First published way, way back in 1870, Jules Verne’s aquatic adventure novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has proven to possess massive staying power, being discovered anew by each successive generation of readers. Similarly, the book has long been a popular target for screen adaptations, with the first dating back to the earliest days of silent cinema. Perhaps the most well-known 20,000 Leagues movie came in 1954, fronted by Hollywood legends Kirk Douglas and James Mason and produced by Walt Disney himself. Now, over 60 years later, Disney is preparing to once again venture deep into the watery depths.
Entitled Captain Nemo, Disney’s new film is not a straight adaptation of the 20,000 Leagues book, and will instead serve as an origin story for the grizzled skipper. Interestingly enough, the studio had previously been developing an updated take on the 20,000 Leagues story with director David Fincher (Gone Girl), but the project ended up falling through due to creative differences. Despite some clear similarities, Captain Nemo is reportedly its own thing, and is not an extension of Fincher’s previous idea.
Speaking of directors, Disney has now hired a helmer for Captain Nemo in James Mangold (The Wolverine). Mangold won’t be heading under the sea for a while though, as he is currently doing prep work on Wolverine 3 with Hugh Jackman. In the meantime, writer Sebastian Gutierrez (Snakes on a Plane) is putting the finishing touches on the latest draft of Nemo’s script. Since the project remains in the early stages, no casting has been done yet, although one assumes the time to do so will be fairly soon.
Disney and Mangold won’t be the only ones taking Nemo’s Nautilus for a spin in the next few years, as Fox is working with fellow X-Men franchise vet Bryan Singer on a competing film set to go into production this fall. The two movies won’t be telling exactly the same tale though, as Singer’s film focuses on re-adapting the events of the book, and not spinning a new origin yarn for Nemo.
Despite several film adaptations, spin-offs, musicals, and even an animated version of 20,000 Leagues coming out in the ensuing decades, the shadow of Disney’s 1954 classic looms large over both Mangold and Singer’s modern re-imaginings. That said, arguably the biggest draw of an updated 20,000 Leagues is the current advances in visual effects. Today’s CGI has the potential to create an under sea world so breathtaking that audiences are left gasping in amazement, even before the inevitable giant squid shows up to wreak havoc on Nemo’s ship and crew. While good for their time, the older film’s visuals could definitely use a face lift.
Casting will also be crucial, as Douglas and Mason’s shoes will not be easy ones to fill. Perhaps the best route for Disney to take would be to cast similarly huge names from today’s A-list for the lead roles, such as a Will Smith, Tom Cruise, or even the aforementioned Hugh Jackman. On the other hand, the fact that Captain Nemo is an origin story may necessitate that the studio go with someone younger, such as a Channing Tatum or a Tom Hardy type.
Is the world ready for yet another trip 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? Hollywood sure better hope it is, otherwise they’re liable to have another couple of watery bombs on their hands the size of Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea – and nobody wants that.
Captain Nemo is still in pre-production and has no current release date.
Source: The Wrap