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Can Paul Greengrass bring his magic touch to 'Fantastic Voyage,' or will the material shrink him?

April 1, 2010 |  3:23 pm

It only seemed like an April Fools' joke when we read it this morning-- Paul Greengrass would tackle a wholesome adventure. A remake. In 3-D.

Greengrass is of course the filmmaker who's stubbornly and brilliantly gone his own way, even when he's gone the studio way. The most recent two Jason Bourne movies were great not only because of solid acting and well-constructed action scenes but because they had the crisp editing and verite camerawork that Greengrass brought to their passion projects. As for those passion projects, "Bloody Sunday" and "United 93," well, they were near-masterpieces. And "Green Zone" was pretty strong too.

So what in the name of Donald Pleasence was he thinking in taking on "Fantastic Voyage?"

In agreeing to direct the (likely 3-D) remake of the 1966 medical adventure at Fox, Green was embracing something that seemed, while perfectly respectable, also boringly commercial. The original had an appealing conceit and an entertaining sheen but it was, in the end, an up-the-middle entertainment. It didn't seem to lend itself to Greengrass' many skills, which are contained in small, quick movements and grainy palettes, not the grand sweep of an underwater adventure (essentially what "Fantastic Voyage" is). And certainly not in the (oddly flattening effect, at least spiritually) of the new 3-D craze.

Sure, the Bourne movies are big, implausible thrillers. But they're fast, and Greengrass does fast. "Fantastic Voyage" ain't fast. Plus, there are only so many Paul Greengrasses out there. Unless we figure out a way to shrink -- er, clone -- him, every pedestrian movie he takes on is a promise-laden project he turns down.

Then again, if someone is going to remake "Voyage" -- and there have been many who've tried over the years, including, um, smaller lights like Roland Emmerich and Tarsem Singh -- it may as well be someone with this kind of chops. Maybe Greengrass will actually find some new and interesting uses for 3-D, just as he did for another technology/device that had been around for years, the hand-held camera. And Greengrass is particularly adept at editing (an area in which the first film was nominated for an Oscar) as well as another skill that could come in handy for "Voyage:" transporting us somewhere we never expected to be (such as a hijacked plane). Let's just hope this one doesn't carry him away from something more interesting.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: "Fantastic Voyage." Credit: 20th Century Fox.

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"Grainy Pallets"? That's an understatement! The "Green Zone" looked liked it was shot in PixelVision or 8mm. Hands down had to be one of the most grainy films in recent years. Can't wait for awful grain in 3D! I bet it will look awesome!

You think Paul Greengrass would bring "crisp editing" and "hand held" to a 3D 'Fantastic Voyage'? Are you out of your mind? Do you know what you're talking about?

First- you'd better learn about 3D. The PRINCIPAL RULE OF 3D EDITING: the main thing one needs to consider while editing in 3D is that no single shot can be shorter than 2 seconds (and Paul Greengrass hasn't seen a 2-second shot he ever liked). Any shorter than that and the brain doesn’t have time to adjust to the new 3D surroundings/depth and cannot properly process the information, leaving you confused and a little off balance if you cut away too soon.

One of the great things about AVATAR is that they went into the movie understanding this. You can have fast moving action, but it needs to be in sustained shots. Think back on the most stunning shots of that movie – they are fluid, but not rapidly edited. Instead they are more classically edited. Now imagine if those action sequences were directed by Paul Greengrass in full on BOURNE SUPREMACY-mode. To see a prime (and miserable) example of this - watch the action sequences in the new CLASH OF THE TITANS. There is a real, honest to god reason people like Michael Bay are resistant to 3D – because it changes the way you are allowed to make movies. You have to frame them differently; color them differently; edit them differently. And 3D positively destroyed the film. Audiences are reporting that the MTV rapid-fire editing appears blurry and creates genuine eyestrain.

And this is just for the ultra-fast editing; if Greengrass brought 'handheld, jerky camera work' to 3D, you'd have people going nauseous in the theater and throwing up. It would be a horrendous experience for audiences. So - Paul Greengrass doing 'Fantastic Voyage'? Unless he radically changes his technique and style, he would be a godawful choice for directing such a film.

Fantastic Voyage is a fun movie, but with flawed physics.
You can shrink size but the ship and crew will still have the same amount of atoms. They will still weight several tons. Heck, they might even warp space and create a black hole?

Another reason why Hollywood is in big trouble. Once again, instead of thinking out of the box and producing new exciting movies, they are playing it safe and reaching back to the past for old material. It appears that Hollywood has no more good ideas. The once, innovative and entertaining industry that once gave us ground breaking movies has degenerated to rehashing old themes and plots or stealing ideas from the European film makers.

And even by rehashing old ideas, you guys have failed repeatedly to pull it off because you think good looking actors/actresses with shallow character, CGI and other technical innovations will re-excite the audience. Without a good plot and good acting, the only guys making money these days from remakes are the good looking actors/actresses and the gee-whiz techno-geeks.

Leave our memories of this still awesome movie alone! You guys won't be able to pull it off because we, the audience, don't want to see a crass and offensive, updated rehash of an already great film. Come up with some original material and bring back the excitement that going to the movies used to be.

Let's see...Planet of the Apes via Tim Burton. Not so good. The Day the Earth Stood Still. Crapola on a stick. Poseidon Adventure got remade, unfortunately. Anna and the King of Siam with Jodi Foster. All bad ideas. Very, very bad ideas. Next we will get Von Ryan's Express or a remake of Patton. Or The French Connection. Or Silver Streak. Someone's probably taking meetings right now on how to re-invent Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
20th Century Fox does its best when it makes bold, original films like Avatar. It also makes money.

The first one had Raquel Welch in a skin-tight rubber body suit. If they can replicate that and do it in 3-D, we'll have a hit on our hands.

I thought that "Fantastic Voyage" got its remake with the very nice and intelligent "Innerspace" by Joe Dante - but that was sooo more than twenty years ago, and God forbid Hollywood tries to do some NEW ideas instead of rehashing (and mostly ruining) old movies!!
As per Mr. Greengrass, he's definitely a man of talent, however - and maybe this is because I'm too old for this kind of stuff - when I go to the movies I'd like to be able to follow the action, rather than having a screen vomiting onto me 5,000 shots per minute... Sadly, this trend has spilled over other filmmakers (I can only think at the overly confusing beginning of "Quantum of Solace," where nobody was sure whose car was which - nor that I cared. I hate Daniel Craigslist as Bond - but sometimes there's really an abuse of speed and fast cutting, that to me are detrimental to the final outcome.
Oh, well...

Flawed physics? WRONG! Does it go against physics THEORY? Yes. Since no one has ever had the ability to shrink things as depicted in the movie, no one knows what happens to the mass (how about displaced?). Now as to the force behind the statement: chill the heck out. It's a movie. It's fiction. You took a physics class and shared your knowledge. Thank you for sharing, but leave the movies alone.

Jeez Desi, I did say it was fun.

P.S I still have that book.


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