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.
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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