Sometime during the 23rd and 24th of August in the year 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius exploded with a series of earthquakes, toxic clouds of gas, and an estimated 10 billion tons of pumice, ash and earth. The eruption destroyed and buried a number of towns and cities located near the Gulf of Naples — including the most famous of all, Pompeii and some of its estimated 20,000 citizens. 

That event is now the backdrop for a film being helmed by Paul W.S. Anderson, director of the "Resident Evil" film franchise and the upcoming reboot of "The Three Musketeers." According to CinemaBlend, the project was originally in the hands of director Roman Polanski, who in 2007 was planning a $100 million disaster epic starring Orlando Bloom and Scarlett Johansson. Due to the writer's strike, he pulled out, but German production company Constantin Film ("Michael Clayton," "Resident Evil") has picked up the reins. 

Ready for the story? It's going to sound very familiar. From The Hollywood Reporter: 

Set in late summer 79 A.D., Pompeii revolves around the slave of a shipping tycoon who dreams of the day he can buy his freedom and marry his master's daughter. What the slave doesn't know is that she's already been promised to a corrupt Roman senator, while he's been sold to another owner.

Just when things can't get any worse, Mt. Vesuvius erupts with the power of 40 nuclear bombs. But the slave is trapped on a ship headed for Naples, separated from his love and best friend, a gladiator who is trapped in the city's coliseum. As fire and ash destroy the only world he's ever known, the slave is determined to get back and rescue them.

Other sites have quipped that "Pompeii" is simply "Titanic" with lava — and I have to agree, while not necessarily believing that's a bad thing. It's the rare gem ("Inception," "The Matrix," "Hot Tub Time Machine") that doesn't have some kind of formulaic Hollywood plot. Plus, with today's computer graphics, there's no doubt that Anderson and Co. will produce a stunning recreation of one of the world's most tragic natural disasters. It certainly worked for James Cameron. 

"Pompeii" is expected to start shooting in spring 2012 with a release sometime in 2013. 

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Volcano disaster film 'Pompeii' in development
This big budget Hollywood film will focus on the Roman city and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried it in 79 A.D.