Disney delivered a one-two punch of fan service today. They cast the lead in the 150-million-dollar “Tron” reboot and announced a McG-helmed prequel to “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” This is the geek equivalent of the Rapture. As I write these words, Harry Knowles is prostrate on the floor of his office with his venerated articles of Disney memorabilia, and he’s speaking in tongues.
I am modestly excited for the “Tron” redux. Roger Ebert once suggested that remakes should be made of recent films that didn’t quite meet expectations, and though “Tron” is close to thirty years old, I think it qualifies in that regard. It took years for Hollywood to catch up with “Tron’s” breathtaking visual design, and longer still for the film to find an audience halfway conversant in the language of computers – so by that reckoning, “Tron’s” time is now.
Director Joseph Kosinski needs only do three things to preserve the goodness of the original “Tron,” and to improve upon it. He needs to cast Jeff Bridges, and he has. He needs to make the sequel look as good, if not better, than the original movie – and judging from the product reel on his website and the bootlegged trailer from last year’s ComicCon, he’s going to nail it. And most important, he needs an ear for dialogue, which the original film doesn’t have.
It’s this last element that has me concerned. If the “Narnia” films taught us anything, it’s that Disney has no problem launching a submarine with screen doors.
That awkward segue brings us to “Captain Nemo.” I’ve often wondered what a “20,000 Leagues” reboot would look like, but now that a prequel is actually in production I have to admit to a sinking feeling. Nemo’s pre-story is a magnificent tragedy, which James Mason reveals in pieces over the course of the original film.
I am not what is called a civilized man, Professor. I have done with society for reasons that seem good to me.
What you fail to understand is the power of hate. It can fill the heart as surely as love can.
You call that murder? Well, I see murder, too. Not on those drowned faces out there, but on the faces of dead thousands! They are the assassins, the dealers in death. I am the avenger!
Here’s a question: Do we really need to see Nemo’s heart being broken in any detail? One of Nemo’s defining qualities is his mystery – while he had no problem with destroying the warships that represented the death of his family and his original self, he didn’t feel the need to sign his work, preferring to allow civilization to believe the destruction to be the work of some occult hand. Delving too deeply into that mystery in a prequel may not change the course of “20,000 Leagues,” but it will surely change our approach to it – perhaps robbing the 1954 film of the very thing that gives it a soul.
And by the way: McG, if you’re gonna make this thing, please have the decency to bill yourself as Joseph McGinty Nichol. McG isn’t an auteur’s name; it’s a nom de cheeseburger.