20,000 Leagues Under the Sea back on with new director

Just a few days after we lamented the fact that director David Fincher would probably never get around to making the movie version of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama, word has come via the Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision Blog that Fincher is in talks to take on a new screen adaptation of French author Jules Verne's early science fiction classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

For those keeping score at home, Terminator Salvation director McG was circling this project last year, with the colossally bad idea of casting Will Smith as the tormented Captain Nemo. But Disney nixed the movie, which would have served as an "origin story" for Nemo, due to budgetary concerns. According to Heat Vision, the project came back to life after Fincher expressed a desire to direct a "tentpole movie" and get away from the kind of adult psychological fare—like Seven and Fight Club—that we all actually love him for.

Verne's 1869 novel begins with the hunt for a "sea monster" that is destroying naval vessels in international waters. Three men who survive one such attack are taken aboard the "monster"—which turns out to be the Nautilus, a futuristic submarine under the command of the twisted genius Nemo. They embark on all kinds of adventures with their mysterious, eccentric host, including a visit to the ruins of Atlantis and a famous battle with a school of giant squid.

Although Disney was concerned with McG's reported darker take on the material, they seem to have no problem handing the project over to a man not exactly known for feel-good movies. The script is being written by Scott Z. Burns, who has penned the screenplays for The Bourne Ultimatum and Steven Soderbergh's upcoming 3-D thriller Contagion. He and Fincher are said to be aiming for a "visually dazzling" epic in the vein of The Empire Strikes Back, which sounds just fine to us.

Verne's novel has been adapted numerous times, especially for television, but Disney's 1954 version, with a superb James Mason as Captain Nemo and Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre as his hostages, remains the definitive take. Although it's a bit slow by modern standards, scenes like the squid attack hold up well. Nevertheless, a new version with state-of-the-art effects and a gifted director like Fincher steering the ship (sorry) could re-introduce Verne's work to a whole new generation.

Just two notes to the director: keep it a period piece and, if you must go 3-D—which is probably likely—shoot it with 3-D cameras and don't convert it later, all right?

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