Alternate History

Steven Spielberg and James Cameron present Nautilus

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This article details an alternate history where James Cameron and Steven Spielberg collaborated on a movie called Nautilus in 2001. The movie was adapted from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and was the first movie in a trilogy. The sequel, Captain Nemo, was released in 2009 and the finale, Atlantis, is currently being filmed in New Zealand. Captain Nemo was directed by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, with Peter Jackson doing the third and, according to rumors, working with J. J. Abrams with Steven Spielberg playing a supportive role. The movie stars Harrison Ford as Captain Nemo, Johnny Depp as Pierre Arronnax and Asa Butterfield as Max Arronnax, with Richard Attenborough playing the main villain, Admiral Hermes Tennyson, and Rhiannon Leigh-Wryn as Captain Nemo's daughter Princess Mara. For more info, see Nautilus (film) (SS and JC PN).


James Cameron decides to read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and is inspired to make a movie adaptation. He decides to collaborate with Steven Spielberg on the movie after seeing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom while looking for inspiration on the opening scene in India. Steven Spielberg at first intended only to give advice but soon forms a close friendship with James Cameron and agrees to be the co-director on the movie as long as they make it a trilogy. Together, they decide to cast Harrison Ford as Ned the whaler, but give him a larger role after being impressed by his audition and cast him as Captain Nemo. And so the adventure begins....

Plot Summary

During the East India Trading Company's invasion of India, a young prince, his wife and two children flee. The prince, Sidhartha, is a technological genius and created a huge submarine called the Nautilus. After learning about the death of his parents at the hands of British Admiral Hermes Tennyson, Prince Sidhartha uses the Nautilus to destroy four British ships before he is discovered. Admiral Tennyson realizes that any army that commands the Nautilus commands Naval warfare and forces Sidhartha to surface after damaging the side of the Nautilus with his cannons. He has Sidhartha's wife shot, killing her instantly, and raids the Nautilus, chaining Sidhartha and his children to the top of the ship to submerge and raid the city. Sidhartha escapes and unchains his daughter Mara, but his other daughter Karen is struck by a British cannon and falls into the water. Sidhartha leaps in to save her, but she dies in his arms. Enraged, he climbs onto a British ship and leaps onto the back of the Nautilus to find Mara kidnapped as a slave. He enters the Nautilus and activates the self-destruct before he is spotted. His sword-fight with the Admiral is cut short when the sub is ripped to pieces by a series of explosions, leaving the broken hull to sink to the seafloor. Mara is locked in a cage on a British ship, crying for her father to save her.

Seven years later, the esteemed marine biologist Professor Arronnax is visiting New York with his friend Ned lance, a whaler, and his son Max. Max and Pierre have a strained relationship after the death of Pierre's wife Susan four years from yellow fever. Max believes his father doesn't even care about her death, while Pierre blames her death on Max. Ned and Pierre remained close friends, tied together by grief, for Ned had a crush on Susan. Max longs for adventure in the big city and is bored by his father's interests, running away for a day to see the sights of the Big Apple. He barely escapes a drunken thief and meets a girl named Jade Sunray, the daughter of a sailor who also longs for an adventure outside a book. She is a huge fan of pirate adventures like Treasure Island and longs to go on a swashbuckling adventure herself. Max is eventually found by a police officer and reported as a runaway, but Jade insists she is a gypsy girl who kidnapped him and is arrested despite Max's protests. He is taken home to a heated argument with his dad, where he accidentally finds an old letter from his mom written a year before her death. He takes it and reads it in his bed, and discovers his mom wanted his father to go investigate reports of a mysterious sea monster terrorizing the naval world. He later sneaks out and meets a certain Captain Edmund Septimus, who claims to have seen the monster and agrees to take Pierre to find it, as he is planning to go seek out the monster himself in a month. Pierre initially declines Max's begging to go find the monster and have a real adventure, but changes his mind after reading the letter again. They leave New York on the Indestructible, an old British steamer ship that had fought in the war over India. Max is surprised to find that Jade is on board too, having being bailed out of prison by her father who got called to go on the expedition the next day. Max spends his time aboard reading Treasure Island with Jade, and Pierre and Ned continue an old argument about whaling. Meanwhile, the captain appears to be up to no good, planning with the navigator, Nick Swift, on what to do with the monster.

After six months, the monster still hasn't been spotted, and they are heading back for Paris to drop off Professor Arronnax and company. However, they are suddenly attacked by the monster. Ned's harpoon breaks on it's skin, and he realizes that is is no monster, but an iron machine. Jade falls overboard, and Max jumps into the water to save her. Pierre and Ned manage to get a life raft and go into the water to save Max. The two are lifted onto the raft, but they are directly between the cannons of the Indestructible and the "monster." Captain Septimus fires anyway and the raft is turned into splinters. However, the "monster" rises up underneath and holds them above the water's surface to save them from drowning. It fires torpedoes at the Indestructible and nearly destroys it, fortunately only denting the surface. The first mate, Ronald Tempest, turns the ship around and flees the scene of destruction, enraging Captain Septimus. First Mate Tempest insists that the captain's conduct was unacceptable and that he and Second Mate Matthew Trust will be temporarily taking over. However, he and Swift shoot both of them to death. The captain trims his beard and moustache, revealing himself to be none other than Admiral Tennyson himself, and starts following the sub, intending to get revenge on the captain of the vessel. The captain, meanwhile, introduces himself as Captain Nemo, and threatens to drown them all unless they decide to remain on board his craft for their entire lives. This craft turns out to be none other than the Nautilus II, built from the wreckage of the original on a small volcanic island in the Indian Ocean. Captain Nemo gives them a tour of the massive vessel, one-half  km long and home to a crew of 1500, including first mate Gaundi "Nebuchadnazzar" Jones, a 1.7 meter tall bald-shaven Somalian general. They are shown to their quarters, where Max shows excitement at the prospect of going on a real adventure despite Pierre's lamentation. He and Ned start planning to escape. That night, at dinner, Max saves a dodo from getting roasted and has to keep him as a pet to keep the cook away. He names him Nimrod. Later, when he finds out they are eating coelocanth with octopus ink, he passes his dinner to Nimrod under the table. Meanwhile, Nemo expresses his hatred of Tennyson and his desire for revenge for an unknown encounter years ago. He regales them with a Viking legend about the slaying of the Kraken before everybody goes to bed. Max sneaks into Jade's cabin and they have a pillowfight before Pierre pops in and crossly takes Max to his room.

The next day, the Nautilus II is sailing south through the Atlantic and passes over the wreck of an old pirate ship. Nemo sends two crew members down to investigate, and Pierre and Ned insist on coming too, to study the Nautilus II and figure out how to escape. Ned narrowly escapes a close encounter with a goblin shark, saved by Captain Nemo with a sword from the wreck. They are forced to leave as the blood from the goblin shark attracts a feeding frenzy that destroys the galleon. Ned insists that he owes Captain Nemo a favour for saving his life. Meanwhile, on the Indestructible, Admiral Tennyson sees a Victorian wrist watch floating in the water, and dives down in a bathysphere to see the feeding frenzy. He finds a trail of blood and discovers one of the sharks was caught up in the Nautilus II's propellor. He tells them to follow the sharks going after the trail, leaving a phosphorus flare in the feeding frenzy, incinerating what little remains of the galleon and the sharks as well. Back on the Nautilus, Max and his father argue about the pillow fight, where Max yells that Pierre didn't love Susan and that he doesn't want anybody else to be in love as well, and flees the room in tears. Pierre soon has a flashback to when Susan lay in bed dying and asked him to promise her to always love Max and never look at another woman. He promises and weeps when she dies. Max, meanwhile, sneaks into Jade's room and asks to stay in her room because his dad hates him. She agrees, and they start reading Moby-Dick, with Max stating that he hates whalers. Jade is hurt by this comment, as her mother was a whaler before she died of scurvy off the coast of Antarctica just before the ship was crushed by ice and sank. Max apologizes and they embrace. A week later, they reach a small island, where Captain Nemo stops. He goes ashore to find a buried treasure, and Ned and Pierre head ashore to try and figure out a way to escape. They find a small rowboat and Pierre goes to find Max and take him to the scene of the escape. However, Ned is cornered by a pair of jaguars, and Pierre fails to find Max before Nemo comes back to the Nautilus II with an old chest. Pierre is forced to tell Nemo everything to go and find Ned before they go down again. Pierre finds ned holding off the jaguars and uses a stick as a makeshift spear to kill one. The other leaps at them and lands on the rowboat, knocking it out to sea and sailing helplessly away. Back on the Nautilus II, Pierre and Ned are confined to quarters as punishment for trying to escape. Max wonders if he really wants to stay on the Nautilus II for a life of adventure or escape with his father.

After they reach the Red Sea, Nemo plans to sail into the Mediterranean. He reveals that there is a massive underground sea passage running underneath the isthmus separating the Mediterranean from the Red Sea. They sail underneath, braving giant, white, eyeless anglerfish to reach the light again. A particularly large one attacks them, but a shark following their trail of blood coming from the propellor attacks the anglerfish and kills it. However, during the fight, a small leak opened in the back of the Nautilus II, and Nemo goes outside with Nebuchadnazzar to fix it. Ned sneaks outside to stab a pair of anglerfish with a harpoon, giving them time to fix the leak and get in. However, the shark snaps Ned's harpoon and attacks him, and Max goes outside to save him. He takes out the shark with a pistol in the head and the anglerfish swarm the dead shark, ripping it to shreds and totally ignoring Ned and Max. They enter the sub again, and Nemo congratulates Ned for saving him, freeing him from his house arrest. However, Ned refuses until Nemo agrees to release Pierre too. When they reach Crete, they find it is going through a revolution. Nemo goes ashore with Pierre, Ned and Max and bribe a doctor to save an injured enemy soldier on the battlefield, using gold from the treasure. Nemo takes five wounded soldiers to the Nautilus II to save them, commenting on his hatred for war and human suffering and dreaming of world peace and unity. He reveals his mission is to save as many lives as possible and stop suffering around the world. Moved by his speech, Pierre and Ned agree not to try and escape, at least not yet. In the sick bay, one of the soldiers dies of his wounds, and Nemo sets sail for the Straits of Gibraltar. He reaches a location, and he and Pierre take the body out of the ship and swim to the ruins of a submerged city, which turns out to be Atlantis. They bury the man in a temple full of other graves, all of them Nautilus guests and crew members. Nemo then shows Pierre a large glass domed city on an extinct volcano (which presumably sunk Atlantis), revealing it to be his own underwater colony-to-be, Atlantis, named for the ruins surrounding it. They narrowly escape when an earthquake damages the city and Pierre is almost crushed by a giant, collapsing trident. They set sail for the south, with Nemo planning some sort of scientific expedition. Meanwhile, the Indestructible reaches the end of the Red Sea and the Admiral sets off on foot. They reach a small city, where they hold the local sheikh captive and demand a caravan of camels and horses. They succeed, and the Admiral shoots the sheikh anyway.

Later, the Nautilus II reaches Antarctica and sails under the ice. They find the wreck of a whaling ship, which Jade recognizes as her mother's. They head under the ice, only to disturb a colossal squid. It attacks them but is fended off by the torpedoes. Nemo stops in a giant lake under the ice, and Pierre insists on joining him to go onto the ice. They reach the top of a small ice ledge, and Nemo declares himself the first explorer to reach the South Pole. They return to the Nautilus, where Pierre confesses to Max that he too loves adventure but decided that he would never have another adventure without his wife by his side. Therefore, he joined the most boring profession he could think of - marine biology - and shunned off all the things in life that he loved, including Max. They embrace and Pierre weeps for Susan for the first time since she died. After they breach the ice and escape an iceberg, they set sail for the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, Admiral Tennyson reaches the sea, where Swift meets him, having sailed around Africa and into the Mediterranean to bring him the Indestructible. Swift announces that he has located the Nautilus II heading for the Indian Ocean and they head off to intercept it. Nemo, meanwhile, tells Pierre and Ned they are heading to port, and Ned and Pierre start thinking about escape again. Pierre and Max agree that if Ned and Pierre decide to escape, Max wil be coming. Max asks Jade about the attempt, and she replies that she wants to stay on Nautilus II, leaving Max to ask himself whether he should potentially escape with his father or stay on board for a new start to life. Soon, they reach tiny Lincoln Island, where Nemo heads for a submerged cave that contains his main port. However, the Indestructible intercepts them and fires at the Nautilus II.

Pierre and Ned hijack a life raft and go above water, yelling no to fire and that they are all right. Admiral Tennyson shoots Pierre with a musket and he falls into the water, dying. Jade and Max are running to help them, and Nemo goes above water to personally face Tennyson. Tennyson injures him with a harpoon and rips off a carefully constructed mask, revealing Captain Nemo to be none other than Prince Sidhartha. He battles Tennyson in a replay of their sword fight aboard the Nautilus, but Jade fires a crossbow at Tennyson and sends him flying into the ship's cargo hold. Jade turns out to be Princess Mara, adopted by her sailor father and renamed. She reunites with her father, but they are interrupted by Swift. Nemo and Swift battle in the bathysphere while Max and Ned go underwater to rescue Pierre. His blood starts attracting sharks. Meanwhile, Jade fights Tennyson and is thrown into the battery, where Tennyson lights a fuse leading to a massive store of gunpowder and leaps onto the back of the Nautilus II. Pierre is hauled onto a life raft, where Pierre decides not to escape and heads for the Nautilus II to fight with Admiral Tennyson. Meanwhile, the feeding frenzy of sharks following Pierre's blood find and attack the bathysphere, killing Swift. Nemo slathers himself in shark repellant and swims away. The fuse is nearly at the gunpowder, but Nemo boards the Indestructible and saves Mara by slicing off the burning part of the fuse with the sword from the galleon. They leap onto the back of the Nautilus II to find Pierre badly wounded and Admiral Tennyson inside the Nautilus II. Nemo sneaks aboard and finds Nebuchadnazzar in hiding, naming him the captain of the Nautilus II and going ahead to find Tennyson. In their fight at the controls of the Nautilus II, Nemo has his head bashed against a lever and activates a beacon that attracts a colossal squid. Max and Mara take control of the torpedoes and force the Indestructible to surrender. Mara is reunited with her adoptive father and announces that he will always be her father. However, one man on the Indestructible realizes that Max and Mara are children and won't have the guts to sink the ship. They fire their cannons at the Nautilus II and hit the self-destruct sequence, giving them five minutes to be taken prisoner aboard the Indestructible or drown. Nemo defeats Tennyson and locks him in one of the torpedoe chambers before firing him and the torpedoes at the Indestructible, which takes shelter in the harbour. He just barely manages to shut down the self-destruct sequence, but the giant squid reaches them and Tennyson's loyalists are on Lincoln Island ready to overrun the Nautilus II. Max defeats the giant squid like the kraken in the legend and fires a torpedoe into the harbour, destroying the Indestructible and totally wiping out all of Tennyson's forces. The mortally wounded Tennyson is crushed by falling rocks after the realization that he failed. Meanwhile, as the rockslide sends boulders flying towards the Nautilus II and a series of bombs planted in the harbour go off in a steady line of blasts heading straight for them, Captain Nemo embraces his daughter and leaps into the water, stalling the bombs long enough for the Nautilus II to escape. A series of explosions blasts away a quarter of the island, and Neb weeps with the realization that Nemo is gone.

Later, Nemo is given a burial at Atlantis, though they have no remains. Neb being the new captain of Nautilus II, he gives Pierre, Ned, Max and Mara permission to head ashore. However, Pierre decides to stay and help build New Atlantis, and Ned decides to stay with him. Max and Mara decide they will head ashore, promising to return. However, Max stays under, telling Mara to grow up and have an adventure before she can return home. They kiss before Mara boards the Nautilus II with Neb and they head above water. Mara's adoptive father can't join her due to injuries sustained in the final battle, so Neb goes ashore with her for the first time in 10 years. Neb buys them a ship and shows her a treasure map Nemo found two years before, and they set off for a new adventure. The film ends with the wreckage at Lincoln Island, showing Nemo rising out of the water in the battered remains of a bathysphere and heading ashore to start work on the unfinished Nautilus III, promising his wife that he will not let his family go. He gets ready to find Mara and bring her an old, dust-covered tiara. In a humorous post-credits scene, Mara and Neb sail past the jaguar, still floating on the old life raft, which groans at them.


Captain Nemo is the sequel to Nautilus and the second movie in the trilogy. It was released in 2009 and follows an adult Max and Mara and three survivors of a hot-air balloon crash all stranded on Lincoln Island, where they discover some extraordinary secrets about Nemo's past and must save the island from pirates who want to steal a powerful device that could help them rule the oceans. Both Nautilus and Captain Nemo received high ratings and were a massive financial success, Steve Spielberg's second best movie and second only to Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods. James Cameron filmed scenes from the sequel in Hawaii and the Caribbean, with many of the underwater scenes filmed in the Mediterranean. The CGI scenes were shot with motion capture at Skywalker Ranch, and the background came from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The shots of the destruction of Lincoln Island were filmed using footage of Stromboli, Italy, erupting spliced into aerial shots of Mauritius, and the final scene of diving into the deep was filmed by James Cameron in his groundbreaking vessel Nautilus at the edge of the Marianas trench and at Challenger Deep. All the scenes of Atlantis and New Atlantis were filmed at a set in the deserts of Arizona spliced into shots of Challenger Deep from the Nautilus, using CGI, motion capture and footage from Vancouver, BC.

The third film, Atlantis, will focus on Max and Mara's twin children, Sam and Alex(andria) as they leave New Atlantis on a mission to bring world peace. A sub-plot will focus on the aging Pierre Arronnax fighting to protect New Atlantis from the original inhabitants of Atlantis who are trying to get their ancestral city back. It is rumored Chuck Norris will play a role, though he has explicitly stated he hasn't decided yet. It is believed his role will be that of a soldier fighting for Sam and Alex's cause or the Atlantean leader. A trailer was released in 2011, and it is believed the film has a release date of 2015. The movie is being filmed in New Zealand with Weta Digital. Online speculation states that they are filming a scene which takes place in India, specifically the ruins of Nemo's city Buddharajya, though no official announcements have been made.

The trilogy is immensely popular and has developed a small but growing cult following similar to the one centered around the seven Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the prequel (Pirates of the Caribbean: To the End of the Seas and Back). Nautilus is ranked as the third most popular trilogy in history, after Eric the Red (Viking, New Worlds and The Conqueror) and Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The return of the King). The trilogy has been produced through the collaboration of Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, George Lucas, Peter Jackson and (reportedly) J. J. Abrams, the most esteemed directors in the world. This is the only film series that all four/five have worked on, though seeing the enormous success of Nautilus it is believed that they will also collaborate on the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, based on the unfinished video game.

For more information on the trilogy, check out Nautilus Trilogy (SS and JC PN), or the trilogy's official website, Note: If you are in OTL, you won't be able to access the website, as it does not exist in our universe.

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