More than any filmmaker I know personally, Guillermo Del Toro understands the need to always be developing more projects than you could ever reasonably actually make. He's had periods where he got derailed completely when things didn't come together, and there are several years in his filmography that are defined purely by things that didn't happen instead of things that did. That is not uncommon in Hollywood, but Guillermo is so full of ideas that it seems almost criminal for him to get sidelined by development cycles. Now comes word that with Pacific Rim 2 shelved for the moment, Guillermo is moving on and possibly signing to direct Fantastic Voyage for Fox.
20th Century Fox has been trying to get a new Fantastic Voyage off the ground for at least the last decade, but the desire to follow-up the 1966 original really started in 1987 when Isaac Asimov published Fantastic Voyage II as a novel. Even that went through all sorts of false starts and stops before happening. It was in the late '90s that James Cameron started getting interested in it. He wrote some drafts, then shifted his focus and became a producer on the film. Roland Emmerich was attached to direct it, with Marianne and Cormac Wibberly writing. The Wibberlys ended up off the film because of the WGA strike, and once that was settled, Shane Salerno was the next guy to take a shot at it, with both Paul Greengrass and Shawn Levy circling the director's chair over the last few years.
So… why? What's so irresistible about this particular project? The original was about a team of scientists shrunk to microscopic size so they could go into the body of a spy and repair a blood clot in his brain. It was a Cold War thriller, and it was a big special effects showcase from director Richard Fleischer. I was a huge fan of Innerspace, the 1987 Joe Dante movie that felt like an unofficial remake, and I thought ILM's work in that was gorgeous. Obviously we can do even more with visual effects now than we could ever before, but without a great script, there's no reason to make another Fantastic Voyage. The real trick here is to make the stakes important in terms of whose body the team is sent into and why they're going into the person in the first place. The biggest problem is that pop culture has so completely digested and parodied this property that it seems like it'll be really hard to play it straight and make it seem fresh. David Goyer wrote the treatment for this new version, then co-wrote the script with Justin Rhodes.
Guillermo Del Toro is one of our modern masters of visual imagination, and a ride through the human body with him as a guide could be amazing. He and Cameron are good friends, and I would imagine this is the result of many conversations about the project that the two of them have had over the years. So while it's exciting to hear that he's in talks to direct, there are plenty of reasons to manage that excitement at this point. With Guillermo, I will believe it's happening when we actually start seeing posters and trailers. Whatever his next film is, I want it sooner than we'll actually get it, and I remain impatient for it.