Watch 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- 1 hr 34 min
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a 1997 made-for-television movie based on the classic science fiction novel by the legendary French author Jules Verne, published in 1870. This particular adaptation is one of several film and TV versions and stars Richard Crenna as Professor Aronnax, Ben Cross as Captain Nemo, and Julie Cox as Sophie, offering a Victorian-era tale mixed with ahead-of-its-time technological marvels and timeless themes on the human condition, exploration, and the quest for knowledge.
The story unfolds when reports of a giant sea monster attacking ships in the Pacific Ocean capture headlines around the world. This prompts the United States government to organize an expedition to destroy the monstrous creature and ensure safe maritime travel. A revered marine biologist, Professor Pierre Aronnax, his faithful assistant Conseil, and a brash and experienced harpooner named Ned Land are recruited for this dangerous mission aboard the U.S. Navy ship, the Abraham Lincoln.
When the Abraham Lincoln encounters the alleged sea monster, the vessel is attacked, and several of its crew, including Professor Aronnax, Conseil, and Ned Land, find themselves thrown overboard. To their astonishment, they discover that what they thought was a beast is actually a revolutionary submarine named the Nautilus – far more advanced than any technology known at the time. This submarine becomes their new maritime home, governed by the enigmatic and brooding Captain Nemo.
Captain Nemo is a maverick intellectual and a man of science who has turned his back on the land he views as corrupt and warmongering. He has built the Nautilus as both a sanctuary and a vessel of vengeance, dedicating his life to exploration, scientific discovery, and, at times, violent retribution against the sovereign nations he despises. The Nautilus is like no ship Aronnax, Conseil, or Ned Land have ever seen – it's capable of diving deeper than any human has before, exploring the mysterious depths of the ocean, which serve as the true setting for much of the adventure.
Stuck on the Nautilus with no immediate hope of returning to dry land, the trio of castaways quickly becomes both guests and prisoners of Captain Nemo. Professor Aronnax is both intrigued and delighted by the seemingly boundless knowledge and advanced technologies at the Captain's disposal. His assistant Conseil remains stoic and dutiful, while Ned Land is wary and desperate to escape. The complex relationship between the trio and Captain Nemo forms the crux of this thrilling adventure, as they grapple with moral dilemmas, loyalty, and the very essence of human nature.
As they become entwined in Captain Nemo's world, they are introduced to marvels beyond their wildest imaginations. They experience the extraordinary sights of underwater forests, coral kingdoms, and the sunken ruins of lost civilizations. Alongside these wonders, there’s also a stark vision of humanity's propensity for destruction and the deep scars left on the world by colonial power and warfare.
Throughout their underwater journey, the crew of the Nautilus encounters various perils and the incredible wildlife of the deep ocean, providing moments of suspense and excitement. The film showcases the era’s steampunk aesthetics, blending Victorian industrial design with retro-futuristic gadgetry and submarines, which would later become a significant influence in the steampunk subgenre. This creative choice adds an interesting visual dimension to the story, differentiating it from other interpretations of Verne's work.
Furthermore, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea deals with the ethical implications of seeking knowledge at any cost and the impact of human actions on the environment. As the story progresses, Professor Aronnax is forced to confront the nature of obsession and the line between passion and madness, while the often antagonistic Ned Land provides a grounded, survival-focused counterpoint to the philosophical musings of Nemo and Aronnax.
The movie takes audiences on an exciting voyage that illuminates the wonders of the deep while posing existential questions about progress and isolation, loyalty and freedom, and the rights of individuals versus the common good. It’s an exploration not only of the unknown realms beneath the waves but also of the enigmatic depths of the human soul.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea presents a narrative steeped in adventure, rich in character development, and replete with the awe at the natural world that is characteristic of much of Verne’s work. It's a testament to the enduring appeal of the source material and remains a notable adaptation within the cannon of Jules Verne translations to screen.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a 1997 action movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 34 minutes. It has received mostly poor reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 5.0.