This is the story of a boy who receives a secret, encoded radio signal, breaks into a NASA lab, & gets into a scuffle with the police over joyriding & crashing a car into someone’s pool. That’s just a Friday night. In a week, he discovers Atlantis, escapes its destruction in Captain Nemo’s submarine, & finds out the long-hidden truth about the story of the mysterious island. This boy thinks nothing of flying a chopper into a hurricane in the middle of the Pacific.
As is obvious, the boy loves Jules Verne’s stories of ambitious adventures. Young men using the power of science could discover the truth about nature & survive its onslaught. Unfortunately, his father died in one such adventure. The boy thinks nothing of the price of manly aloofness. His grandfather, alive & kicking after long decades of this life, indulges him.
The mother appears early on in the story & only reappears at the very end. As usual, we take the plot as an indication of the purpose of the movie. The boy must be tamed in order to live in the city, with his mother. His spirit of adventure is obviously a spirit of rebellion against law & family. It is not an accident that the step-father who attempts to tame him was in the navy. Let us say merely that the man is habituated to obeying orders & to the dangerous might of nature.
This kind of story is as different to Jules Verne as the former Navy man is to Captain Nemo. The former is sensual & gentle, the latter was harsh & stern. The one lives in the city, with a wife, the latter lived away from all laws & lands. The boy does not fear to despise this man, though he needs him to survive; we suspect Nemo would have killed him as soon as looked at him.
One detail, quickly dismissed, & apparently irrelevant to the plot, is the boy’s love of learning. A throwaway remark teaches us he is an A student; time & again, we learn he is well-read. He learns to admire his step-father because of the intelligence required to succeed in this man’s military. His story, therefore, is of some importance.
The story also requires a pretty young woman to lure the boy to the life of peace. Manly motives do not have as strong a grasp on him as love of woman. There are more women in the city than in the jungle, which seems to seal the deal. The boy only risks his life for the woman, not for his family. Only the jungle offers him this opportunity to show manly strength to a woman.
For the kids.