30,000 LEAGUES

Hello my peeps! Lets check in on my Blockbuster clearance movie stack, shall we?

It's under the cat, I promise.

So this is a "modern day retelling" of the Jules Verne classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a public-domain novel that's fair game for anyone to use the characters and story for free. That could mean a big budget AAA Hollywood production, a television series from Russia, or in our case, a dirt-cheap Asylum cash-in calculated to make as much profit as humanly possible, regardless of the quality. Because you know what costs money? Having your cast...actually do stuff. Like fight off squids in an action set-piece, or scuba dive down to a sunken submarine and work to get in, or escape a burning ship by swimming through rough shark-infested seas.

No, no, it's far far cheaper to just have your actors...well, sit in chairs and read lines of dialogue and go back in post and insert shots of CGI ships and monsters and all that fun stuff for the cast to "react to". Dude says, "Hey, look at that crazy mechanical squid!" and we cut to an insert of a bottom-barrel CGI squid for three seconds. Repeat that over and over and over and you end up barely spending any money on anything. No stunts, no insurance premiums, no complicated CGI/live-action blending, just guys sitting in chairs looking off at screens that will later show VFX shots. Riveting stuff.

Nobody exert themselves, ok?

Not sure how I want to review this one, but maybe something non-lineral and focused on the characters and not the plot? Sure, why not?

We'll start with our villain, the infamous Captain Nemo. Much like in the novel, but transported into the "near future", our Nemo is a narcissistic, conniving, megalomaniac billionaire who is convinced humanity's future is under the sea. He has built the supersub Nautilus to facilitate this and is busy carving out an undersea empire by sinking ships and generally being a little bitch about everything. For some reason, they cast an actor who looks more like a junior high math teacher from rural Wisconsin than an Elon Musk-ian diabolical genius, which is kinda...deflating.

How many calories did he burn during the entire shoot? Maybe 20? He barely moved, even while monologuing about his evil plans.

Nemo needs your homework turned in by the end of class.

The Designated Hero is b-movie legend Lorenzo Lamas, playing a maverick US Navy officer who has built a Deep Sea Rescue sub that he's going to use to try and investigate why a warship was sunk (spoiler: it was Nemo). Shockingly, despite a lengthy career almost exclusively in late-night-cable b-movies, we at MMT have not reviewed a single Lamas film before today. Of course he's at the tail-end of his career by this movie, and he's put on some pounds and grown a very unflattering goatee, but he still has a ton of charisma and charm, even if he spends 95% of the movie sitting down. To be fair, he does has one action scene where he waves a prop pistol around and runs maybe ten feet.

Calories burnt during shoot: 315 and boy does he need a drink now.

The once great Lamas.

There are four other "good guys", might as well talk about them. Karen (not her real name, but her real personality) is also a Navy officer, but she's been given command of Lamas' sub against his wishes because...she's smart, maybe knows computers, or something? Karen is, perhaps unsurprising for this kind of movie, Lamas' bitter and jaded ex-wife and she's a real ballbuster. She's also...not exactly in Lorenzo Lamas' league, if you know what I mean, which is a refreshing (if questionable from a marketing standpoint) change of type from the usual female leads in these types of shitty b-movies.

Calories burnt: 42.8, mostly scrolling Amazon for a better fitting bra.

She's also like 25 years younger than Lamas.

There's another lady in the crew who helps with exposition and tapping on keyboards in the background tasks, I can't remember what her name was, sorry. She's strangely sexy, though I can't figure out why, maybe it's her mallrat haircut.

Calories burnt: It took 832 to get those mid-2000s bangs hairsprayed just right.

Hello, lass.

There's also a couple of dudes, starting with mindbogglingly handsome Foreign Guy. He's maybe killed? No, wait, that was the other guy I think. Another one of those movies where you could (and should) really cut about 50% of the ancillary characters out and focus more on developing the core of the cast.

Calories burnt: 9 billion making me question my sexuality.

His eyes, they pierce me!

There's also Asshole Guy, who came aboard with Karen and switches sides early because he's been drinking the Nemo kool-aid. He also looks like Tom Brady? This dude seems to be here simply so that Nemo has someone to spout expository dialogue to when the good guys are not in the room. I'm 75% sure he dies in the end.

Calories burnt: 12, it takes more energy to frown than to smile, right?

The green lens filter does him no justice.

La-te-da, let's see, the plot is crap, so what else caught my attention? First off, for some reason, Nemo makes a point of showing his guests that the Nautilus has a thriving club scene? I guess that makes sense, it's an enormous vessel and crewmen are going to need some down-time. But it just seemed...oddly excessive. It did, however, give a bunch of random extras a chance to be in a movie for eight seconds, I suppose that's something.

Actually, let me check something. Yeah, imdb lists a whopping 1/3 of the cast as "extras in nonspeaking roles", all from this one brief shot of a party on the boat.

One of the party girls has a truly terrible trailer-court back tattoo.

At one point the Nautilus sends her mechanical squids off to destroy a spying submarine. It's said to be a "Seawolf-class" (the CGI model is not) and Nemo suggests that it's either from the "Philippine Navy or American Coastal Guard out of Guam". All of this is wrong and I do wonder if these types of movies ever have any sort of "military advisor" on staff to correct script errors like these. I think I just answered my own question.

Oh, and the CGI model for the hero's' minisub looks like plug-in clip-art garbage.

Before I forget, there's an asinine "fabled lost continent of Lemuria" subplot that seems like it was shoe-horned into the movie's third act solely to pad out the running time. It's always a sign of a bad screenplay when you have meaningless tangents that do absolutely nothing to advance the plot. Is it really that hard to find 90 minutes of A-line plot material from Verne's novel?

Lamas doesn't understand any of this either, mostly because he hasn't read the script fully.

What else? Oh, there's a stock footage Iowa that allegedly can go 75 knots, but all the above-water scenes were filmed on an old freighter parked off the Los Angeles docks. I kinda would have preferred if the entire movie was set underwater from start to finish, but they needed to show some sunshine, I guess. I'm going though some of my favorite underwater movies off the top of my head...Leviathan, Deep Star Six, The Abyss, Gray Lady Down, Sphere, others I can't recall right now, and they all tragically wasted valuable runtime minutes with tacked-on above-water scenes that lacked any sort of tension or atmosphere. Anyway, not sure why that bothers me but it does.

Last of the WWII battleships.

And I guess I should finish up by saying that this zero-effort tax-shelter shitbag movie reminded me just how good the 1954 Disney version with Kirk Douglas was. And I know this is heresy, but one of my favorite guilty-pleasure films is 2003's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which featured an amazingly cool dieselpunk Nautilus and a perfectly cast Naseeruddin Shah as Nemo. Man, now I'm going to have to watch those two movies again.

Someone please fast-fashion Kirk's stripey shirt for me?!

I'm a modeler, and I would blow up an orphanage for this kit.

By gods, that beard is glorious.

Anyway, going to take a nap now, adios.

The End.

Written in February 2021 by Nathan Decker.

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