9 Ways James Cameron Will Make Fantastic Voyage More Fantastic
Usually my instinctive reaction to any remake news is to scoff and ask, "Why?" Not so with the recent announcement that James Cameron will be producing another go at the 1966 non-classic Fantastic Voyage. That's because I revisited this childhood favorite five years ago and found it sorely lacking. Another more recent, post-Avatar viewing just confirmed that the King Of The World is the perfect person to take the terrific concept -- an Abyss/Titanic style submarine miniaturized and injected into the Aliens/Avatar-like alien-landscape of the human body -- and make it, you know, actually fantastic. Here's how he'll do it.
The original Fantastic Voyage came in lovely CinemaScope and four-track stereo. For 1966, this was awesome. In 2012, the journey will, of course, be rendered with state-of-the-art images and sound. After Avatar, we're convinced -- at least for certain stories, this being one of them -- that the immersive three-dimensional film "ride" is the way to go. As first depicted by director Richard Fleischer's art department and special effects crew, the inside of the human body is a series of rivers and chambers that are often neon colored and inhabited by floating jelly fish type things. This could be straight out of Avatar. Cameron, presently attached director Shane Salerno and Weta Digital can unleash all sorts of magic here while doing away with the fuzzy mattes of the original. Also happily history: the Star Trek-like scenes where the cast are called on to fall this way and that as the submarine is buffeted.
2. A More Ace Base
The original Fantastic Voyage takes us into the underground headquarters of the amusingly named "Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces," which yields the unwieldy acronym CMDF -- which then becomes a huge badge on everyone's uniform. In this secret HQ, workers get around on golf carts and there are even MP's to direct this meager "traffic." In the control room, workers monitor black-and-white TV screens while lights on ancient computer-trons blink on and off and the equivalent of an over-sized alarm clock display flicks down the 60 minutes our heroes have before the begin to grow again. Cameron does great industrial-military bases and he'll ensure this place has a better name (maybe "Munchkinland" for a thru-line from the Oz reference in Avatar?), bustles with hard-headed grunts and that the nerve center positively bursts with those awesome 3-D displays that were one of the best effects in Avatar.
3. Give Them A Better Motivation
Our heroes are shrunk down to microscopic size so they can laser away an embolism from the brain of a man who has barely survived an assassination attempt by "Them," presumably the Russians. The reason for his importance? He holds the key to making the miniaturization process last longer than 60 minutes. For starters, why is it such an advantage to be able to shrink armies down so small they can fit in a bottle cap? Yes, it'd make transportation easier, but any saving here would be negated by the need to shuffle hundreds of thousands of troops and their equipment into the over-sized microwave oven that does the shrinking. And once they were tiny, you'd risk having your forces accidentally flushed down the toilet. The movie also makes it clear in the "inner ear" sequence that tiny people can be completely destroyed by loud noises, meaning the entire miniaturized 101st Airborne could be wiped out by an errant blast of Metallica. So Cameron needs to give us a better patient (a popular President will do) who has a better need to survive at all costs (a controversial environmental agreement could work) and a better reason why miniaturization was developed (for speed-of-light space travel with spaceships fired as particles in a beam).
4. Give Us Some Characterization
Stephen Boyd's Grant is our putative hero. He's called in to provide some kind of security for the mission. Once on board, he's occasionally asked to flip a switch or monitor a gauge. Who exactly is he? Not a clue. The man has not a skerrick of back story. His compadres -- Donald Pleasence, Raquel Welch and Arthur Kennedy -- have barely any more history, other than we're told they do "science." A little personality, please.
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