A team of scientists take a trip into the unknown which lasts just one hour and can be measured in centimeters, as they’re shrunk down to microscopic size and head into a human body to carry out a high-precision operation.
Essentially an underwater adventure, aboard what is effectively a deep sea craft, Fantastic Voyage is like Ant Man meets The Abyss. The crew are sent in by the CMDF, a secret organisation which I can only assume stands for the Centre of Medium Density Fibreboard.
Of higher density is the degree of biological detail in the film, demonstrating that its opening, which thanks the scientists who advised on the script, is not, as it first appears, a joke. The physics are less watertight, and the film takes itself remarkably seriously given the ridiculousness of it all.
The interior of the body is a Barbarella-esque psychedelic 60s world, which is remarkably well lit given the absence of any light source. One particular highlight involves a character being attacked by white blood cells, not a million miles from the jellyfish attack of Sphere.
The weakest element is the lack of urgency and, consequently, suspense. In spite of only having an hour to avert some pretty dire consequences, they always seem to be going at a rather leisurely pace, with time to ponder the nature of human existence, discuss creationism and stare in awe at the tiny world.
It’s a vessel for ideas and has the nerve to give them the time they’re due. But it also possesses a sense of awe which has been missing from sci-fi since the real world managed to become almost as fantastical. As the source of numerous imitations and parodies its impact is obvious in a heartbeat.