20,000 Leagues Under The Sea - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Reviews

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Super Reviewer
July 3, 2013
Probably the best adaptation of Jules Verne's classic undersea tale ever made, with probably the best casting and performance of 'Captain Nemo' ever also. I can also go further and say this is probably the best live action Disney film ever as well, in the top five for sure.

The plot is actually kinda loose really, there isn't really any definitive plan or agenda here, its merely Nemo cruising the ocean depths enjoying his freedom from civilisation. The main angle is Nemo used to be a prisoner on the island penal colony or 'Rura Penthe' (Star Trek!!) and managed to escape with fellow prisoners whom now make up his crew.

Nemo thusly spends his time sinking ships that leave that island mainly because they carry arms and ammo for war. That's about it really, Nemo dislikes landlubbers, the people from this island oh and they killed his wife and child too when trying to unlock the secrets of his work. The only things I'm not sure of in this adaptation is where exactly does Nemo come from, where is this island suppose to be? why are there prisoners there? which wars does Nemo refer to?...the backstory isn't very clear.

We know from the original novel that Nemo seems to be from India, the kingdom of Mysore, and his family were killed by the ruling British Empire. In this film Nemo is portrayed as a European which inturn renders the backstory a little off as we don't really find out what has happened to him previously, the film lacks proper explanation as I mention above. This is really the only downside to the whole film, everything else is reasonably accurate give or take, the finale has been changed.

What's so enjoyable about this film are the visuals on display, the Nautilus design here is a piece of cinematic history. That strange pointed shell-like shape with fins, a big circular viewing window and that classic bug-eyed design for the main cockpit/helm section which breaks the waters surface. I loved the Nautilus and its interior (complete with spooky organ...essence of 'Phantom' much?) and I also always loved that steampunk-ish design for the deep sea diving suits (obviously unintended at the time). In fact everything to do with Nemo's craft, its interior and his equipment has that wonderful blend of Hammer horror and steampunk, right down to the muted dull colours and that heavy riveted steel appearance. Heck even the skiff has its own lovely design, the way it slotted into the Nautilus.

Lets be honest here all the visuals on display throughout the film are gorgeous, even the models are well animated and nicely shot. Large scale sets and props look good, especially close ups of the Nautilus topside, she also looks great gliding through the murky depths and submerging...just like a sea monster. The main highlight of course must be the giant squid attack, everybody knows of this famous encounter surely. What amazed me is this sequence still holds up today! it looks great rubbery tentacles aside. The sight of that snapping maw as Nemo's crew battle the beast amidst a terrible sea storm is sheer joygasm from start to finish. Any monster fan will appreciate how awesome this sequence is, even the wide shots showing the entire squid latched onto the Nautiluses hull underwater looks great, no it doesn't look like 'Stingray'...not too much.

Lastly how can I not mention the cast...oh my, you don't get line ups like this anymore. James Mason and his voice totally kill in this role, its one of the roles he is most fondly remembered for and rightly so. Personally I don't like how grumpy, stern and militaristic Nemo is portrayed here, whether that is Mason or from the novel I don't know but he always did intimidate me with his gruff demeanor, but that's good acting right there isn't it.

Along for the ride is cocky sailor Kirk Douglas who again never really sat well with me here. I think he over acts and is too intense, I don't think he fit the role either with his American accent. Saying 'mate' or attempting to say it in an English regional accent doesn't quite cover it for me hehe. Lukas and his Eastern Euro accent, like Mason, is a joy to listen to, he makes the perfect upper class professor type (should of done more horror with his Vincent Price-like looks), whilst Lorre adds a touch of humour and his own quirky vocal tonnes. On the whole despite how epic this cast is I do believe most were miscast with the slight exception of Mason (even though Nemo isn't suppose to be European).

I remember this fondly from my childhood and it still works well to this day, a few small minor gripes aside (and the miscasting) the film nigh on perfect. I only wish they could of included some stuff from the novel such as visiting the lost city of Atlantis and maybe a few more brushes with some creatures of the deep. A visual masterpiece in fantasy methinks, and considering this was made in 54 that ain't bad...James Mason + smoking jacket = awesomeness right there.
Super Reviewer
September 14, 2010
I love Douglas and I love Lorre, it's always cool to see actors you love, but this movie was also exciting and fun, I really liked it.
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2010
The ultimate Jules Verne experience. Everything from the film-making to the acting is perfect. It brings the very demented and fantastical elements of Verne's novel into reality. Kirk Douglas and James Mason are a great team and deliver some great dynamics. The story is not a word for word translation, but it captures the tone perfectly and I almost think it is the best it can possibly be on screen.
Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2009
Disney`s version of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA is rightly remembered for the classic scene featuring the giant squid (which was an inspiration for Michael Crichton Sphere novel) , but it should be remembered for more than that . Captain Nemo is a wonderfully written anti-hero who`s what would be described nowadays as an environmentalist , but don`t dare confuse him with being some sort of yogurt knitting tree hugger because this is a man waging a violent crusade against warmongers and anyone else he sees fit to exterminate . It`s a really intriguing character study and Nemo is played superbly by James Mason . Compare Mason`s performance as Nemo to that of Steven Seagal`s role as ecowarrior Forrest Taft in ON DEADLY GROUND . Done so ? A laughable contrast isn`t it . Kirk Douglas may disappoint as Ned Land but his real function is to act as a physical square jawed hero alongside the academic and somewhat ambigious Professor Arronnax.

I also appreciated the fact that Disney resisted the temptation to invent a child character in order to make the film appeal to children more by way of audience identification , nor is there any sort of mawkish sentiment or frivolity that`s spoiled many a Disney film . In fact this is such an exciting thoughtful adventure if it wasn`t for the presence of a seal I wouldn`t have believed it was a Disney film .

Did I mention there`s a great battle with a giant squid ?
Super Reviewer
August 5, 2007
Excellent effects for its time and a pretty dark tone for the film.
Super Reviewer
December 8, 2009
Great Classic
Super Reviewer
March 26, 2007
How can you not love Kirk Douglas and a singing seal?
Super Reviewer
½ October 23, 2007
Been a super long time since I've seen it, but I do love the whale of a tale song.
Super Reviewer
½ July 7, 2007
A grand adventure with Kirk Douglas held hostage on misguided Captain Nemo's (James Mason) spectacular Natilus submarine. They fight a giant squid and visit a secret island. Kirk Douglas has time to sing a silly song throughout all of this. There's adventure, but Kirk Douglas' getup seems a bit fruity. Nice set design of the Natilus interior. The squid is worth seeing.
Super Reviewer
½ March 9, 2007
Authentically capturing the spirit of Jules Verne with some nice art deco production design and moral ambiguity, but the obvious drawback is that it all feels very dated. The story is also rather episodic and it's too self -important and po-faced but it's an interesting blast from the past.
Super Reviewer
January 18, 2007
i loved this as a kid, a classic
Super Reviewer
½ December 28, 2006
A good little adventure.
Super Reviewer
½ April 20, 2014
Disney brings Jules Verne's literary classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to life in this "whale of a tale." After several naval ships are attacked in the South Seas by a mysterious sea creature, a leading scientist is send to investigate; but he finds something far more disturbing when his ship capsizes and he's rescued by Captain Nemo, a madman whose genius has the power to save the world...or destroy it. The special effects are pretty good (for the time), particularly the model work and underwater sequences. The music is also quite effective, especially at creating an atmospheric tone. Still, the storytelling is weak and ambiguous. Yet despite its flaws, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea holds up as an exciting high-seas adventure.
Super Reviewer
January 29, 2013
Douglas and Mason are fantastic in this still glorious adaptation of the Jules Verne novel. The filming is absolutely incredible for its time and what a fabulously squidy ending!
Super Reviewer
November 4, 2007
I didn't care for this movie as a child... I thought it was too slow. But I saw it again recently and I am able to appreciate it better.
Super Reviewer
February 20, 2010
Walt Disney's classic epic version of Jules Verne's nautical tale with Kirk Douglas in a impressive and charismatic performance as the robust harpooner Ned Land, who along with two other shipwrecked survivors, a scientist Professor Aronnax and his apprentice Conseli, played beautifully by Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre are taken captive by the mysterious Captain Nemo, brilliantly portrayed by James Mason and are plunged into a series of incredible events aboard Nemo's cosmic-powered submarine the Nautilus, a technological self-sustaining wonder that gives Nemo compete mastery of the seven seas circa 1868. Wavering between genius and madness, Nemo has launched a deadly crusade across the oceans of the world to destroy all ships of war. The film is superbly directed by Richard Fleischer it was Disney's first live-action film and the most expensive film ever produced at the time. It has memorable action scenes, especially the battle between Nemo and his men against a monstrous giant squid. Magnificent Oscar winning visual effects by Peter Ellenshaw and Ralph Hammeras and gorgeous Oscar winning art direction by John Meehan and Emile Kuri and fabulous original score by Paul Smith, a truly breathtaking achievement in every respect. Highly Recommended. Special Note: Around the time that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was released the United States Navy launched it's first nuclear submarine, as a tribute to Julies Verne, they named the ship the "Nautilus". Walt Disney could not have gotten better publicity if it paid for it. The film went on to become a huge hit with the critics and a box office sensation. Highly Recommended.
Super Reviewer
June 10, 2011
an amazing visual underwater adventure for disney fans. A
Super Reviewer
April 28, 2009
A lot smarter than I was expecting though it does wander aimlessly around a bit. Nemo is the star.
Super Reviewer
½ March 20, 2008
A surprisingly entertaining film. Kirk Douglas kind of annoyed me.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2007
It's one heck of a great ride, but the effects don't cover up the threadbare story.
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