Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Fantastic Voyage: A Li'l Sci Fi Fun
The sources of the film's suspense are definitely unusual. For example, when a strong current propels the Proteus off-course, the only new route to Benes' brain is through the heart chamber. Earlier in the film, we learn that the heart chamber is the one place the Proteus must avoid because the pumping blood would crush the little ship. So what to do? General Carter, who has been drinking a lot of coffee (with massive amounts of sugar) suggests that Benes' heart be stopped long enough for the Proteus to get through the chamber. The catch is that once the heart is stopped, Bene must be revived within sixty seconds or he may not get revived at all. And, according to Carter's slide-rule calculations, it will take the Proteus crew 57 seconds to navigate the route. Hmm...three seconds to spare is cutting it pretty close!
The special effects are spotty, even though they won an Academy Award (the film also won for Best Art Direction). The scenes where things become small or big are pretty woeful, especially by today's computer-generated standards. In contrast, once the Proteus is cruising through the circulatory system, Fantastic Voyage still looks pretty impressive. But then, the 20th Century-Fox special effects team, led by L.B. Abbott, had a pretty good handle on submarine scenes, having working on the film and TV versions of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
Acclaimed science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote a novelization based on the screenplay. The ending in Asimov's book is slightly different and accounts for a scientific discrepancy in the film version. Asimov also penned a sequel called Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain. Over the years, numerous directors, such as James Cameron, have considered producing a big budget remake. Joe Dante's 1987 film Innerspace, starring Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, is a lighthearted variation. It also won an Oscar for special effects.