Thursday, February 11, 2016

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

   Adventure movies of such a straightforward nature hardly exist anymore, and if they do they're of a different breed altogether. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is one of those classic adventure movies. It's premise is simple: a meteor shower has ignited the Van Allen radiation belt around the planet, and it's up to the crew of an experimental submarine to extinguish it with a wild plan. I'm very certain that most of the science behind this movie isn't even remotely plausible but I'm not about to burst my own bubble here and google it. Granted, the movie isn't a genre titan like The Time Machine, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Fantastic Voyage, but it's no slouch either. It still holds it's fair share of thrills and excitement.

   Due to it's age, it's pacing is somewhat uneven, slowing down for long bits of tangential dialog and the like, but that doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the movie though. It's quick to show off it's special effects, and they look pretty solid- even today. Only the harshest of cynics could remain un-phased by the squid attack and seeing the entire sky on fire. This is just some of the stunning imagery to see in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Unfortunately the title is just a bit misleading. It's not really an exploration themed movie, not even indirectly. It's more of a race against time as our submarine-bound protagonists have to race across the world to reach a certain area at a certain time in order to carry out their mission.

   I don't think they really even reach the bottom of the sea at any point. Specifically not when crewmen are calling out depth levels and there's still quite a ways to go at any given point in the movie. I do have the give the movie props for having both a squid attack and an octopus attack. It's buckets of fun. However, the real danger in the movie is the escalating tension among the crew. That's what I feel sets Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea aside from it's cinematic ilk. There's a tense psychological aspect to it. It might not be played up all that much, or at least not to any extreme extent, but it's there. I would expect nothing less from a movie that literally rests the fate of the world on it's protagonists' shoulders.

   This is nothing but good old fashioned apocalyptic blockbuster adventure. The kind of movie that undoubtedly paved the way for future films like Armageddon and The Abyss. It's not the most impressive or fascinating movie even for it's time, but it's well crafted, colorful, exciting, full of vibrant visuals and a decent helping of melodrama. There's even a handful of familiar faces in the cast turning in serviceable performances, like Barbara Eden and Frankie Avalon. Granted I'm not the most well versed in the cinema and celebrities of the 60's, but I know my fair share. The characters are lively and interesting enough to keep us investing in the human level drama that is ultimately the crux of the movie.

   If the cast was sub par, or the characters flat and boring, the movie would fail because it honestly doesn't rely as much on it's special effects as you might think. It's much more of a character driven movie than anything. Granted, this produces mixed results, leaving the story far too much leeway to hang itself with it's own faulty logic and absurdities. I had to really rein in some of my more critical sensibilities when the movie tries to explain it's technology and the catastrophe at hand. The idea of radiation catching fire sounds positively silly to me, but once you get past the ridiculousness and jarring tonal shifts, the core of the movie is still a blast.

   Despite it's flaws and it's ignorantly juvenile approach to the science of this fiction, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea never loses sight of just being flat out entertaining. It's beautifully shot and frequently bursting with color and spectacle. It's easy to forgive it's flaws, which seem little more than innocent and harmless next to everything it does right. It might be pretty dated, but it's still heaps of wide-eyed fun, big budgeted excitement and good-natured adventure. I never get tired of movies like this. It's best watched with a big bowl of popcorn on hand!

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