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Master And Commander Prequel - What We Know So Far

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 is about to grant your wish. Deadline is reporting 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 Disney would typically favor, and as the new owners of 20th Century, the prequel's existence is a pleasant surprise amid the overflow of Marvel vehicles that are guaranteed moneymakers.

The initial "Master and Commander" film starred Russell Crowe, riding a wave of yearly consecutive Academy Award nominations that included a victory for "Gladiator," 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.  Although it was not an enormously popular movie with audiences, critics praised the film's balance of epic naval battles and the exploration of personalities, especially the bond between Aubrey and Maturin.

What does 20th Century 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 prequel for "Master and Commander."

When will the Master and Commander prequel release?

As exciting as the prospect of a new "Master and Commander" film is, don't make any plans for a midnight release yet. This new project is still very early in development, and the screenwriter (more on his previous work below) has just started crafting the story. Without anyone else attached to the movie, 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 an 1800s British warship, which included shoes, hats, and wigs modeled after those worn by crew members of the period.

Another element to consider is the schedule of releases in the pipeline for 20th Century and, by extension, their parents at Disney. With COVID-19 vaccines allowing larger audiences back into theaters, a full slate of Marvel films is already scheduled for release for the next two years, culminating in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" on May 5, 2023. Furthermore, Disney is still planning another "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, a fresh take on the franchise and now starring Margot Robbie. The world of big budget film production is a much different place than it was in 2003, and the next "Master and Commander" could face its biggest competition from some of its own sister studios.

Who's in the cast of the Master and Commander prequel?

Deadline's article about the prequel cites sources that say this new "Master and Commander" adapts the first book in the series. This version of Captain Aubrey is much younger, and even with the advances in Hollywood makeup and facial CGI technology, it would not make much sense for Russell Crowe to return to the role, and we doubt the producers want to get involved with him. The same goes for Stephen Maturin, whose friendship with Aubrey in this prequel is just beginning. While "The Far Side of the World" included recognizable names like Crowe and Billy Boyd, who was simultaneously appearing in New Line's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, we expect this new "Master and Commander" to boast an entirely new cast.

20th Century only has one name currently attached to the project: screenwriter Patrick Ness, the author of the novel "Chaos Walking," for which he also wrote the screenplay adaptation. He's currently working on a new adaptation of "Lord of the Files," the literary classic that has seen a number of film and TV versions since the book was published in 1954. For what it's worth, Ness' film version of "Chaos Walking" has Tom Holland in the lead role. Holland was born in 1996, and it wouldn't be a stretch to see him as a fledgling commander of a British vessel.

What is the plot of the Master and Commander prequel?

As stated above, Deadline's sources mention that this new "Master and Commander" film adapts 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 in the film, 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 some relationship construction.