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Category: Fantastic Voyage

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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