Fantastic Voyage (1966)- PICK
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl(2003)- PICK
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest(2006) - PICK
Newly available in a DVD special edition, Fantastic Voyage is a landmark of 1960s sci-fi that remains compelling despite dated special effects, deliberate pacing and indifferent acting. Its success owes much to the genuine wonder it brings to its premise — the insertion of a miniaturized submarine and crew into the bloodstream of an injured man — and to the sense of authenticity and seriousness evoked by the methodical, low-key procedures associated with the miniaturization process. Its spot-on depiction of the bottlenecks of bureaucracy helps, too.
Some thought and research has clearly gone into the anatomical itinerary of the microbe-sized crew, which includes Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasence. The Cold War premise involves an assassination attempt against a top scientist defecting from the “other side,” leaving him with an inoperable brain injury that only the bionauts can access and treat. There’s also the requisite threat of a traitor among the ship’s crew, and a brief bit of nonsense about whether or not to allow the head surgeon’s female assistant (Welch) on the mission.
The science fiction ranges from respectable to ridiculous, but the film’s appeal lies in the imaginative visualizations of the insides of the human body and in the awe of the crew members at seeing firsthand such wonders as the oxygenation of blood cells. This latter sight leads to a brief exchange about the probability of intelligent design in the universe.
The third Pirates movie may be a disappointment, but the original Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is still worth catching on DVD. It’s entertaining, funny and more thrilling and romantic than it has any right to be. If it doesn’t transcend the pirate-movie genre, it at least transcends its theme-park attraction roots, rising to the level of decent summer popcorn action fare. Critics have compared it to such genre-celebrating pictures as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Princess Bride, and, while it’s not in the same league as either of those films, it’s in the same spirit. It’s no classic, but it honors the tradition.
Last summer’s sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest also remains a lot of fun — even though the cliffhanger ending leaves you with nowhere to go but At World’s End. Still, taken on its own, this far-ranging pastiche of everything from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to King Kong to The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad takes swashbuckling fun to a whole new level, evoking the ingenuity and physical comedy of a Buster Keaton or Jackie Chan set piece, crossed with the Rube Goldberg logic of a Chuck Jones cartoon.
Fantastic Voyage: Brief violence and sci-fi suspense and menace; an instance of profanity. Kids and up. Both Pirates of the Caribbean movies: Much stylized swashbuckling action violence, sometimes deadly; mild scary imagery and menace; mild sensuality and innuendo; some magical elements. Both are okay for teens and up.