Directed by Joe Dante
UK Release Date: 27th November 1987
Feature Running Time: 120 minutes
‘A scientific miniaturised marine unexpectedly finds himself floating around the body of a hypochondriac, and trying to outwit saboteurs who want the device that shrank him. Attempts by his colleagues to retrieve the little man – protected inside a tiny submersible – are hampered by the would-be thieves.’ (Source: IMDB)
There’s always that one film in your collection or movie viewing history that you will always have the biggest love for that goes on to be deeply treasured for all time. It could be your most beloved film you’ve ever watched for a good number of reasons and these could involve sentimental value, childhood nostalgia, close emotional attachment etc; whatever it is, the list is frankly endless when connecting to a film that you can really respond to. A film that stirs all your emotions and leaves one big goofy smile on your face by the time those end credits start rolling. A film that you can happily return to again and again where everything from the direction and dialogue to the visual effects, music and production design is pitch note perfect and where… Okay, I’ll shut up now. But seriously, Joe Dante’s ‘Innerspace’ is the only film I’ve ever seen that could do all this for me and so much more.
Produced by Steven Spielberg when he was producing pretty much every single ‘adventure’ movie throughout the 80s, here he teams up a second time with Dante after ‘Gremlins’ three years earlier, by bringing us an adventure like no other. At the time of first watching this as a young nipper (really couldn’t pinpoint to any of you guys exactly when), I thought this was literally the greatest movie I’ve ever watched and will ever watch. I was completely adamant that I will never see anything quite like this ever again. But alas that was over 20 years ago and this naive young’un had far much more to learn about so many more movies over time. As I grew older, I became aware that the whole idea of miniaturisation that forms as the main McGuffin of this story line isn’t one that is totally original to the subject of film. This idea was conceived much earlier in the film ‘Fantastic Voyage’ (1966) where a group of scientists gets miniaturised in a submarine and are injected into the main bloodstream of a scientist not long after receiving a brain injury following an assassination attempt on his life. So although ‘Innerspace’ uses the same idea of miniaturisation as a way of entering the human body, it must be stressed that this film is in no way a rehash or modern update of that classic and works extremely well on its own merits as a sci-fi, an action adventure story and as a romantic comedy. It pretty much has everything you could ever want in a movie with absolutely no flaws whatsoever in this writer’s humble opinion.
Winning its only Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 1988, they still hold up incredibly and believably well 30 years on. But if it was up to me though, I would have it win plenty of other Oscars across the board too; including Best Director, Best Science Fiction Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Makeup and Best Sound Editing. It’s a pretty crushing disappointment overall then that this film didn’t do very well when first released in U.S theaters on the 1st July 1987. It all mainly came down to it’s really poor and minimal marketing campaign which led to this film ultimately becoming a box office flop during its Independence Day opening weekend. If the marketing was a lot better, I’d have no doubt that a lot more people would have seen it and it wouldn’t be the criminally underrated and overlooked gem that it sadly still is today. Also, if by having made a lot more cash at the box office, a sequel would have most certainly been green lighted by Warner Brothers but unfortunately it just didn’t turn out that way and it’s now 30 years too late.
Interestingly, Dante originally turned the movie down when the original script played it out as an espionage spy caper but it was only when it was rewritten as a sci-fi comedy with one of the writers reportedly saying “what if someone like Dean Martin is put in a space pod, miniaturised into a syringe and injected into the body of someone like Jerry Lewis” that Dante suddenly changed his mind and was immediately interested again. With Spielberg offering the script to Dante, the rest as they say was history. Remaining on that particular subject, this film also marks the first time that co-stars Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan met on set before falling in love on their second film together and getting married for 10 years from 1991 to 2001. Both Quaid and Ryan put in great performances here but truthfully, the main scene stealer in this motion picture has to be Martin Short. He’s perfectly well cast as Jack Putter, the 24 hour hypochondriac who must stay one step ahead of the dastardly thieves who want nothing more than to retrieve that small pod out from inside of him for their own selfish means of power and greed. Short has never been better here since. Or funnier. All three stars are also greatly supported by some really superb character actors that include Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of The Bodysnatchers), Henry Gibson (The ‘Burbs, Gremlins 2: The New Batch) and Robert Picardo (Explorers, Total Recall and Star Trek: Voyager).
Having originally worn out my VHS copy of ‘Innerspace’ with the constant amount of times I kept viewing it in our cassette player, much to my mother’s bemusement, to then own it on DVD some 8 or 9 years ago and now coming full circle to the present where I’ve finally upgraded it to a Blu-Ray Steelbook (because film nerds can’t say no when departing with their money on limited Steelbooks out there), the main question is, does this fare much better on the Blu-Ray format? Well, guys, the answer to that burning question is an absolute painstakingly, heartbreaking resounding no. Okay so let’s get this out of the way first; I’m pretty positive that I was dead excited as much as the next die hard ‘Innerspace’ fan was to see one of my all time favourite films finally get the deservedly long overdue format upgrade on Zavvi.com earlier this year in April. As soon as I saw it was up for pre-order, I quickly ordered it without any kind of hesitation or second thought required. Maybe I should have properly checked all of the details before I clicked that pre-order button but I was just too overwhelmed with the prospect of wanting to add this to my slowly but surely ever expanding Blu-Ray collection.
Usually what happens when old films make the jump to Blu-Ray is that the picture and sound become far more superior in home entertainment definition. But in the case of ‘Innerspace’ it was simply just a basic transfer from the DVD to the Blu-Ray without any effort put into it whatsoever. Don’t get me wrong, the picture and sound on the DVD version is great but considering this year marks the 30th anniversary of the film where no improvements have been made concerning both picture and sound and only getting the same audio commentary that we were given on the DVD, its not really hard to see why I felt really cheated and upset by this. As a first time customer with Zavvi, it’s kinda put me off buying any future steelbook releases like this one from their site, especially with the £15.99 price I had to pay when pre-ordering. No way does it feel justified that I got my money’s worth at all. But what was most disappointing of all was the massive lack of special features. Like I just mentioned, all that was added was the same DVD audio commentary from director and a few of the supporting cast members which was of course completely appalling. I really loved the visual effects and production design on this film, in fact they were the main reasons why I adore this film so much, so to not even get any behind the scenes look or a making of featurette into how they filmed the different human body parts that Tuck Pendleton (Quaid) ventures into like Jack’s lungs, his intestines and his cardio vascular area was something that made me really sad not to see and get some more insight into. Additionally, this is another one of those films where you can instantly tell that the whole cast and crew had such a blast making so a compilation of outtakes wouldn’t have hurt to be added either.
As someone who is just checking this film out for the first time, I’d say get the Blu-Ray Steelbook anyway if you are an avid collector of these but from a hardcore fan standpoint, I’d strongly recommend you just stick with the DVD. Trust me, forking out 16 quid for the Steelbook just isn’t worth it and you’ll be sorely disappointed with how this has been poorly handled. A really deep shame and it’s something I don’t think I will ever get over for a good while yet.
Film – ★★★★★
Blu-Ray Steelbook Format – ★