This series of reviews will attempt to not only review each film selected but also the “fan fiction” that has sprung up around it, an art form that I have followed for some time and have now decided to incorporate into my writings on film and the reaction it inspires.
The reviews form the jumping off point for longer reviews, analysis, and extended coverage at Ripple Reel, which I hope you will find of some interest.
That is a paid site, but the reviews below will hopefully encourage you to delve further into the wonderful worlds that I will be examining with each review. This is a change from my initial strategy with both sites, but one that I hope will be just as effective going forward.
I am indebted to the artists at both deviantart.com and fanfiction.net for their remarkable work which has in turn inspired me to cover them, and I would highly recommend both sites for the intrepid fan who may wish to explore the worlds of fiction and the artists they inspire across the great and incredibly busy/transformative highways of the world wide web.
So without further adieu, here is my review of “Innerspace” and I would say “selected fan fiction” but there isn’t any that I’ve been able to find, so I’ve decided to review the novelization instead…
“Let the good times roll…”
This quote about accurately sums up what for me is a favourite film, and one I never tired of revisiting. After covering the darkness of “Blade Runner”, its something of a refreshing feeling to revisit a film that is in may ways the exact opposite of that film, at least in tone, and one that makes you feel good after you’ve watched it.
When “Innerspace” first came out 2 days and 30 years ago, and preceding the birthday of director Joe Dante on the 28th (Happy Birthday Joe!), it landed with something of a thud box-office wise, but has gone to become a cult classic (much like “Blade Runner”) that continues to resonate with people of all ages.
I think of it as the quintessential “Sunday” movie…that is a movie you can turn on, watch, and just relax as familiar characters inhabit the screen once more.
The film itself came out at the height of what I’d called “Spielberg mania” that is to say Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest directors to ever work in Hollywood, was probably at his peak as a producer and director in the 80’s, a decade which in some ways he helped to shape, and produced many of the movies that would go on to define it.
Movies like “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”, “Poltergeist”, “Gremlins”, “The Goonies”, and of course…“Innerspace”.
The film itself is part of a pantheon of movies that Spielberg produced and didn’t direct, but the fact that he was a producer made the movie itself stand out from others in the same year, and became a trademark and “branding” if you will that any film using would stand a fair chance of profiting from.
He essentially became a household name during this period, in some ways I would argue the new Walt Disney, where everything he touched seemed to turn to gold, and audiences had a fairly reliable metric of what to expect when they saw a film produced by Spielberg.
This metric usually indicated high adventure, sometimes zany or wonder-inducing concepts, and oodles of good humour that made it fun for the whole family, and Spielberg really capitalized on this with great success through his company Amblin Entertainment, which became synonymous with family entertainment, and really helped to shape the rest of Spielberg’s career.
He would of course go on to other projects and some would argue “mature” as a filmmaker – “Schindler’s List, and “Saving Private Ryan” come to mind – but really, I think a lot of people think of the 80’s when they think of Spielberg and what he accomplished during that time, not only as a filmmaker but as a household name.
Joe Dante was a relative newcomer to Hollywood, and hadn’t really entered the studio system and “infiltrated” it like Spielberg had. He’s about the same age as Spielberg, but got his start as a film critic (woo hoo) before going on to work for Roger Corman as a film editor, making his directorial debut with “Hollywood Boulevard”, a film essentially composed of movie trailers, and in many ways Dante’s whole career has been about reflecting his love of movies through his own unique and offbeat lens, which I happen to love.
Dante has always maintained a certain “oeuvre” through his films, and a set of stock players that seem to crop up in each one, such as Dick Miller, who always makes a welcome appearance in character actor roles. I’ve always loved the affection Dante seems to have for movies in general, and it really seeps into his films as well. He’s never been a filmmaker in many ways to take himself too seriously, and always seems to have fun with the subject matter in ways that I would say are unique to him and in some ways hard for me to pin down easily.
In some ways its a feeling, and they always have a certain innocence that Spielberg always seemed to play around with but shifted from as well, whereas I would say (with the exception of television) Dante has always maintained that playfulness and always seemed comfortable in sticking with it. In other words, when you see a Joe Dante picture, you know what you’re in for, and you love every minute of it, like a comfort blanket after a long and difficult day.
For me, “Innerspace” certainly is that, and takes a science fiction trope that I’ve always loved – miniaturization – and injects it (pardon the pun) with comedy, flair, and a fantastic buddy movie mentality that just works and works. The special effects in the movie add to this tremendously, and in an era where CGI was still a relatively far off concept, the reliance on practical effects creates a spectacular feeling of immersion that just works. You feel like what you are seeing is real, and the work by ILM and Dennis Muren did in fact win they an academy award, and rightly so.
The score by Jerry Goldsmith is a tremendous bonus as well, and Goldsmith was always able to bring a certain majesty and grandeur to projects he did, as well as a sense of mystery and wonder, and “Innerspace” is no different, adding layers of feeling to innerscapes that take your breath away and leave you gasping for air just as Dennis Quaid’s character, Jack Putter does in the film at times.
The screenplay by Jeffrey Boam is wonderfully lighthearted and really allows the two leads to bounce of each other wonderfully. Dennis Quaid is perfect in the role of the pilot stuck in the body of Martin Short’s character, and Short himself is a perfect foil who really engages in some wonderful sequences that not only keep the good vibes going, but add wonderful laughs too. The chemistry between he and Meg Ryan, is a wonderful bonus as well, and really makes the storyline between them and Dennis Quaid’s character sing all the more too.
It’s a film I would recommend seeking out, and although there doesn’t seem to be anything in the way of fan fiction or even making of materials (which I find to be a shame) it’s a film that’s a worthy entry into the world of “miniaturization”, just as “Fantastic Voyage was”, and I would urge anyone with an interest in the actors and filmmakers involved to seek this one out, you won’t be disappointed.
“I think you just digested the bad guy…”
This section will be used in lieu of fan fiction reviews where there is none to be found, and I hope you enjoy.
Innerspace Novel: A Review
Innerspace possesses no real fan fiction as such (which I find to be a shame), but it does have a tie-in novel which is a rather small but fun read, and follows on from the film much the same way.
Tie-in novels have a long history within Hollywood, with Allan Dean Foster perhaps regarded as one of the most critically acclaimed of the authors who have written within this space, and whose “Alien” novels are high on my list of books to read.
I think that these novels, much like fan fiction in a way, are not regarded as high literature, which is a shame to a degree, as I think that Foster’s work, for instance, possesses a complexity of its own and extends the world far beyond that of the film; exploring the inner workings of the characters and adding depth which can a long way to extending its life off the screen for fans who really wish to delve into it. Much like fan fiction in a way.
I vividly remember listening to the audio book for “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”, back when it came out in 2005, and being swept along by it; Jonathan Davis adding a smooth tonality to his narration that helped me become immersed in a Galaxy far far away, and I appreciated the added depth that was given to the film by Matthew Stover, the author of the book, who clearly had a love for the world he was writing in and wished to contribute something to it.
This was also helped by the impressive audio effects and music added to it which added a lovely layering to the experience itself, and audiobooks in themselves are a format that I dearly love and could go on a tangent about in another review. That however is for another day…
Back to “Innerspace”. The novel is written by Christopher Evans, writing under the pseudonym of Nathan Elliot, a British science fiction author who has written children’s, YA, and adults novels during his career, and who I’m now curious to read more of based on his style from this novel, which I quite like.
As a novel, it doesn’t really add much more depth to what is already presented in the film, and is basically a play-by-play of the events that happen, with alterations here and there. Tuck Pendleton for instance doesn’t kiss one of the female lab technicians in his long heroes walk to the pod in the film, which as a sequence is really played for all its worth in the best way that cinema can do, and I suspect the kiss may have been an ad-lib on Quaid or Dante’s part to emphasize the slightly comedic macho “hero” image of Tuck before we go on the adventure and get to know his character more over the film.
More changes occur where Jack slaps and then punches himself in the mirror to sober himself up (one of my favourite moments) which is found in both the film and the screenplay by Jeffrey Boam but not in the novel, and Igoe is listening to “Angel of Death” by Slayer” in the movie instead of “Entrance of the Gods”, found in the novel and “Ride of the Valykries” (both by Wagner) in the screenplay by Boam (I suspect they felt he was more of a heavy metal guy in the end).
Igoes skeleton also comes attached with the craft when it’s brought back to normal size following their final fight, unlike the film where he is digested – “You just digested the bad guy” – and he is in fact revealed to be a robot in Boam’s script, a change in the film and the novelization I was glad they made ultimately. Other miscellaneous bits are switched around here and there, and I would say for the better.
Overall it’s a novel that exists for fans who wish to get a written version of the film itself, and presents mostly a lot of dialogue that we never hear in film, quite a few lines of which made me chuckle; Doctor Greenwood for instance describing in vivid detail what in-depth surgery consists of, much to Jack’s horror. We also see Tuck verbalize his proposal to Lydia just after he comes back to the world of the living in a small scene, which I think was ultimately cut for the better as the momentum plays off perfectly into the next scene of the wedding itself. What cinema is all about – tell the story visually if all possible.
I’m glad to have the novel though, and it’s a nice little quirky, enjoyable gem for a fan of the film such as myself, that really doesn’t have anything in the way of a making off or fan fiction, which I really do find to be a shame, as I think it’s a wonderful film, as I discuss in detail in my reviews.
The one bonus that the DVD release has is the audio commentary by Joe Dante, his frequent prroducer Michael Finnell, or Mike Finnell, actor Kevin McCarthy who plays Victor Scrimsham, Dennis Muren, the visual effects supervisor, and as a bonus addition later on Robert Picardo, who so memorably plays “The Cowboy” in the film.
Audio commentaries are an entire topic in themselves and one I could perhaps delve into in another review, but with this particular one, it’s a sheer joy, and Dante and co clearly enjoy reminiscing about the film, and share little factoids that really delight and inform. McCarthy for instance had an entire monologue about his character in the van scene where he talks to Jack, but which we don’t really hear as our attention is on Jack’s character’s inner dialogue, and to their knowledge no known version of the monologue exists on paper, which is something of a shame.
I have spent many long hours listening to the film with the commentary on, and I find it to be witty, informative, humorous, and just a plain joy to listen to, and would recommend it and the novel for any discerning fans of the film who wish to learn more about this delightful little gem of a film, now celebrating its 30th anniversary.
From inner to outer space we go to next, as adventure awaits in a galaxy, far, far away…
‘Till next time…fan it up!
Author’s note: The header image of the illustrated eye is by Mike Mahle, whose work can be found here: https://mikemahle.deviantart.com/art/Innerspace-705822837
Disclaimer: I acknowledge that the rights to each film covered on this blog do not belong to me nor to the artists behind each piece, and I do this as a fan of the work and the work it has inspired. I could not have not done this without the support and permission of each artist who has contributed such fine and beautifully written/illustrated work to the world of films and fandom in general.
Any changes made to the above article can be found here.