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Master And Commander Prequel Writer, Plot Possibilities, Development Details And More

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If you've been craving more films about the open sea and you want a healthy dose of character development to go with your action set pieces, 20th Century Studios may grant your wish soon. It's been reported that a new "Master and Commander" film is currently in the works, nearly two decades after the release of the first movie. 

2003's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" was, at best, a mild success, taking in $211 million against a budget of $150 million. That's not the kind of profit margin that Hollywood executives would typically favor, but the film was celebrated by critics and has become a cult classic over the years. So perhaps that's why Disney — the now-owners of 20th Century — are interested in revisiting the high seas.

The initial "Master and Commander" film starred Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey, who helms the HMS Surprise. He and his crew must overtake a French ship that was last seen somewhere off the coast of South America. The film focuses on Aubrey's friendship with Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), the ship's physician who becomes Aubrey's most trusted confidante. So what does this upcoming movie have in store for us, and when can we expect to see another adventure from "Lucky" Aubrey? Here's everything that we know about the "Master and Commander" prequel.

When will the Master and Commander prequel be released?

As exciting as the prospect of a new "Master and Commander" film is, don't make any plans for a midnight release just yet. The project is still in very early development, even though Deadline first reported on the prequel back in June 2021. At the moment, we only know who's writing the script (more on that below), so it's difficult to say when we'll get to join the crew for another voyage. Depending on the production team's efforts for authenticity, we might have a long wait in store for us. "Far Side of the World" went to great lengths to capture the look of a 19th-century British warship and its sailors, which included shoes, hats, and wigs modeled after those worn by crew members of the period.

Another element to consider is how Disney's release schedule has been majorly altered over the past few years, thanks to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the now-concluded WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. With major titles like "Avatar 3" and "Blade" getting shuffled back, chances are good that a "Master and Commander" prequel is similarly being pushed further out to sea. We also wonder how Disney will handle releasing two nautically themed movies, as they've wanted to make a new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie for quite some time. There are a lot of unknowns at the moment, but we'll keep you updated as news breaks.

What is the plot of the Master and Commander prequel?

According to Deadline, the new "Master and Commander" film will adapt the first book in Patrick O'Brian's series of novels. This book tells the origins of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, taking place in 1800, against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Aubrey is a captain without a ship, and Maturin is a physician who places as much faith in natural philosophy as he does in medical science, which was still in its infancy during the book's setting. After they meet at a concert, their mutual respect grows into a friendship, and when Aubrey is appointed as a commander of the HMS Sophie, he brings Maturin aboard as the ship's physician.

From here, the film could go in many different directions. "The Far Side of the World" adapted the events of several books in the series, but as an origin story (and a potential franchise if it does well), it would make sense for this "Master and Commander" prequel to stick to the source material as much as possible. The Library of Congress lists the first book at 384 pages, which should be more than enough to make at least a two-hour film. There is plenty of melodrama to potentially adapt, including a scandalous affair between Aubrey and his superior officer's wife, Molly Harte. This "Master and Commander" prequel has the potential to draw in audiences that are starving for high-seas adventures with dramatic relationships. Of course, seeing as this is a prequel focusing on the early days of Aubrey and Maturin, don't expect Russell Crowe or Paul Bettany to reprise their beloved roles.

Who is writing the Master and Commander prequel?

At the moment, there are no actors and no director attached to the "Master and Commander" prequel. However, we do know who's penning the screenplay, and it's an incredibly accomplished writer: Patrick Ness.

Young Adult and sci-fi fans probably know Ness best as the author of "Chaos Walking," which he also adapted into the movie starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland. He also won the Carnegie Medal for his dark fantasy novel "A Monster Calls," which he turned into a movie featuring Liam Neeson. In other words, Ness is pretty skilled at adapting books for the big screen, but what's the status of his "Master and Commander" screenplay?

After we initially learned Ness was acting as the prequel's scribe, we didn't get any updates for years. But then, in June 19, 2023, Ness took to X (formerly known as Twitter) during the WGA strike and shed a little light on the film's status. As he put it, "For those of you who keep asking: I've had the best studio experience of my life working on 'Master and Commander.' There's a needed strike now, and nothing is ever guaranteed, but it's been wonderful so far."

In September 2023, Ness returned to X with more "Master and Commander" news. Fortunately, this update was much more positive, with the WGA strike over and the screenwriter saying he was back at work at the script. Or as he colorfully put it, "I'm basically running across a flower-strewn meadow, back into the arms of 'Master & Commander,' grateful we're both alive, so glad to see each other again, finding a handy bush to shag in... War is over."

Where to watch the original Master and Commander

Streaming sites are now battlefields. And in this ever-growing content war, you might be wondering where you can find "Master and Commander." If you want to check out this naval adventure for the first time or if you want to revisit the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Maturin, we can give you the correct coordinates. You can spend $3.99 to watch the movie on sites such as Google Play, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.