An extremely loyal adaptation of Jules Verne's sci-fi classic, personally produced by Walt Disney and released as one of his studio's first live-action features. It's an uneven film. The effects work has aged very well and the subject matter seems ripe for the screen, but the pace is often ponderously slow and the story's prevailing themes are awfully complex and subdued for the intended audience. The scenery is wonderful, the moments of undersea exploration remain fresh and unique, the action scenes are mesmerizing (the crew's struggle against a giant squid amidst a blinding gale is particularly memorable) but it does love to belabor a point and lingers endlessly on hollow in-between moments where it often feels like there's more meat elsewhere on the bone.
Kirk Douglas probably draws the most eyeballs, thoroughly adorned in gaudy sailor gear and strumming merry melodies on a turtle shell guitar, but James Mason delivers the more interesting performance as the stern, enigmatic Captain Nemo; a bitter, broken man who still finds time to dream about the potential of a utopian society beneath the waves. I like the ideas simmering beneath the surface more than I like the film itself.
Synopsis: There's an undersea monster that has been taking the lives of sailors, and nobody can catch it! What could it be? It's soon discovered that the "monster" is actually a submarine, captained by a man named Nemo, who uses his submersible to isolate himself from society. Professor Aronnax, his assistant, Conseil, and their cocky harpooner, Ned, believe Captain Nemo to be crazy, and try to escape...only to put the ship and its entire crew in danger. Will the professor and his associates be able to safely emerge from the clutches of the insane Captain Nemo?Based on the book by Jules Verne.
The Good: This is the old-school kind of adventure they don't make anymore. Not only is it clean-cut and exciting, but there's nary a female character in sight. (While I don't mind a character of the fairer sex, I do mind when she becomes a Mary Sue, and starts outdoing all the males in everything, which happens far too often in modern entertainment.) While this film may be quite old, it stands the test of time quite well. It's easy to see why this continues to be revered, several decades after its release.
The Bad: The violence wasn't graphic or bloody, but some may find there to be a bit too much here, especially for a "G" film. Also, the scenes involving smoking or drinking were rather disturbing, especially when they get their pet seal to join in.
Conclusion: Believe it or not, I haven't read the original Jules Verne novel. (I know; what kind of bibliophile am I?) Still, I enjoyed this throwback to a time when films were meant to be enjoyed, not brooding with hidden meanings. If you're a fan of Disney's live-action productions, you should check this out.
I can easily imagine this would have been absolutely fantastic when it was filmed. A great script to start from, and - from 1954 - underwater colour video of turtles, stingrays and a lot more
But the reality is that it was just too old for me and the power of that awesomeness has gone.
But maybe retro sci-fi will appeal to you. Although I didn't enjoy it, you have to be impressed that they made this so so long ago. It's cinematographic history.
'20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' thoroughly took my interest, as I had a fun time with this despite a potentially hindering 127 minute run time. The premise is intriguing, while the cast are great. The special effects used are very impressive, also.
Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre are brilliant as Pierre and Conseil respectively, I really enjoyed them as a double act - they bring comedy too, especially Lorre. James Mason gives a strong performance as Capt Nemo, with Kirk Douglas also doing good things as Ned. I must say, Disney nailed the casting for their early live-action films.
The plot is actually James Bond-esque, it reminds me a lot of the franchise that would start eight years after this production's release. It's real entertaining following their voyage across the Pacific Ocean.
Go watch this if you can!
This Is a classic one of Disney's best....