Fantastic Voyage (1966)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/27/13
Cast: Stephen Boyd, Rachel Welch, Donald Pleasence

The security of the Free World is at stake in this Cold War drama, which has the Combined Miniature Defense Force racing against time to save the life of a defecting scientist who was left in a coma by an assassination attempt. In order to clear a critical blood clot in the brain, a special submarine and its crew are miniaturized and injected into the patient's bloodstream, where they encounter all sorts of wonders and troubles. Will they be able to save the patient and get out in time, or will an enemy agent finish the job of the assassins?

It's a big budget spectacle, and the film gets high marks for its art direction and wonderful visual effects. Unfortunately, the pacing is dreadfully slow, and the film tends to linger on how wonderful it is just a little too long. The plot is nearly non-existent, and feels more like a travelogue through the human body than anything else. It's clear who the bad guy is from the very beginning, so there's not a lot of mystery and suspense. Still, the motive isn't obvious, and it's unclear whether there are other forces at work. The acting is a bit flat, and much like "Jurassic Park" (1993), there's a lot of time spent on the actors oo-ing and ah-ing over the scenery. The lascivious Stephen Boyd is instantly dislikable, which is unfortunate since he's the main character. He tries to charm his way into Rachel Welch's pants every chance he gets, which is uncomfortable to watch.

It's quite a magical film if you can ignore all of the glaring plot holes and technical absurdities. Unfortunately, the abrupt ending is completely unsatisfactory. Our heroes manage to survive via a daring escape, but what of the patient? Did he live, and is he capable of handing over his vital secrets to the CMDF? And what of the submarine and the saboteur? There's absolutely no closure, which is a bit maddening. Overall, if you can put up with the sluggish pace, the goofy characters, and the long-winded and often times awkward dialog, "Fantastic Voyage" is pretty fantastic. But that's a lot of concessions to make for a film.