Wednesday, June 9, 2010

100 years, 100 films 7: 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1916)

This is a film in which nothing happens. I mean, the start's alright - the ship Abraham Lincoln sets out to attack a vicious monster that has been plaguing the seven seas and that no fisherman has ever survived an attack from. Turns out the vicious monster - actually a submarine. And up to this point, I thought, "alright, so now is where it gets interesting. Soon we'll get the giant squid battle, and the whirlpool, and all that other great stuff. The special effects won't be great, but they'll be fun in a silly kind of a way." But alas, t'was not to be. What I got instead was about half an hour of shots of people just wandering around underwater. It wasn't interesting.

There was also this weird side plot about these people stranded on an island. It had absolutely nothing to do with anything (and according to Wikipedia was stolen from a different Jules Verne novel). This stupid island stuff is dumb and leads nowhere, except that it is the catalyst for a really, really stupid ending. Captain Nemo is reunited with his long lost daughter (?) and is so overwhelmed with happiness that he dies (??)

I suppose I should now talk about the revolutionary nature of the underwater photography, and how nobody had ever seen anything like it before, and how it must of wowed those innocent rubes who didn't have access to David Attenborough documentaries or whatever. And yes, I guess it probably would have been impressive at the time. But it really wasn't impressive, for two reasons. The first reason is the fact that, well, once you've seen glorious full colour underwater cinematography of bizarre and amazing fish, it just isn't that interesting, looking at not-that-great shots of nothing-much. The second reason is that the transfer of the film I watched was so terrible that it was actually difficult to work out what the hell was happening in the underwater stuff a lot of the time. This isn't really the film's fault, but it certainly did ruin any sense of wonder. It's difficult to be overawed when you're sitting there thinking, "huh? What's that? What's going on? Who's that guy?"

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