In the age of the entertainment remixes, we’re getting all manner of reboots, remakes, and re-imaginings. Coming soon is the Hasbro cinematic universe that will feature and connect five 80s classic cartoons: M.A.S.K, Visionaries, Micronauts, ROM, and GI Joe. My inner 12-year-old is doing flips and cartwheels across a meadow made of candy. My present-day self is writing this article about Pirates of the Dark Water, a forgotten 90s cartoon that would make for as good a cinematic universe as any other.
Come with me, into a world of re-imagination!
Pirates of the Dark Water began as a five-part miniseries with an all-star voice cast that included Roddy McDowell, Hector Elizondo, Tim Curry, and Frank Welker. The show lasted only 21 episodes but had a style that was quite different from most cartoons of the era. For the modern remake, we’re playing up the steampunk and making it grungy, a lived-in universe like Alien or Firefly.
On the alien world of Mer, an evil substance known as Dark Water is devouring everything. Only the 13 Lost Treasures of Rule can stop the Dark Water. Ren, a young prince, and his band of misfits are the only ones up for the task of saving their world.
On Mer, technology has lead to a prosperous world. Airships, powered by the planet’s water travel the seemingly endless islands of this water world. For 13 years, a substance known as Dark Water has spread. No one knows where it came from, but it’s going to envelop the world and has already enveloped the greatest city-state on all of Mer.
Tagline: The tide is rising, and darkness comes with it.
Pirates of the Dark Water has an impressive ensemble cast of characters. It’s very reminiscent of the first Star Wars.
REN played by Zac Efron
The former Prince of one of the greatest cities on Mer. Ren was orphaned when the Dark Water swallowed his hometown of Primus. Restless while growing up at an isolated lighthouse, Ren found a broken sword and journal left by his mother, the Warrior Queen. The journal pointed to information about how to stop the Dark Water. Ren escaped and joined with Ioz to find this treasure.
TULA played by Priyanka Chopra
A young Ecomancer, Tula is on a secret mission from the Order to which she belongs. Tula learns of Ren and Ioz’s plan and secretly helps them steal the Wraith. She pretends to be a stowaway and that she’s just here “to see the world.” But Tula is also looking for the Solar Disc to return it to the Order.
IOZ played by Mahershala Ali
A drunk, Ioz longs to be with his late son again. In Ren, he sees a surrogate son, but also help to get more money for booze. Ioz steals the Wraith with Ren, claiming to be helping the young adventurer, but in reality with an agenda of his own.
NIDDLER played by Andy Serkis
A species that’s part monkey, part bird, Niddler is a slave of a mobster named Joat, a pirate who once owned the Wraith. Fiddler longs to go home and convinces Ren that the Solar Disc is on his home island of Pandawa.
BLOTH played by Javier Bardem
No great story is complete without a menacing villain. In the cartoon, Bloth was voiced by Brock Peters and was a thick, bear-like man. Bloth is a feared pirate who captains The Maelstrom. Bloth once served Ren’s father and was sent out on a mission to find the Treasures of Rule as a way to save the city. Instead, Bloth has searched for the treasures for himself and only needs one — The Solar Disc.
DRACOLICH THE DARK DWELLER played by Doug Jones
Once a Supreme Ecomancer, the Draco discovered the secrets of Necromancy and dabbled in the dark until he became a part of it. Dracolich was banished to an unknown place by the other supreme ecomancer’s. In this dark place, Dracolich was consumbed by Dark Water, pure dark energy. With their powers combined, Dracolich began to grow the darkness in the hopes of consuming the world in an eternal night, giving him eternal power.
A vast ocean illuminated by a sky dotted with white clouds.
Gentle waves play underneath as we glide forward.
TITLE: Pirates of the Dark Water
The words fade into the horizon.
From one side, the serene image is engulfed by a flying machine. The ship’s hull is a patchwork of metal and technology. As it moves ahead, it’s name appears — THE WRAITH.
The Wraith zooms ahead. The airship’s crew is seen scrambling to get the ship moving as weapons fire zips past.
Below, two ships race across the waves, firing on the Wraith.
REN, (early 20s) a young man dressed in light clothing rushes up to the Captians position.
IOZ, a seasoned man in his late 30s dressed like a rogue, runs the ship.
You’ve really never worked on a ship before?
I’ve never even been on one.
Get to the engine room, I can talk you through what to do. (Beat) What’s the witch doing?
Ren smiles nervously and shrugs. The pair peek over the edge of the Captain’s station which overlooks the forward deck. We look with them at …
TULA (early 20s), a beautiful, young woman who is sitting with her legs crossed. Her hands are clutched in prayer.
Two shots from the ships below damage the Wraith. Rea and Ioz look up then at each other with worry.
Closer in on Tula we hear that she’s mumbling a chant. Her hands begin to glow.
Above the Wraith, a swirl of clouds begins to form.
Ren is confused. Ioz is starting to grin wide.
Hold on to something, kid.
The swirl of clouds comes together like an arrowhead before the Wraith.
From below, between the attacking ships, we look up as the Wraith darts away, seemingly vanishing in the blink of an eye.
The two attacking ship begin turning around when one rocks hard. A black tentacle, seemingly made of oil reaches up from the water and rips one ship in half.
Men and women scream as they sink into the black water.
As the other ship tries to flee, it’s stuck in place and little oily tendrils, like vines, grow up along the hull all over. The second ship is slowly devoured and disappears beneath the sea.
CUT TO BLACK:
From this opening action sequence, we meet our three main players. As we delve deeper, we learn that Ren is an orphaned prince, Ioz a man who lost his soul when his son died, and Tula, a girl who’s been conditioned for this adventure but doesn’t know what friends are.
In the first film, the trio meet Niddler who propels their adventure in a new way. Joat, the former owner of the Wraith who hired Ioz to steal it back, wants to search for the Solar Disc too.
After an action-filled adventure which includes a fight against Dark Water, the group finds the Solar Disc and survive. Tula is entrusted by Ren to take the Solar Disc back to the Order. The rest of the group seek a new treasure, the other half of Ren’s father’s sword.
In the first solo film, we follow Tula’s mission back to The Order. It’s part origin story as we learn of the young girl’s strict upbringing. Tula rekindles a crush she had as a child only to learn that her old friend is an agent of a new evil, Morpho, a dark ecomancer who’s bonding with the Dark Water.
The next film follows Ren and company as they venture back to Ren’s home which is now beneath a black sea rich with dark water. The crew ventures down into the chambers of Ren’s former palace, searching for the other half of the sword. Along the way, each is haunted by their past. Ioz is lost in the maze beneath the sea after he follows the ghost of his son. Ren unites the sword with the help of Niddler and Joat, but as they escape, Joat is killed. Niddler and Ren escape on the Wraith with no idea if Ioz is alive or dead.
The following film follows Ioz’s story after he disappears. The ghost of his son leads Ioz to a small raft and then to a mystical island. After nearly dying at sea, Ioz finds an island that seems like heaven. His son and wife are alive; his life is peaceful, everything is idyllic. But in truth, Ioz is stranded and at the mercy of a sea lich who is draining his life. Ioz survives and heads out to find Ren on the small raft.
Movie number five reunites Ren with Tula and puts them on a new mission. This time they must head to Janda-Town, the heart of Bloth’s territory and steal the Treasures of Rule the villain’s accumulated. In an Ocean’s 11 like a heist movie, the pair gathers new friends: Zoolie, a red-headed rogue who runs a game-house in Janda and Welker, a rare firemancer with a grudge against Bloth. While on the mission, Tula finds Toran, a supreme ecomancer (and Welker’s father) thought dead. From Toran, they learn that The Order and the entire city around it have been consumed by Dark Water. Everyone escapes and Bloth is killed only to be brought back to life, bigger and stronger, by Dracolich and the Dark Water.
Ioz washes up on the shore of the island of Pandawa where Niddler’s people nurse the pirate back to health. Learning of a Treasure of Rule that is buried in an old ruin, Ioz, Caryn (a Pandawan), and Sela, an old pirate friend of Ioz, head out to find the treasure.
Arriving on Pandawa, Ren and Tula are searching for the final treasure when they find Ioz who has it. The group now heads to where the Dark Water came from, the Great Mountain. Along the way, Toran grows sicker and sicker as the Dark Water gains more power across Mer. Another city is devoured. The Wraith comes under attack from the Maelstrom and is downed, crashing on an island surrounded by Dark Water. On the island, the group must survive long enough to get the Wraith back up.
Bloth leaves Dracolich on the Great Mountain from which Dark Water spews. Bloth heads to the island to kill Ren and the Pirates.
In the final film, Bloth and his forces hunt Ren and his group one by one. Toran is killed but passes on power to both Welker and Tula that they can’t quite control. Ren is hunted by Bloth who orders his men to leave them both alone. Bloth taunts Ren with memories from his past before Ren finally ends Bloth.
Ren, Welker, and Tula confront Dracolich with the Treasures of Rule, a suit of armor that shapes itself to the wearer. The trio uses all their powers, with Ren wearing the Treasures, to defeat Morpho and repel the Dark Water back from where it came.
There you have it. Pirates of the Dark Water, a 90s cartoon that few ever talk about re-imagined as an eight-movie cinematic universe. There’s room to grow, too. So, if Warner Brothers are listening, I’ll joyfully write the scripts for a low fee.
Did you like my re-imagining? More are coming, and I take suggestions. Got a cartoon you think I could re-imagine? Post it in the comments below.