When the sea monster attacks, the crew gathers in the library for a conference with Nemo. The ship is listing heavily, so much so that the actors have to hang on to things as they struggle across the room to reach Nemo. However, the water in the library's aquarium is tilted as well (revealing that the set is actually perfectly level, but the camera has been tilted to imply the ship's list). See more »
I am a fan of Jules Verne and was introduced to his works via the films that came out in the 50's in 60's (wasn't everybody?) I was born in 1958 but the impact of Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" in 1954 followed in rapid succession by "Around the World in Eighty Days" in 1956, "From the Earth to the Moon" in 1958, "Journey to the Center of the Earth" in 1959, "The Mysterious Island" and "Master of the World" in 1961, and "Five Weeks in a Balloon" and Disney's "In Search of the Castaways" in 1962 played an important part of my youth. There have been other film adaptations of Jules Verne's stories since, but it is these earlier films that captured my imagination and set the standard for future adventure films. Since cinema and novels are two different mediums it is unfair to compare one to the other, especially with such visual temptations built into the storyline, but I suppose it is fair to compare one film version to another. What I look for in any remake (especially when the original is very good) is if the director and writer can add anything new...are they inspired by the original to add their own twist in the flavor of the author. This can be really fun in this type of film.
Recently, there was a TV remake of Melville's "Moby Dick" that was a virtual scene by scene retelling of the classic 1956 film starring Gregory Peck (which in turn was a remake of a 1930 film starring John Barrymore). The later two films were faithful to the novel whereas the earlier version changed the ending to be more upbeat. At least one could enjoy the first two films on their own merits (the lead performances of Peck and Barrymore were virtually night and day). As far as the TV "Moby Dick" went, there was very little reason to see it with regards to new storylines or character developments. The only curiosity was seeing Peck play the small role that Orson Welles played in the 1956 version. So I LOOK for variations, something new, a different way of looking at the story, or perhaps a part of the story that was not fleshed out previously. Imagination should go hand in hand with the name Jules Verne.
There have been sequels based on Verne's own Nemo sequel ("Mysterious Island"), "inspired" sequels ("Captain Nemo and the Underwater City"), futuristic versions ("Nautilus"), and even futuristic "inspired" versions ("The Black Hole"). I am such a fan of the genre that even a cheesy version will hold my attention for the mere fun of it (as fans, such as myself, of the different versions of Doyle's "The Lost World" do!)
In this case we have the first re-make of the original story of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" since Disney's 1954 classic (it had been filmed before as silent films in 1907 and 1916). Curiously a second 1997 TV version starring Michael Caine came out at the exact same time which confuses everything so let's consider that in an alternate Universe. I like this remake despite the fact that it seems to have a heavy influence from James Cameron's "Titanic," most notably the romance. But this is film entertainment and it seemed to add something...why not? The novel introduces us to Professor Aronnax and his young male assistant who go off in search of a sea monster attacking ships in the North Pacific. When Disney adapted the story they kept the gender of the assistant but aged him into a role suitable for actor Peter Lorre. This film keeps the age in tact but changes the gender...and relationship to the Professor (Richard Crenna), by introducing us to his beautiful daughter Sophie (played perfectly by the beautiful Julie Cox). At first she must pretend to be his young male assistant to even be allowed on board the USS Lincoln in search of the sea monster. Julie Cox in male drag could have passed for a teenaged Elijah Wood and there was a neat little look from handsome stud-sailor Ned Land (Paul Gross) to the Professor and the ship's captain when he seemed to be thinking "are you two crazy? This is a girl!." By the way, that was my exact reaction to Elijah Wood when I saw him in the remake of "Flipper!"
Unlike other film versions much more time is spent prior to the actual meeting of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus. We get a feel of the time period on board an ornate passenger ship (our first introduction to the Titanic influence) and on land. It isn't long before the Professor, his daughter, and sailor Ned Land (for those keeping track, Kirk Douglas in the Disney version) are thrown off the deck of the USS Lincoln from a ramming by Captain Nemo (Ben Cross) and his metallic "sea creature." The sets of the Nautilus are cold and grey with great iron bolts and the cold grey uniforms worn on board are reminiscent of 20th century Communist military uniforms. There is something very cold war Russian when Captain Nemo (with neatly trimmed beard) and his men stand atop the submarine staring off toward the oncoming American warship in a thick grey mist. Even Nemo's organ (an ornate pipe organ in the Disney film) is just a plain little organ. But there are rooms of incredible museum collections decorating the submarine, salvaged from shipwrecks that add the richness one would expect. Best addition of all is a series of large circular view ports that allow the actors to look out into the vast oceans. Ben Cross does a credible job as Nemo in this context, a bit cold, a bit distant, dangerous. He is at home among his jeweled possessions in the same way a shark is at home against colorful coral waiting for his prey. But he is also human, and his reasons for attacking ships has changed from the original novel to one of revenge. Despite all of this Nemo and the Professor become friends and the two plan to have young Sophie marry Nemo (a plot device lifted from 1969's "Captain Nemo and the Underwater City.") Nemo also wants Ned Land dead to end any speculation of a relationship between Ned and Sophie. On an expedition outside the submarine Nemo sets Ned up for certain death. Those plot devices along with a different look for the Nautilus and a brisk pace by the director were plenty to please me and become a welcome chapter in the Nemo world.
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