In The Blink Of An Eye | Digging into WALL-E director Andrew Stanton’s ambitious, upcoming sci-fi

In The Blink Of An Eye
Share this Article:

John Carter and WALL-E director Andrew Stanton is working on a fascinating new sci-fi film. If In The Blink Of An Eye sticks to the script, we could be in for something special.

His career stretching back to the late 1980s, Andrew Stanton is best known for his animated work at Pixar, whether it’s as writer (1995’s ground-breaking Toy Story) or writer-director (Finding Nemo, WALL-E).

As a live-action filmmaker, he’s probably almost as well known for 2012’s John Carter, a hugely expensive sci-fi adventure based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess Of Mars. One of those films that seemed to have vultures circling it before it was even released, John Carter was ultimately a box office misfire.

In the wake of it, Stanton kept himself busy with animated projects at Disney and Pixar, but has also found time to write or direct the odd TV episode, including instalments of Stranger Things, Better Call Saul and this year’s 3 Body Problem on Netflix.

For the past couple of years, though, Stanton has been quietly working away on another live-action movie project. It’s less wildly expensive-sounding than John Carter, but as a sci-fi fable, it’s no less lacking in scope or ambition. Called In The Blink Of An Eye, it started out on the Black List of promising, unproduced scripts in 2016 – its writer being Colby Day, who more recently wrote the screenplay for director Johan Renck’s meditative sci-fi film, Spaceman, starring Adam Sandler. (Spaceman is streaming on Netflix now – we really liked it.)

spaceman review
Spaceman, written by Colby Day. Credit: Netflix

Beginning with the Big Bang, In The Blink Of An Eye takes place over three intersecting timelines – 45,000 years ago in humanity’s early history; present-day America; and aboard a spacecraft some 200 years in the future.

In the distant past, we meet Thorn, an early human raising his young family. In the present, there’s Claire, a 29 year-old scientist working at Princeton. In the future, we have Coakley, an explorer heading off on a lonely mission in deep space; as she tends to her plants and repairs her ship, the closest thing she has to company is an artificially intelligent computer called Rosco.

Without spoiling things, In The Blink Of An Eye gradually draws interconnections and parallels between the three timelines, building a gently philosophical tale about mortality, parenthood and human progress. In terms of its scale and time-hopping approach, it might all sound like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but its story is far more emotional and tethered to everyday human reality than Stanley Kubrick’s icily cerebral classic.

Some outlets have compared In The Blink Of An Eye to Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s 2014 opus about humanity reaching for the stars. Even this might be a little wide of the mark; where Nolan’s film went for big, soaring emotions and a crescendo of a climax, In The Blink Of An Eye feels, at least on the page, much quieter.

Nor is it as wildly expansive and over-reaching as, say, Cloud Atlas, Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis’ busy adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel. The gulfs of time between In The Blink Of An Eye’s stories are huge, but the locations they take place in are contained; the number of characters in each is small.

Interestingly, In The Blink Of An Eye shares a few parallels with WALL-E, which might be partly what attracted Andrew Stanton to it in the first place. Those early history sequences take place without dialogue, echoing the first half of WALL-E, about a lonely, loveable robot. In The Blink Of An Eye also takes in space exploration and humanity’s relationship with technology, and to an extent, our connection to nature – also things that popped up in WALL-E.

Andrew Stanton’s Wall-E. Credit: Disney/Pixar.

What’s currently unclear is how Stanton will realise some of the ideas set out in Colby Day’s script. Sentiments expressed by the Neanderthal characters may be difficult to convey without dialogue or even subtitles – both devices Day rules out at the start of his screenplay; “It’ll work on the screen,” he promises in an opening note. Characters also age considerably throughout the script; we’ll have to see whether Stanton will use digital ageing, different actors or good-old makeup effects to pull this off.

That In The Blink Of An Eye is being made by the production company Mighty Engine, and distributed by Searchlight Pictures, suggests it’ll be a low-budget indie film. A report at World of Reel says its budget could be in the $100m range, though – which would make sense, given the film will require a fair number of effects shots, particularly in its future-set sequences. (For reference, Spaceman was estimated to have cost $40m – much of which probably went on Adam Sandler’s salary and realising a CGI alien spider, voiced by Paul Dano.)

Filming on In The Blink Of An Eye took place last spring in Vancouver, with production wrapping on the 16th May 2023. Since then, it’s been in post-production, with the rumour being (again, courtesy of World of Reel) that it’ll emerge in cinemas this autumn.

The choice of cast is quite intriguing. The main stars are Kate McKinnon, Rashida Jones and Daveed Diggs – all actors who’ve done quite a bit of comedy. McKinnon, in particular, is best known for her work on Saturday Night Live and livewire roles in such films as The Spy Who Dumped Me, Ghostbusters: Answer The Call and last year’s Barbie (she also voiced Inez in Stanton’s Finding Dory).

At present, it hasn’t been announced who the three top-billed actors will play; we’d guess that McKinnon will appear as space explorer Coakley, Rashida Jones will play earthbound scientist Claire, while Diggs will star as her life partner, Greg. Even if that hunch is wrong, it’ll be fascinating to see how they approach the material, given how introspective and even melancholy it is in places.

As a foundation, Andrew Stanton has a superb script to work from. Written with a striking lightness and lack of pretension, Colby Day’s story builds to a poetic and quite moving conclusion akin to a Ray Bradbury story. There are all kinds of sci-fi films coming out in 2024, not least Robert Zemeckis’ Here, which has its own time-spanning premise. But if Stanton can handle it correctly, In The Blink Of An Eye could prove to be the most thought-provoking and humanistic of all of them.

Share this Article:

More like this