Pompeii to go up in smoke again on the big screen

10:36 AM, Feb 17, 2014   |    comments
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USA TODAY - The buried city of Pompeii is set to rise from the ashes.

Of course, it's a Hollywood urban redevelopment plan, so the ashes are digital and the revival will be short-lived.

But star Kiefer Sutherland says that Pompeii's big-screen, 3-D re-creation of the city's real-life destruction after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius would make the ancient Romans proud.

"It's been a long time since I did a movie this big in scope," Sutherland says of Pompeii, due Feb. 21. "There are amazing computer effects, but only a third of the set was green screen. The rest was huge props, big sets, elaborate costumes, which I love."

The film stars Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington as a slave racing to rescue his love, played by Emily Browning, before she marries an evil senator (Sutherland). But everyone's plans get sidetracked by Vesuvius, one of history's great natural disasters, whose eruption in 79 AD buried the town in 20 feet of ash and pumice and baked the Italian city in temperatures that exceeded 480 degrees.

Pompeii, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil), is hardly a documentary. But neither is it 300, Sutherland says of the 2007 historical thriller shot on computer-generated backgrounds.

"I loved that movie, but this isn't a fantastically stylized film," he says. "This is a look at a real society. They had plumbing, running water, culture. Pompeii was at the forefront of modern civilization."

Until Vesuvius wiped out the city and more than 16,000 residents of the area.

"It must have been like a nuclear war," Sutherland says of the decimation.

Despite a calamity thousands of years old, Sutherland says he sees modern-day parallels.

"Pompeii is unbelievably relevant," he says. "I've seen more natural disasters in the last five years than I have in my entire life. (The film) isn't a history lesson, but it raises real issues that I think are worth discussing. It could happen again."

(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)

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