Nautilus (2000)

A submarine crew from an apocalyptic future collides with present-day terrorists in this low rent action adventure mash-up of superior sci-fi fare. Functional at best with a lack of flair in cinematography, design, acting and writing, the enterprise is haunted at every turn by the spirit of Hollywood auteur, Ed Wood.

Taking its name from the submarine which featured in the classic novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by father of the science fiction Jules Verne, this seemingly hastily assembled affair unfairly subtracts rather than adds to his reputation. However the author may have been tickled by the time travelling plot, and the way his treasured eco-themes survive intact.

In the Mad Max-alike eco-ravaged future of 2099AD, we’re introduced to the crew of the Nautilus submarine, including its widower captain and his glamorous daughter.

Before you can say Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home, or even think of mentioning Terminator 2 or 1980’s The Final Countdown, our heroes activate a time travelling device and take the submarine back to the present to prevent a drilling exercise called The Prometheus Project and so save the future from eco disaster.

He is channelling Star Trek’s Square-jawed grey-haired Captain Pike, while his all-action gun-toting, truck-driving and scuba-diving daughter is obviously modelled on the then hugely popular video game character Lara Croft.

She’s played by Miranda Wolf with the talent of an actress whose other credits include the role of Prisoner #1 in a spin-off reboot of talking car TV show, Knight Rider, and a role in another submarine thriller where she’s billed as Lt. Hickey, which may be a reference to Corporal Hicks of James Cameron’s Aliens, or a cruel and tasteless in-joke.

Father and daughter run into a team of terrorists trying to steal Prometheus which is being defended singlehandedly, but with twice the biceps of the rest of the cast combined, by Richard Norton.

The former kick boxer plays a smug two-fisted mercenary, with whom our time travelling submariners reluctantly team up. Norton seems cast as close as the producers could afford to Kurt Russell or Bruce Campbell, which is to say, not close at all.

The central oil rig location is impressive as are the underwater sequences which presumably hoovered up the budget, there doesn’t appear to have been much petty cash remaining roost for the far from special effects.

I did like the submarine itself, though if you told me it was left over models of the Seaview submarine from 1960s TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, I’d believe you.

There’s some footage of a very real aircraft carrier and it’s jets, and I couldn’t tell if it was filmed with permission, stock footage, or test shots from the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun, filmed by a disgruntled and hungover 2nd unit before Tony Scott came onboard to direct Tom Cruise et al.

Director Rodney McDonald previously made submarine terrorist thriller, Steel Sharks, which also featured Wolf, and there’s no faulting his enthusiasm for this project. And it’s possible to suspect the producers dreamed this might be a pilot for a spin-off TV series, which not surprisingly has never materialised.

And given Nautilus is firmly mired in the bottom-feeder end of the action market, we’re gratefully spared a gratuitous shot of naked breasts which I suspected to see swimming over the horizon at any moment. It’s remarkable this is less sleazy than 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness. This is generally a sexless experience with barely a sniff of romance.

What I did appreciate about Nautilus was the gonzo makeshift feeling of ‘let’s put the show on in the barn’, with the production having wrangled maybe a weekend’s shooting on a scheduled for demolition oil rig, found some stock footage, added the scraps of script held together by cliche, sellotape and willpower, and somehow managed to conjure up a coherent movie.

Despite its many long shortcomings this is a triumph, of sorts, of enthusiasm, graft and grift, over ability. And that is in itself something to celebrate.

Love classic sci-fi? Check out my website HERE

Read my review of Disney’s fabulous 1954 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, HERE

My review of 1961’s Mysterious Island, HERE

The 1916 adaptation of Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island, HERE

You can read my review of 1929’s The Mysterious Island, HERE

Read my review or the 1941 Russian adaptation of The Mysterious Island, HERE

And you can read my review of 1951’s Mysterious Island, HERE

And my review of 1973’s version HERE


Spider-Man: No Way Home

Tom Holland’s third solo outing as Marvel’s Spider-man is a typically slick and enjoyable piece of blockbuster fun which throws plenty of super-powered red meat to hardcore fans and offers sufficient popcorn entertainment to a general audience.

Picking up directly from the end of the previous adventure, 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, which ended with the teenage Spider-man having his secret identity as high school student Peter Parker being exposed to the general public by the media.

This has a dire impact on the lives of his girlfriend MJ and his best friend Ned, a pair once more played with believable camaraderie by Zendaya and Jacob Batalon. And in time-honoured fashion Spider-man has to make a decision which will affect the lives of all those he loves in order to save the world.

In desperation Peter Parker asks Benedict Benedict Cumberbatch’s wizard, Dr Strange, to cast a spell to make everyone forget Peter Parker, and for a moment veers towards being a web-spinning riff on Jimmy Stewart’s festive classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, or a lycra-clad version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

But as a rogues gallery of super-villains appears from Spider-films of Christmas past this feels as if its a live-action remake of 2018’s deliriously brilliant and Oscar winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a film often directly and obliquely referenced.

But No Way Home lacks Spider-Verse’s dazzling ambitious visual virtuosity, and the CGI in the frenetic action sequences is mostly of a standard rather than an eye-popping quality, and the climactic threat is surprisingly undeveloped and ill-defined.

Produced by Sony in association with rival studio Disney who own the rights to Marvel’s other Avengers, No Way Home makes a virtue of its ability to extract every lucrative drop of creative blood from the spider-stone, as well as definitively placing various previous Marvel properties within the MCU, which would seem to be No Way Home’s raison d’être.

But lip service only is paid to pitting the fatalism of Dr Strange against the optimism of Spider-man, and the script almost immediately shies away from discussing any of the interesting ideas it flags up, preferring to rattling along in a shower of meme-able moments and fan-pleasing cameos.

The late Marvel supreme Stan Lee would no doubt have approved of the treatment of diseased immigrants pointedly arriving at the Statue of Liberty and the ahem, stark choice offered to our heroes is to ‘kill or cure’ them.

But the film takes this pressing real world political issue, condenses it to a soundbite and then cracks wise about it, as if it’s embarrassed about having let the real world intrude on Hollywood. I’m not sure why, as every other world seems to be invading at this point.

The perils of instant celebrity is a perfect topic for this films target audience that’s also quickly discarded. Instead of a debate we’re given J. Jonah Jameson, the former editor of the tabloid newspaper The Daily Bugle, who’s now reduced to a clickbait-chasing and hate-spouting online anger merchant. Jameson is played by J. K. Simmons whose energetically aggressive performance, Jameson is a one-joke bogey-man in a film which really doesn’t need another one.

Holland remains an engaging screen presence and ​shares a palpable on-screen chemistry with co-star and real-life partner, Zendaya, a situation which adds a further depth to a story filled with self-aware jokes, multiple universes and duplicate characters.

With her deft talent and burning charisma Zendaya proves once again she’s the MVP of this Spider-verse, which is quite the thing in the company of Jamie Foxx, Benedict Wong, and Alfred Molina.

However MJ spends most of her time as half of a comic duo with Ned and therefore duplicating each other’s contribution to the plot. Were it not for MJ offering a path to redemption for a side character, MJ’s value would be more or less reduced to ‘love interest’, a shameful waste of Zendaya’s talent.

If Zendaya doesn’t get to play a spider-powered hero at some point it will be a huge injustice, not least as so many other actors seem to be getting a turn. How telling is it of Marvel’s priorities Ned is offered a glimpse of future character development and MJ isn’t?

Elsewhere Marisa Tomei as Peter’s Aunt May gets a more substantial role than merely being asked to to flirt with Jon Favreau’s ‘Happy’ Hogan, Peter Parker’s surrogate dad.

Holland’s third stand alone adventure as Spider-man means the actor has racked up one more film than previous web-slinger Andrew Garfield, and as many as Tobey Maguire, the Spider-man before him. At one point we’re told Spider-Man is seventeen years old, an age which even the ever-youthful Holland is now struggle to convince at playing.

If it wasn’t for Holland’s undeniable and understandable popularity, one might fear for his future in the role, especially as this ends with another great reset of the status quo, allowing considerable wriggle room should anyone’s future salary demands are deemed excessive.

Nevertheless, fans will lap up No Way Home which is at times highly enjoyable and by degrees funny, action-packed and heartfelt, and I doubt any casual cinema goers will feel short-changed.

Love classic sci-fi? Check out my website HERE

Read my review of Disney’s fabulous 1954 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, HERE