Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel in the human body? Have you ever thought what the human body would like on the inside? If so, then Fantastic Voyage might just be the film for you. The film is a really fascinating look at what the filmmakers perceived the human body to look like in the 1960’s. But on the whole, this movie is a wonderful, original science-fiction film ripe with some unique ideas. I really loved the premise of the film. I found the idea of humans being shrunk so they can explore the inside of the human body and stop disease is a very cool and rather unique idea (at least at the film’s release date).
While I found this to be an enjoyable film on the whole, I was not particularly fond of the visual effects. Believe it or not, the film actually won an Oscar for the visual effects. But 49 years after the film’s release, they look very outdated and sometimes downright lame. When first released, the film was heralded for its groundbreaking visuals, which I can understand. Despite me not liking the visuals too much, I do like how the filmmakers imagined the human body. It was quite interesting to see the blood cells or the hair linings and I was particularly interested how they created the heart and brain and it was really cool. I did like the score and the sound effects better than the visual effects. It’s interesting because the music composed for the film were essentially sound effects. I would originally be annoyed, but the music actually works very well for the film in that context.
So what is this film all about? In addition to being a learning experience about the human body, the film is also another one with a “Cold War” theme. Obviously, we were in a middle of an arms race with the Soviet Union at the time of release and I believe that was an influence on the plot. In the movie, both nations had the formula for miniaturizing humans. However, a human could only be miniaturized for a short amount of time. There is this scientist named Jan Benes, who found the secret for keeping humans miniaturized for an indefinite time period. With such secret information, that means people working for the Soviets could be after Benes. Benes escapes from them with the help of a CIA agent named Grant (Stephen Boyd). However, their convoy is attacked on the transfer and Benes is struck in the head, causing a life-threatening blood clot in the brain. Grant is now added to a task force led by Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasance) to be miniaturized and to stop the blood clot by traveling inside Benes’s body. Now they only have an hour to complete the task before they grow big and destroy Benes because of that.
As for performances, it seemed like everyone had a fun time starring in the movie. Stephen Boyd, known mostly for being Ben Hur’s rival in 1959’s Ben-Hur, does a rather good job in the lead role as Grant. He was the man from the outside learning valuable information for the first time, just like the rest of us audience. I also enjoyed the performance of Donald Pleasance who portrayed the team leader of the expedition, Dr. Michaels. His character seemed pretty menacing at times, but he also provided a good amount of scientific information which proved to be interesting. However, not all characters I found particularly enjoyable. There was only one woman in the film and that was the character of Cora played by Raquel Welch. Cora is the main assistant of Dr. Michaels. She is supposedly one of the main character of the films, but she doesn’t act the part. Welch’s performance is not bad per se, but her character has no personality. It seemed to me her character was just added to the film to be eye candy, and not to provide any depth. I was rather disappointed in that. This is probably the biggest issue I had with the film, other than the outdated visual effects which I can appreciate though.
Fantastic Voyage, directed by Richard Fleischer, is a very entertaining movie and it can be quite a learning experience. Despite it being a fictional movie, I learned some things about the human body. There is no doubt this sci-fi film is campy like other similar films of the time period, but I had a very fun time watching it. I had my issues with the visual effects, but they are colorful and they do bring the screen to life in portraying different sections of the body. I really liked how the film is also interested in turning some of the human parts into “bad guys.” What I mean is that there are some sections of the human body they might want to stay away from. Outdated visual effects and a disappointing female lead are what kept me from calling this a great film. But I was very entertained and in that point, the movie succeeded.
My Grade: B+