps, but better for our overall wellbeing.

It happens in our earthly relationships, but it happens far more in our relationship with God.  With God, we are always on the receiving end.  We are always receiving His kindness, His love, His blessings…  It’s just that sometimes those look like what they are, and sometimes they look a lot like Milo killing that horse.  What do we do when they look the latter?  Do we react like most of the bystanders, accusing God, wondering how He could be so cruel and barbaric?  Or do we react like Cassia, trusting in His goodness, understanding that it’s for our good?  “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away,”[1] and He does both out of His love and kindness for us.  He is love.  He cannot act contrary to love, nor can he do less than love.  That is true, but the question remains if we can trust it when circumstances seem to belie the truth.

  • How did you respond when he broke the horse’s neck?
  • Why do you think Cassia trusted Milo?
  • Have you ever had to do the hard thing, like Milo did?  Were you doing it because it was the kind and loving thing to do?  How did others respond?
  • How do you respond when you are the horse (so to speak)?  How do you handle it when you are the recipient of something which seems harsh—especially when it’s from the hand of God?  Do you blame God, or are you able to trust that He is working for your good, blessing you with his love and tender mercies, even in the midst of your circumstances?

Click here to read quotes from Pompeii.


[1] Job 1:21