Okay, last one of these for a while. Tomorrow we’ll move on to something else. Maybe something spooky.
For the sake of completeness, I watched this 1985 animated Australian version of 20,000 Leagues. Not expecting much, by the way. I had in mind that it would probably be one of those cheap knock-off videos you see at the grocery store. Not really though. I was pleasantly surprised.
There’s even a name actor in the voice cast. At least Tom Burlinson was a name actor back in the ’80s when he starred in The Man From Snowy River. He plays Ned Land here and it strikes me that the more famous Ned (Kirk Douglas) was also in Snowy River. Interesting coincidence, if it is a coincidence.
The animation, while not Disney-quality, isn’t too shabby either. At least the character designs are interesting. Nemo is kind of a fat guy, which is an interesting choice, but not invalid. I like how Aronnax and Conseil look like they come out of European comics, especially Conseil. Ned Land (a Canadian in the novel) is built like a lumberjack.
The Nautilus is a nice combination of the novel’s cigar-shaped vessel and Disney’s stylized steampunk version. There’s nothing fancy about the way people and things move in general and most of the acting is choppy, but there are some nice animation moments where boats bob and float like they should and characters move underwater like they should. The giant squid is also nicely done with tentacles that whip around dangerously.
It’s interesting that the squid fight is moved up in the story to pretty much right after Aronnax and Company board the Nautilus. The movie’s only about 50 minutes long, so the story is super compressed and that’s just about perfect. They keep the tension between Aronnax and Nemo as well as the conflict between Aronnax/Nemo and Ned. Conseil (as in the novel) pretty much agrees to whatever Aronnax wants to do. They also hit the most memorable parts of the novel like Ned’s adventure on the island, the sinking of the warship, the undersea funeral, and Atlantis, while skipping over the boring bits.
And for Atlantis, they punch it up a notch by adding giant crabs.
All in all, not shabby in the least. The opening framing sequence is too long, but it’s pretty to look at, so it’s not awful. There’s some slapstick for the kids, but most of it’s genuinely funny instead of irritating. The sound is snazzy too, especially with surround-sound. Any time the characters are on board the Nautilus there’s always background noise of clanking and humming as the ship goes about its work. It added a lot to the experience.
This would be a pretty cool introduction to the story for children. Not as cool as the Disney version, of course, but if time or attention spans are an issue (for you or for any kids in the audience), it’s an enjoyable substitute.
Usually by now I’d be feeling the urge to watch some horror movies, but I’m not. I’m still stuck on undersea adventure, so I’ve been watching a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea marathon. I’m about halfway through, so this and the next couple of posts will be about the three I’ve seen so far (not counting the Richard Crenna one that I saw back in August).
I had to start with the classic. Not because it’s classic, necessarily, but because it was the first one (not counting this one, which I’ve already reviewed), and that’s the kind of geek I am. In addition to looking at story choices, I also groove on noting influences and the Disney version influenced the crap out of all the rest of them.
As well it should. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it as much as I remember doing as a kid, but if anything, I liked it more. It’s not a faithful adaptation of the book, but as I’ve said before, that’s a good thing. The book sucks.
Of the five versions I’ve seen so far, Disney captures the steampunk quality the best. The Nautilus looks and feels like a real place and it’s a place you’d actually want to live in. It’s got the coolest ship design probably ever, including every spaceship I’ve ever seen. I’d rather have Disney’s Nautilus than the Millenium Falcon and that’s saying a lot.
James Mason as Nemo is also cool. He’s suave and – though creepy – very charismatic. He’s exactly the kind of guy who would build a ship like the Nautilus and who could inspire men to leave their old lives behind and sail her with him. Mason does a fantastic acting job too. When the Nautilus rams a military ship, the conflict on Nemo’s face as he beats the crap out of his pipe organ is powerful. I really believed that Nemo thought he was doing the right thing, but hated it at the same time.
When I talked about the Richard Crenna version, I praised it for introducing an interesting plot that wasn’t in the novel. The novel needed something to pull the story along and the Crenna 20,000 Leagues added a love-triangle between Nemo and Professor Aronnax’s daughter (who took the place of Aronnax’s servant Conseil in that version). It was a good move, but Disney doesn’t have to change the story that significantly to stay interesting.
They keep the manservant, let Peter Lorre play him, and focus on his alliance with Ned Land as the two scheme to escape the Nautilus. The conflict comes from Aronnax’s thinking he can convince Nemo to share his technological advances with the world, if only he has the time. Land and Conseil’s plans threaten Aronnax’s, so the three are constantly challenging each other as Nemo takes them into situation after dangerous situation. I enjoyed that conflict infinitely more than the passionless romance in Crenna’s version.
A huge part of the reason I liked the conflict was because Kirk Douglas is so damn charming. His Ned Land is rough and not that bright, but he knows what he wants and you can’t help but love the guy and that stupid “Whale of a Tale” song he’s always singing. He also has more chemistry with Nemo’s pet seal than, well, anyone did in the Crenna version. (Honestly, I liked the Crenna version at the time, but after seeing this one again, I pretty much hate it in comparison.)
This one’s got the giant squid fight over Crenna’s giant eel too. There’s no explosive harpoon is the Disney one, but they more than make up for it in tentacles and rain and just the sheer manliness of the battle. The special effects also hold up remarkably well. It’s obviously not a real squid, but it moves pretty naturally and is actually scary as it silently races up towards the Nautilus from the depths. It’s much more convincing than the crappy CGI beast in the Michael Caine version, which I’ll talk about later.
The movie ends a lot better than the book. In the book, there’s a whirlpool that sucks the Nautilus down and Verne totally cheats on how Aronnax and Company escape. One second they’re going down with the ship; the next they’re lying on a beach somewhere with no memory of how they got there. The movie finishes with a dramatic battle at Nemo’s island hideout and when the Nautilus and the Aronnax Group go to their separate fates, it’s all believable.
There were two TV versions of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea made in 1997. One starred Michael Caine as Nemo, Patrick Dempsey (Can’t Buy Me Love, Grey’s Anatomy) as Professor Aronnax, Bryan Brown (FX, Cocktail) as Ned Land, and Mia Sara (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) as someone who wasn’t in Jules Verne’s novel. I’m going to have to track that one down, because it’s easily the more interestingly cast of the two.
The one I saw stars Richard Crenna (the Rambo movies) as Prof. Aronnax and no one else I’ve ever heard of. That’s not to say that it’s a bad movie though. It’s certainly got its problems, but I was never bored, which is already a vast improvement over the novel.
Jules Verne’s book isn’t so much a story as it is a collection of short episodes about life on the Nautilus. It’s loosely tied together by events surrounding Nemo’s capture of Professor Aronnax, his servant/assistant Conseil, and a whaler named Ned Land, but the book leaves that mostly as a subplot and concentrates instead on describing the undersea wonders that Nemo shows Aronnax on their tour around the world. It’s more travelogue than novel and it pretty much sucks.
MOVIE SPOILERS BELOW
The Richard Crenna movie corrects that fault by turning Conseil into Aronnax’s daughter Sophie. (I wonder if they didn’t do something similar with Mia Sara in the Michael Caine version.) She’s still his assistant, but she adds an element of tension missing from the book by giving Nemo and Ned something else to fight over other than Ned’s whining about his freedom.
Sophie is convincingly torn in her affections for the two men. Ned is manly and charming, but he’s also a rogue and Sophie’s not sure she can trust him with her heart. She doesn’t really like Nemo, but he’s refined, wealthy, her dad likes him, and there’s a tragic aspect about him that seems to intrigue her.
The romantic triangle carries us through the story, so that scenes of Atlantis, a sea monster, and a shark attack while diving are all background to the drama. That’s exactly opposite of the novel’s approach and I liked it a lot.
I wish that the acting had been more exciting though. Ned’s the coolest character on the Nautilus and he spends most of the movie locked away so that he can’t get to Sophie.
Sophie’s a pretty generic heroine. I couldn’t figure out what everyone saw in her except that she’s pretty and they’re all sailors without a lot of women around. Nemo has some women on his crew, but he explains that they’re followers; not equals. So Sophie seems to win Nemo and Ned over by being the only available woman on ship. Not exactly the stuff of great love stories.
Nemo’s dull as a brick too. Ben Cross plays him really low key. He has moments of passion, but for the most part he’s so measured and careful that he’s charmless. Nemo ought to be cool. He ought to be romantic and dangerous. I didn’t hate Cross’ performance, but it makes me sad to think about what it could have been.
Crenna does okay, but with the focus on Nemo, Sophie, and Ned, Aronnax sort of gets left behind. He’s much more important in the novel where he has more power over Conseil and Ned, but in this version his role has mostly to do with his approval or disapproval of Sophie’s love life. And Sophie is such a strong, independent woman that her father’s opinion doesn’t really matter to her anyway.
A couple of other things that need to be mentioned in any review of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: the design of the Nautilus and the giant squid fight.
Like the plot, the Nautilus in this version doesn’t suck, but it could’ve been a whole lot better. It’s pretty much an oval with a ramming horn on the front and propellers on the back. It’s not ugly, but it’s not cool either. The Nautilus ought to look cool. But then, Cross’ Nemo isn’t the kind of guy to build a cool submarine. He’s way too reserved. (On the other hand, he did build laser guns for his crew to fight sharks with, so he’s got a cool side buried under all that stuffiness somewhere.)
The giant squid fight, disappointingly, doesn’t exist in this version. It’s replaced by a giant eel, which could have been cool if the CGI had been better. Still, getting away from it involves Ned going inside it’s mouth with dynamite strapped to a harpoon, so it’s still pretty awesome. It just would’ve been more awesome if there had also been tentacles.
Mr. P.B. Winterbottom is a villainous gentleman with a predilection for pies. Swiping the mysterious Cherry Chronoberry pie changed everything for our beloved Winterbottom… one bite made him more than an ordinary pie-grabbing humbug. That first taste changed him into something quite extraordinary, granting him the ability to break the rules of time. With these newfound time recording tricks up his cufflink, and with the help of his time clones, Winterbottom can now snatch pies with the greatest of ease. But on his journey to devour every pie, Winterbottom must mind the signs… the perils of being unstuck in time.
I was wondering the other day about who today’s Hollywood superstars are. With Tom Cruise all out of favor, who are the Harrison Fords and Bruce Willises of modern times? Russell Crowe maybe? Brad Pitt. Angelina Jolie.
I was also trying to figure out who the new action stars are. Who are today’s Schwarzeneggers and Stallones? Jason Statham, obviously. Maybe Matt Damon. And seeing stuff about Eagle Eye is making me wonder if Shia LaBeouf isn’t on his way to becoming the next blockbuster king. Part of me is rebelling against that idea, but I don’t know why. He was awesome in Crystal Skull.
It makes me wonder though. What’s the general consensus on Shia? Do we love him or are we tired of him already? And if I’m missing any other modern superstar actors or action stars, let me know that too. Indy pocket watches
Speaking of Indiana Jones, I think I’ve found my new timepiece. I love that airplane logo.
Staying on the subject of Indy, wouldn’t you like to play a game where he has to fight watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher? The correct answer is: No, you really wouldn’t. Turns out, it’s a lot more fun to think about than it is to actually play.
No word on whether it will include secret tunnels running below the Atlantic, but Alan Moore has some details about the next League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series starting at the end of the year from Top Shelf.
It’s as if we feel freed from the conventions of boys’ adventure comics, and so it’s a lot more atmospheric, it builds to a tremendously bloody climax, it’s a slow build. We’re thrilled with it. It’s got some songs in it, it’s a musical.
I think I’m going to miss the boys’ adventure angle, but we’ll see. Moore also says it’s going to be a three issue volume with each issue being 72 pages.
Includes Charles Middleton’s Ming cape from Flash Gordon (1936), a hydraulic velociraptor from Jurassic Park, Michael Keaton’s Batman costume, an original King Kong poster, and more. SCI FI Wire has the details.
I’m not enough of a fan to fork out 300 bucks for it, but dang that’s a nice statue. Real leather and fabric on the costume and everything. Not sure what the lasso’s made of, but it looks real too.
Scifi is dead; long live the Kings
One of the reasons io9 cites critics as saying why the science fiction genre is dead is that “SF is now real life.” To which I say, “Fine.” I’ve always been more interested in the fantasy elements of it anyway. Hard scifi bores the crap out of me. Hard scifi is inexcusably deficient in Wookiees, ray guns, and space princesses.
“In [the book's] timeline, we discover in the course of the 20th century that Mars (and Venus) are living worlds, with strangely humanoid inhabitants–[which is] confirmed by Soviet and American space probes in the early 1960s… The Mars of Crimson Kings is a dying but still habitable world, with the wreck of an ancient civilization that once ruled the entire planet under the Tollamune dynasty, when Earthlings were still cracking flints and fighting off cave bears.”
New Jack Ryan movies?
Not interested. The franchise has already been killed by the Affleck reboot. Trying to start over yet again is like making a copy of a copy, even if Sam Raimi isdirecting. Unless of course they get someone really cool to play Ryan, in which case I don’t care what the character’s name is, I’ll see it because it’s a spy movie with a cool actor.
But honestly, if they want to just toss a Tom Clancy name on their non-Clancy movies to increase audience recognition, they should make them Mr. Clark movies and let Ryan appear as a recurring, supporting character.
Steam Wars and Undead Backbrain
Robert Hood’s Undead Backbrain blog is fricking Awesome and you should be reading it. It would save me having to link to him every single day if you did, which is what it looks like I’ll be doing if his content stays as consistent as it has so far. He’s the one who turned me on to Automatons and that viking vs. aliens film.
Now though, it’s all about Steam Wars, a steampunk giant-monster project by the guy who did The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. Even if the film never gets made, it’s worth the post just to see the concept art.
Chuck news (and a little bit of Lost)
The writers of Chuck are taking advantage of their strike hiatus to tweak the show a little. According to TV Guide’s Michael Ausiello who attended the Chuck panel at Paley Fest, “‘The idea is to own the fact that we’ve been off the air for several months, so there’s a reset that’s going to happen,’ said (co-creator Josh) Schwartz of the second-season premiere, slated for September. ‘We’re going to bring in some fresh new characters, some new villains.’”
Lost producer Damon Lindelof moderated the panel and snuck in a bit of Lost news “by revealing the real reason the four-toed statue has yet to be seen again. After the monument first appeared ‘we got a note back from the network that said, “This is too weird,”‘ he explained. ‘I was like, “Do you watch the show? This is too weird?” Essentially, they said, “Could it be a six-toed statue?” I was like, “Someone explain to me why a six-toed statue is less weird than a four-toed statue?” And they’re still noodling on that.’”
I might change my mind once Battlestar comes back on and I start getting into it again, but right this second I need some convincing that the Caprica prequel series is going to be worth watching. It sort of sounds like Dynastyin space.
Rather than try to categorize new artists I’ve learned about by some sort of arbitrary art genre, I figured I’d just start a new category. To kick it off, the whimsical drawings of Dave Perillo.
Hey, Oscar Wilde, It’s Clobberin’ Time is an awesome site full of various artists interpreting their favourite literary figure/author/characters. I may have linked to it a long time ago in one of its other incarnations, but it’s certainly worth revisiting. It’s searchable by artist and subject now which makes it an engrossing place.