A true oddity, this: a 40-minute amalgamation of educational drama and grade-Z science fiction that was the first ever non-documentary film made expressly for IMAX. I should add here, in the interest of full disclosure, that I have a special interest in and knowledge of THE JOURNEY INSIDE, as the fact that its screenwriter shares my last name is not accidental.
Adding to the oddness of this 1994 project is the fact that a soundtrack cd was released in 2015, even though the film itself is MIA (with its sole home video release being a nineties-era VHS that’s now quite scarce). That cd includes interviews with the film’s composer David Shire and director Barnaby Jackson about the production, which was commissioned by Intel as, essentially, a $10 million infomercial about their new Pentium processor.
A science fiction wraparound was added to render the material interesting, but then, after shooting was completed, Pentium fell out of favor. This resulted in all references to it being excised from the dialogue–specifically, Pentium was overdubbed with “Project M” (it, like Pentium, being a three syllable term that begins with a P and ends with an M). Further trouble occurred when a new ending was shot without Jackson’s input, resulting in the film joining the ranks of “Allan Smithee” credited productions.
It features the 12-year-old Tim Farrell as Jimmy, who after watching a cheesy sci fi movie on TV one night witnesses a space ship crash near his house. The ship disgorges several B-movie-ish aliens, who convene in a cave. There they discuss posing as employees of a nearby computer lab, so they can enslave humanity by infiltrating the new “Project M” microprocessor.
Having surreptitiously witnessed the meeting, Jimmy hightails it off to said computer lab (fortuitously located within easy walking distance of both the cave and Jimmy’s house), where the new Project M processor is about to be tested. After being shown around the lab and taught how computers work–the educational (i.e. boring) portion of the film–Jimmy is somehow shrunk down to insect size, in which state he travels inside a computer to halt the aliens’ assholery, and ensure the survival of the all-important Project M.
Having experienced THE JOURNEY INSIDE in its intended IMAX format back in ‘94, I can attest that it was quite the mindblower. Unfortunately it isn’t nearly as impressive on video, where the stilted acting and shoddy special effects are far more apparent. Much was made of those “feature worthy special effects” (so claimed an article in the August 1994 issue of American Cinematographer), but they were done in the early days of the CGI revolution, a fact that’s all-too evident today. Another issue I have is with the tacked-on its-all-a-dream coda, in which the young Tim Farrell appears noticeably older than he does in the rest of the film.
Most damaging of all is the fact that, simply, the film never succeeds in finding its footing. All the behind-the-scenes turmoil clearly had a not-inconsiderable effect on the finished product, which fails as both educational drama and science fiction. It is a fascinating curiosity, however, and one that, in the “dozens of revisions” American Cinematographer touts the script having undergone (each of which meant the screenwriter got more money!), has financially benefitted my family directly.
THE JOURNEY INSIDE
Dick Clark Corporate Productions
Director: “Alan Smithee” (Barnaby Jackson)
Producers: Charles Daguerre Alvare, Adam Moss
Screenplay: John Groves
Cinematography: John Hora
Editing: William Goldenberg
Cast: Tim Farrell, Eric Fiedler, Tony Gardner, Loren Gitthens, Bill Sturgeon, Gustav Vintas, Clement von Franckenstein