07 March 2008

Netflix Notes: 07 March 2008

Fantastic Voyage won two Oscars in 1966, for Best Art Direction, and Best Visual Effects, and imagining the cinematic landscape of that year, it's pretty easy to understand why the film won those awards.
The problem is, the passage of time is so often so very cruel, as it is with the set designs and special effects in this film. What we have here really, are Star Trek sets and effects with a bigger budget, and yet, that extra cash doesn't really improve upon anything we've seen in Star Trek, and in fact, in many instances the props and effects are downright laughable - here we have huge computer banks with dozens upon dozens of lights and buttons and dials, and yet, there's not a single word/label to be found anywhere on those consoles. That doesn't stop the technicians (hello, James Brolin!) from pushing and twisting and tweaking like they're directly jacked into the system like it's cyberpunk circa 1986. Here we have a submarine that looks like a ski boat with some plastic wings fused onto it, and then when it's shrunk down, looks like a really cheap Matchbox/Hot Wheels toy. And here we have computer monitors that actually display actual fucking drawings on their screens, instead of anything even remotely "real".
But perhaps I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.
The story is - both the USA and USSR (the cold war is raging hard in 1966, babycakes) are developing the science of miniaturization, and when the Soviet scientist who makes the big breakthrough tries defecting to the West, an assassination attempt leaves him in a coma with a blood clot in his brain.
The problem is - the comatose scientist's big breakthrough allows miniaturized people and things to remain small for long periods of time, because at the moment, the smaller something or someone is shrunk, the quicker it returns to normal size.
And so a team is assembled in the USA to be minaturized along with a nuclear-powered submarine, and injected into the comatose scientist's body to remove the blood clot with a sophisticated laser weapon.
Two problems - they only have an hour to get the job done, and wouldn't you know it - there's a double agent amongst the miniaturized crew!
It's an interesting story idea, I'll admit. Interesting enough that Isaac Asimov was willing to write a novelization of the original screenplay for Bantam Books that ultimately hit the streets several months before the film itself, with Asimov's name and reputation really helping to market the movie...The problem is, it's an interesting story rather poorly told (Asimov's novel is much more complex and speculatively possible than the screenplay itself), and again, alot of really cheesy props and effects don't help.
And I'd be more than willing to overlook those lame props and outdated effects (mostly background green screen stuff) if the screenplay and direction were actually any good. But they aren't, and so it's not until minute 38 of a 101 minute film that the crew and their submarine are actually miniaturized and inside the comatose scientist's body. Again, that might not be such a problem if those first 38 minutes weren't so absolutely fucking slow and undramatic, full of a whole lot of dialogue that essentially tells us no more than what I've already told you - the leading miniaturization expert is in a coma, needs a brain operation, so we're sending in a crew, rather than actually doing a, you know, normal brain operation with normal-sized doctors.
At minute 20 the sequence begins during which time the crew and submarine are going to be miniaturized and injected. You think to yourself, "finally, the doctors and military officers are done arguing and explaining and slide-ruling, and there's gonna be some good ol' fashioned shrinking!"
Except, it's a four phase operation that will take another 18 minutes to accomplish, during which time there will be alot of long quiet scenes in which the crew members do nothing more than look nervously at one another as they get shrunken down, dropped inside a syringe with the world's tiniest forklift, and finally shot into the patient's carotid artery...
The patient, with his shaved skull mapped and numbered for no good reason, and a big red X magic-markered onto his neck...And the tiny radars...All the tiny radars! So many tiny radars!
Ahh, minute 38 and the shrooms and/or acid should be kicking in right about now, and I'm not really kidding because our first look inside the patient's body is the bloodstream, which looks pretty much like a lava lamp, or those acid-washed projector shows that were all the rage in the hippie age...One can't help but believe this film was made for the druggie subculture, and while I didn't eat any shrooms or drop any acid for this, I did smoke up the kind for my viewing of Fantastic Voyage, but as you can tell, it didn't really help me enjoy it all that much.
So, like I mentioned, there's a double agent amongst the shrunken crew, and hey, Donald Pleasence is in the cast. At the 30 minute mark, when he's already shrunken down and inside a submarine inside a syringe, his character has an attack of claustrophobia and desperately tries to escape the sub, and one can't help but think, "If he's got claustrophobia, how did he get vetted to be one of the shrunken crew, and why would he want to be there? He wouldn't be there unless he had a damn good reason to be there."
Near the very end, Pleasence's character is attacked and engulfed by a white blood cell, a white blob made of nothing more sophisticated than laundry detergent. "And the winner is..."
Speaking of the ending - As long and slow and drawn out as the beginning of this film is, so the ending is amazingly abrupt.
There is six minutes left before the crew and their submarine begin growing back to normal size, and they have yet to fix the blood clot and deal with Donald Pleasence. Of course, the crew spends two of those minutes standing around inside the submarine talking, but this is a drug-addled sci-fi script, so no worries. The crew exits the sub, laser-gun the clot back to good health, but when Pleasence meanwhile commandeers the sub and crashes it into some grey matter, where it is attacked by laundry detergent, the remaining crew is forced to swim in their underwhelming scuba gear for the tear duct if they're gonna make it out of the comatose scientist's body in time.
Which they do. Where they are scooped up on a microscope slide by a general (not a scientist or doctor) and then quickly grow back to normal size, and are greeted with many hugs and handshakes by all the technicians and military men.
The end.
No word on whether the comatose scientist survives or not, which kinda sucks cuz there's a dead Donald Pleasance and a submarine made out of a ski boat still inside of him, after all, and wouldn't they grow and explode out of his body?
Nope, just the camera pulling away and all those handshakes and hugs.
Oh, and did I mention Raquel Welch is in the cast, looking a bit like the original Eva Mendes and actually doing more acting than just looking all hot and chesty for the drug-addled sci-fi geeks?
3 out of 5 cuz the passage of time is a cruel bitch, and Raquel Welch is chesty anyways...Otherwise it woulda been a 2, cuz c'mon, the blood clot was made outta attic insulation!
Hotcha! Hank

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home