Epic spoilers for Sam Raimi's 20,000 Leagues reboot

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

Now that Disney has pulled the plug on McG's proposed Captain Nemo movie, it looks like a competing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea project from Spider-Man's Sam Raimi has an open field.

It's not yet clear whether that film will move forward, but we're still intrigued by the idea of a Raimi version of Jules Verne's classic science fiction tale. Craig Titley wrote the screenplay for Raimi's Stars Road Entertainment. (Raimi is producing, not directing.)

"It's very much in the tone of the Pirates [of the Caribbean] movies, sort of period, good old swashbuckling, some humor, action, excitement," Titley said in an exclusive phone interview last week while promoting Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

Verne's novel chronicled the exploits of Captain Nemo's undersea adventures. A 1954 Disney movie is most remembered for its then-groundbreaking sequence of a giant squid attacking Nemo's ship, the Nautilus. Titley has a new spin on the squid attack: Just use real Architeuthis (the scientific term for giant squids).

"What was fun and interesting is the giant squid that we all remember from the '54 Disney film, in the book it was just sort of like a school of regular-sized giant squids as we know them," Titley said. "We couldn't use a giant monstrous giant squid in ours because Disney owned that. That was something unique that they created for their film. So I had to try to find something that was as exciting as that. What we came up with is this underwater sequence inside an ancient temple that has been flooded. Inside this temple, these guys are walking around underwater and see things zipping by. You find out it's a nest of 100 giant squids, as we know the giant squids, not the monstrous size, so it becomes a sequence sort of like Aliens."

Titley also described a sequence from the book that he hopes to dramatize for the first time. "There's a great sequence in the book where they go under the South Pole or through the ice of Antarctica," he said. "That has never been in any adaptation, because I think technology just wouldn't allow it. I was very excited to get that sequence into an adaptation, finally, after all these adaptations, to finally put one of the big set pieces of the book in there."

Action set pieces aside, Titley had a lot of work cut out for him adapting the Jules Verne novel. "The Verne novel was very, very episodic," Titley said. "There was no real narrative. In the book, it's kind of Captain Nemo is done with society and so he just sort of roams around in his sub. Our hero, Ned Land, and his crew end up on the submarine, so it becomes just like a travelogue, like, 'Well, you're my prisoners, and I live under the sea, so you'll never see civilization again.' Then they're like, 'Wow, we've got to escape,' and that's it."

In Titley's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Nemo has a plan that will drive the whole film. "What we had to create was sort of a mechanism, Nemo sort of being up to something, up to something big. He's not just 'I'm done with society, so I'm just going to live under the sea and travel around.' He actually has something that he is trying to do, the nefarious plot, if you will. I tried to make him a little more complicated character, so that actually when you hear what his plot is, you're like, 'You know, I sort of understand that.' That sort of opens up the story. Then it's why he's going to these places that he's going to."

Now that Stars Road is moving forward with 20,000 Leagues, Titley expects to work on subsequent drafts. "I'm sure there will be some budgetary drafts, because this draft is quite enormous and expensive," Titley said. "I think eventually there'll be some drafts to bring the budget down a bit."

What do you think? Will you take the voyage?

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