New 'Master And Commander' Film In The Works, But Russell Crowe And Paul Bettany Probably Won't Be Back

Almost 20 years after Peter Weir's seafaring adventure film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World sailed into theaters, 20th Century Studios is developing a new Master and Commander movie. This is something fans have spent years clamoring for – but it sounds like somebody didn't focus enough on specifics when they asked their genie to grant them this wish. It sounds like this new iteration will not be a sequel that brings back stars Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany, but will instead be a prequel that focuses on younger versions of their characters.

Deadline broke the news that a new Master and Commander film is in the works, this time with Chaos Walking and A Monster Calls writer Patrick Ness writing the script. No director or actors are attached yet, but it seems unlikely that Crowe and Bettany will return, despite the original film delivering a perfect ending that provided endless opportunities for the duo to return for a sequel.

Instead, 20th Century Studios is reportedly going back to the early days of their characters, when Captain Jack Aubrey is given his first command and he first becomes friends with naval surgeon Stephen Maturin. This is based on the first book in author Patrick O'Brien's series of novels, and will almost certainly bring in new actors to play Aubrey and Maturin.

I don't know about you, but I just about gave myself whiplash going from the high of seeing that a new movie was in the works to the utter deflation that came over me when I realized this would be a prequel. I'm not ready to write the whole thing off yet – this idea could be justified under a great director and excellent casting – but after going to bat for the 2003 movie in a Quarantine Stream column last year and writing about how that film should have kicked off one of Hollywood's great franchises, there's something extremely bittersweet about the idea of that potentially happening, but without Weir, Crowe (who delivered a career-best performance in the first movie), or Bettany being involved in it at all.

I loved how the first movie just dropped the audience into the action and immersed viewers into this world – a world in which information about key characters' relationships is doled out slowly, and deep friendships are evident without needing every last backstory moment explained. In a worst-case scenario, this new version will be like Solo: A Star Wars Story, checking off boxes as it fills in every single reference and gives us all sorts of details that we don't actually need. (I don't know if I will ever get over the fact that several well-paid people thought it was necessary for audiences to see that Han Solo got his name because he once traveled alone.)

Hollywood: please stop making everything a prequel, and trust audiences to be able to understand basic concepts without holding our hands the entire time.