Monday, August 29, 2011

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Remake) - Script Review

Post based on the remake script '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' by Craig Titley, July 2007, second draft. This is not the final film version!

The Verdict:
The script is a very entertaining, action-packed throw-back to the good ol’ adventure movies, with lacking characterization of the main protagonists and an unclear enemy force.

What's it about?
Ned Land is taken aboard the Nautilus and helps Captain Nemo retrieve the keys to an ancient civilization, which holds priceless treasures and the most dangerous weapon of the world.

Plot Summary [SPOILERS]:

India, 1857: Prince Dakkar tells his son about the wonderful mysteries of life, while his beautiful wife watches over them. Later that night the British general Anson will kill all three of them in cold blood.

10 years later: Rumors of a giant monster frightens the west. Under the lead of Commander Farragut an expedition is send out by the Royal Navy to kill the beast. The Commander forces Ned Land, the world-best harpooner, to join his forces or rot in prison for the rest of his life. Julie Fleischer, the only woman with more than one line in this script – and of course the love interest – smuggles herself aboard the ship, in the trunks of the marine life expert Professor Annorex, because her father was killed in the last attack by this monster. The ship sails to the last attack site of the beast and is promptly attacked by it. It turns out to be a huge iron submersible called Nautilus. The only survivors, Ned, Julie and the Professor, are taken aboard by Captain Nemo and stay there for weeks.

Nemo stole a map from Julie’s father, who was an archeologist, and tries to find a treasure in a Sumerian temple. While Nemo retrieves 6 ancient keys, Ned and Julie try to flee, but are attacked by Ottomans and have to return to the Nautilus.
Captain Nemo takes the ship back to it’s base, an old volcanic island in the middle of the ocean. Nemo reveals that he funded the work of Julie’s father all these years and was a good friend of him. Now he tries to finish his work of finding an ancient, highly-developed culture, but he has to find a missing 7th key. Coincidentally, Julie has the map of this key memorized and can lead Nemo there. But not before Ned and Julie make out for a bit…

The last key is hidden in the Antarctic ice and soon after Nemo, Ned, Julie and the Professor arrive there, they are attacked by General Anson, who wants the power of this ancient civilization to himself. The wounded Professor is left behind and now helps General Anson to stop Nemo. But he already has found the last key and takes course for the Lost World. Deep in the ruins of this civilization Nemo finds the Eye of Shiva, when bringing it back to the Nautilus, they are attacked by Giant Squid.

Now Captain Nemo reveals his true plan, he wants to use the power of the Eye to kill every human being as revenge for his killed family. He abandons Ned on the open sea and returns to his base. Ned follows them, while the Nautilus is overpowered by General Anson, who discovered and conquered Captain Nemo’s hide-out. To make matters worse, a new expedition under the command of Farragut also discovered the islands and starts bombarding it. While Ned fights and frees Julie, the Professor and Nemo, General Anson activates the Eye. It’s power summons a huge, roaring storm over the small island. General Anson tries to escape on an airship, but is killed by Captain Nemo. Farragut’s attack damaged the Nautilus, so Ned has to go out in a diving suit and de-activate the Eye of Shiva. He succeeds, but the Nautilus – with Captain Nemo aboard – falls down a deep chasm. The End.

Unclear enemy force: I feel, there a few too many antagonistic forces at play in this script. On the first page General Anson is introduced as the main evil force. But in the middle of the script, his ottoman henchman does all the work and General Anson is only in the background. After a while Farragut comes into the play, another British Navy officer, whose only job seems to be to be a disruptive factor for everyone else. I wonder why the script writer put him in? In the last part Nemo also develops evil traits, threatening to destroy the world, which makes sense, regarding his personal history. As motivation for the character it is interesting and a nice twist at the end, but the threat is never addressed after the attack by Anson and just vanishes. This feels shallow and lacking.
Lacking Characterization: Who is the main protagonist? It clearly should be Ned Land. He gets dragged aboard in his Call to Adventure, he has the love story. But he only follows Captain Nemo. Ned develops no agenda of his own and no motivation to do anything in this script. Captain Nemo on the other hand gets a tragic back-story, has a clearly defined goal to pursue, but along the way also seems to be evil. So, the script is split between two characters: Ned, the flat archetype of a movie hero and Captain Nemo, the tragic, but ultimately corrupted prince, pushing the story forward.

The Project:
The script is based on the classic science-fiction by Jules Vernes, published in 1870. There were a few movie adaptations starting in 1907 with a silent short film. The most famous adaptation, produced by Walt Disney, came out in 1954, but there are dozens of other movie and TV versions of this tale.
Titley (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) wrote this version of the script for Sam Raimi to produce, but nothing came of it. After McG had a go at it, David Fincher (Se7en, The Social Network) is now directing this Remake/Adaptation, to be released in 2013.

I am looking forward to your comments! Just choose 'Anonymous' and you don't to register just to write a comment. 

Thanks for reading,
- Tristan

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