For this Family Movie Night let’s go on a way out trip to inner space and see what lessons we can learn from the 1966 sci-fi adventure Fantastic Voyage.
This week it was my turn to choose the film for Family Movie Night. And without any planning on my part this is the second movie in a row that was directed by Richard Fleischer. The 1st, of course, was 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. If you haven’t already, make sure to read that article.
We had recently discussed the proposed re-make of Fantastic Voyage during the Reel News segment on episode 09 of our Finding Christ In Cinema podcast. Naturally this got me to thinking about the original. I have the fondest of memories of this movie, and naturally I wanted to share it with my kids – secretly hoping that it would have a similar affect on them. In Fantastic Voyage a crew of scientists and Naval officers board a submarine which is then shrunk to microscopic size. They are injected into the blood stream of an injured man in the hopes of saving his life by way of a complicated surgery. The kicker is: this is the only way that the procedure can be done. Along the way we are mesmerized by special effects and sets depicting the inside workings of a living human body. In fact, it is this fantastic voyage through such a complex system that makes this movie a spiritually valuable learning tool for your family. Specifically, we will see God’s signature in this film. But first let’s get some reactions from our kids.
What Dreams Are Made Of
Our eldest child said that she had never seen a movie like it before – which is quite the statement because she has seen a metric ton (If you’ll excuse the poor choice of metaphor) of movies in her nearly 16 years. She says that she had only dreamt of such things. I found it interesting that she noted the movie’s special effects, because she said the same thing (“Excellent!”) for our last movie. I’m sure she does not realize that it is the same director. “Claustrophobic!” was her first response when asked what she did not like; especially during the shrinking scenes. In addition, she felt that Dr. Duval waxed poetic a little too much. She may not like my conclusion, then, because that is exactly what I’ll get to below in order to tout the merits of Fantastic Voyage.
The takeaway for Hailey is that the world is a dangerous place. She was referring to the person in which the adventure takes place. One moment he was healthy and mobile; the next he was close to death. And that reminds us of what James had to say:
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:13-15 NLT
Can’t Top The Classics
Next up our son found the premise of shrinking a person in order to go inside another person very intriguing. That kept his attention – as it should! And if that wasn’t enough the submarine was “cool”, too. However, he reports that the characters weren’t memorable; that he didn’t care much about them or their fate. I said that the budget went to sets and special effects, and to let that be a lesson to him (all in jest, of course). He did say that he would definitely watch it again, and that he recommends it to those that like older movies. When asked what he thought of a Fantastic Voyage re-make he shrugged and responded, “You can’t top the classics.” That’s my boy!
What Micah took away from Fantastic Voyage was that it is a remarkable thing to sacrifice oneself for others. That is, the risk of death that these voyagers faced in order to save the life of another is something most may not be willing to do. Just like what Paul wrote to the Romans:
Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. – Romans 5:7-8 NLT
Science: An Exciting Adventure
Our 10 year old daughter, Maddie – the most nervous of the kids to watch Fantastic Voyage – had her eyes covered tightly as the lilliputian adventurers and their tiny submarine were injected into the body. And she kept them that way for several minutes after. Imagine her relief to find that it “didn’t look like the inside of a real body.” I asked how she knew what the inside of a real body looked. “It didn’t look how I imagined it,” was her reply.
The second thing she enjoyed about this film was the suspense. Particularly when Vice-Admiral Charles Grant was sucked away into the lungs while attempting to refill a tank on their craft. Or when Cora was attacked by antibodies. Basically she summed up the movie by proclaiming that the filmmakers had turned science into an exciting adventure!
Her parents agree: science is an exciting adventure. And it shows that… well, we’ll get to that in a bit. What didn’t Maddie like about Fantastic Voyage? Dr. Michaels’ death by white blood cells bothered her most. It made such an impression that it leads directly into her takeaway point: “Listen to your leaders,” she said. “Dr. Michaels wanted to do things his own way and he suffered because of it.”
I Am Fearfully And Wonderfully Made
At the heart (no pun intended) of it Fantastic Voyage is a discussion of world views. How one reads the book of nature (general revelation) determines how one reads the bible (special revelation). This is illustrated by an exchange that takes place between Dr. Duval and Dr. Michaels as the crew witnesses oxygenation, the living process:
Dr. Duval: We’ve known it exists even though we never saw it. Like the structure of the atom. But to actually see one of the miracles of the universe, the engineering of the cycle of a breath…
Dr. Michaels: I wouldn’t call it a miracle. Just an interchange of gases. The end product of 500 million years of evolution.
Dr. Duval: You can’t believe all that is accidental? That there isn’t a creative intelligence at work?
One of these very learned men attributes the amazing inner-workings of the human body to an intelligent creator; the other to chance. Both are reading the same book. That is, they are analyzing the same information. They see the same exact facts being presented and come to opposite conclusions. Dr. Duval sees what David saw:
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. – Psalm 139:13-14 NLT
I prefer the King James translation of this because, much to the chagrin of my eldest, it waxes poetic – just like Dr. Duval is want to do:
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvellous are thy works – Psalm 139:14a KJV
The Book Of Creation
And that thought leads to our suggested discussion point: What does creation tell us about the nature of God? To further illustrate the question remember what Paul wrote to those living in Rome:
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. – Romans 1:20 NLT
After you have watched Fantastic Voyage with your family talk about this verse. Paul says that through the entirety of creation we can clearly see and know three things about God:
- His invisible qualities
- His eternal power
- His divine nature
Use this as an opportunity to open up a dialog. Make it clear that you are having a discussion, not a test. Nobody will be graded on this. And prepare yourself to be amazed by what you hear.
Parents should always pre-screen any movies that we discuss. I don’t know what your family finds offensive and so I’m likely to miss something which you may deem unacceptable for your own children.
A few things that may raise your eyebrows are:
- Cursing (I’m thinking of a word that starts with D and ends with N)
- Raquel Welch (She isn’t in the film because of her acting ability)
- Intense sequences as previously listed
QUESTION: What did your family learn by watching Fantastic Voyage? Let us know in the comments.
For more listen to our Finding Christ In Cinema podcast where we find Christian themes in your favorite movies. Its a really fun show.