Friday 29 June 2012
Film: Innerspace (1987)
For some reason I hadn't seen this film before now. I suspect when I heard about the plot I confused it with the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage, which I do recall watching several decades ago. Both films feature people in small submarines being miniaturised to such an extent that the submarines can be injected into a person and be navigated around the body. The main difference is that Innerspace is a comedy.
Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) is a gung-ho pilot who has volunteered to man the submarine on its first exploratory voyage, intended to be in an animal. However, a criminal organisation tries to seize the technology, as a result of which the submarine is randomly injected into a Jack Putter (Martin Short) a hypochondriac wimp. Pendleton is able to tap into Putter's vision and hearing, and to communicate with him. What follows is a protracted two-way chase, as Pendleton/Putter, aided by Pendleton's somewhat confused girlfriend Lydia Maxwell (Meg Ryan), try to recover the part of the technology stolen by the criminals in order to reverse Pendleton's miniaturisation, while the criminals are hunting Putter in order to obtain the submarine for themselves. Meanwhile, the air in the submarine is running out.
There is lots of humour, mostly resulting from Pendleton's efforts to stir the terrified Putter into bold action, and some rather mixed-up romance too. The "feel" of the film is somewhat old-fashioned, more like the 1960s than the 1980s and quite different from anything made today. All in all, it’s a couple of hours of pleasant if undemanding entertainment, and recommended if you've not seen it already.
I tried reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson over the past week or two. This was first published in 1992 and was well regarded, being nominated for two British SF awards, but I hadn't come across it before. It was very cutting edge in its subject matter, featuring a dystopian future in which democratic control in the USA has mainly been replaced by a patchwork of territories controlled by organised gangs linked to big business franchises. People spend a lot of time in the Metaverse, a virtual world in which interaction is by user-chosen avatars, and the two settings run in parallel in the novel. The title comes from a new computer virus which is causing havoc in the Metaverse.
The story is very clever and packed with good ideas, but I found it heavy going and each time I picked up the book found I had to flip back some pages to refresh my memory as to what had happened or who characters were - always a bad sign. I eventually made it past halfway, but then asked myself the three crucial questions: Am I really keen to find out what happens next? Do I really care what happens to the characters? Do I want to spend another week or so on this book? The answer to all three was "No", so I stopped reading. What put me off the book? I think it was the lack of both a coherent, gripping story and sympathetic characters. The author seems to have been so busy developing his ideas of life in his future world that he forgot the essential point of a novel in any genre: it should tell a story, one which seizes the imagination of readers and keeps them turning the pages to discover what happens next, while really caring about what happens to the characters.