Review: 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea

30,000 Leagues Under the Sea (US-2007; dir. Gabriel Bologna)

30000leagues-coverThis 2007 offering from low-budget exploitation champions, The Asylum, is a take on Jules Verne’s classic novel. What it isn’t is any sort of retelling of the original, so there’s no point whingeing about it. The fact that it isn’t based on the novel on any detailed level is clearly signaled by the extra 10,000 leagues added to the title. This is also the epitome of its creative achievements.

Of course, Captain Nemo, his misanthropic obsessions and the deadly hi-tech submarine the Nautilus are all present and accounted for. Then there’s the sea — under which nowhere near 30,000 leagues are travelled.  Oh, a giant squid turns up, too, though this one is a mechanised giant monster created by Nemo himself and it does antisocial things like attacking Navy vessels at his behest (see DVD cover). As I said, 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea is an exploitative “take” on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, not an attempt to film the novel or to do it justice.

Which is just as well, because though I’m a tolerant sort of guy when it comes to the shortcomings of low-budget independent genre films, this one really doesn’t have too many redeeming features. Oh, there’s Lorenzo Lamas who endures the script with great fortitude and professional aplomb. Sean Lawlor’s interpretation of the madman Captain Nemo is actually rather effective, despite times when the verbal interaction with Lamas’ Lieutenant Aronnaux is so ineptly filmed that neither seem to be aware of the other’s presence at all — or at least aren’t following the flow of the conversation. The same applies to Natalie Stone’s contribution; she’s as convincing as Lieutenant Commander Rollins as attractive young actresses always are in these sorts of movies, whatever the size of the budget. But judging the real effectiveness of all of them is actually rather problematic, as the script — as it is realised onscreen anyway — undercuts any possibility of a decent performance at every turn.

It’s clear, in fact, that there was trouble on this production, big trouble — and though there are plenty of online rumours about the identity of the main culprit I have no reliable insider information and so will pass over the issue in relative silence. I’ll simply say that it appears as though various scenes were never filmed and making some sort of pseudo sense of it all was left up to the editor in post-production. However, he never really had a hope of achieving anything by way of true editorial consummation — his relationship with the film having all the depth and longevity of speed-dating. So dialogue scenes are clumsy and badly paced, exchanges don’t proceed logically, bits are missing, the action is remarkably static and the narrative shape of the film is a complete mess.

Add to that the fact that the dialogue sounds as though it was recorded from an extreme distance by a microphone someone snitched from their kid’s junior DJ karaoke set and I think you can fairly assume that this film didn’t work its magic for me, not on any level.

I guess I could be convinced to concede that the CGI subs, mecha-squid and hints of Atlantis were okay, relatively speaking, even though there appeared to be only a few moments of them in all, these moments re-used over and over — reversed, re-cut and randomly colour tinted.

But that’s it. This is a film that needed more … of everything (everything except what’s already in it, of course). In the state it’s in now the only good reason to release it at all had to have been to fulfil contractual obligations and avoid having to pay out any more money on a dud.

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