Classics Review: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

In 1870, author Jules Verne (Journey To The Center Of The Earth, Around The World In 80 Days) published a novel titled, “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.” The book is about Captain Nemo and his crew use a submarine to explore the sea and encounter a giant squid. Over the years, it became a hit among critics and readers alike. The book has been adapted numerous times. Most notably, Walt Disney’s iteration with Kirk Douglas, James Mason & Peter Lorre.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was released in 1954. (same year the original Godzilla and Seven Samurai came out) It received positive reviews from critics and movie goers alike.

I admit, I never heard or read 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. I first heard of Captain Nemo from the critically panned flop “The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen” based on Alan Moore’s legit comic book series. Upon watching a short video of Nostalgia Critic’s short review of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea as part of his series “Disneycember,” I thought about giving it a watch, because Alan Moore is my favorite comic book writer known for “Watchmen,” “V For Vendetta” & “Batman: The Killing Joke.”

I heard a ten part mini-series about Captain Nemo’s origin story is in the works. No confirmation when filming will start and which production company is producing this possible mini-series. Plans for a remake with David Fincher & James Mangold directing were scrapped. They moved on to direct other projects.

Today’s review contains no SPOILERS. I’m giving some of you a chance to read the book or see the film. Some minor SPOILERS present.

Float & Sink Elements

Float: Kirk Douglas, James Mason & Peter Lorre (the inspiration of Ren from Ren And Stimpy) all did a decent job for their respective performances.

Walt Disney served as a producer.

Cinematography never suffered from any technical issues throughout.

Set Pieces were manually built by set decorators creating interior designs of Nemo’s submarine.

The giant squid is arguably the best part everybody remembers. Before Computer Animation, Practical Effects were heavily involved. The effects team had to tone down lighting so the giant squid wouldn’t look fake. I’ll give this movie credit for inspiring The Kraken from “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” It was a pretty big deal back then, for Disney taking a huge gamble creating a giant squid puppet.

Seeing Nemo’s submarine blowing up ships makes me wanna replay “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.”

Speaking of pirates, Ned encounters cannibals. 53 years prior to Dead Man’s Chest. Every time I see a cannibal, I always quote Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka line… “That is called cannibalism my deal children and it’s frowned upon in most societies.” You think cannibals were shocking in a Disney movie? Wait til’ you see the controversial opening hanging scene from “Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End.

In the opening, Ned is accompanied with two tile named, Minnie & Daisy. A wink to Disney fans the ladies are named after Minnie Mouse & Daisy Duck.

There’s a scene with Ned offering Conseil to hit him. This predates that one scene from “Fight Club” with Brad Pitt who suggests Edward Norton to hit him.

Chemistry between Ned, Nemo & Conseil felt authentic. Their interactions move the story forward.

We learn a little bit about Nemo’s background. A prequel mini-series will uncover more about him.

Nemo’s motivation is to destroy anything that gets in his way, and collect specimens from the sea. He’s sick of humanity and war. His goal is to stay out of conflict. But problems come to him and his ship.

The late Charles Grodin appears as a drummer. Don’t believe me? Look him up.

Sink: The film can be a drab at times. Not enough fantastical creatures besides the giant squid, blowing up ships and Nemo’s submarine. Sorry, longtime Disney fans, as a modern movie goer, I have to give classics tough love when it comes to breaking down strengths and weaknesses.

Before the submarine shows up, Ned sings and play a guitar. Then, the crew sing-a-along. I don’t think that scene has any significant impact to the plot. It would’ve been effective if the submarine shows up while the crew sing. Change the mood from happy into an intense encounter. I also couldn’t stand Ned singing and playing his guitar with a seal.

Although a Disney film, it doesn’t seem like a movie kids will enjoy, but it keeps parents invested in the story. What I’m trying to say is in fact, the film can’t decide if it wants to be a fun or serious.

Some of the Special Effects are cheesy. Keep in mind, this was way before Computer Animation was invented. I’ll let this con slide, because the technology back then had limits.

The Final Verdict: B-

Despite a few blemishes, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is an average sci-fi fantasy adventure film. I’m not saying it’s horrendously bad. It still has good moments listed on the positive section. If you’re curious to see 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, stream it on Disney Plus.

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