Directed by: Eric Brevig
Premise: An adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel. A geologist (Brendan Fraser) and his nephew (Josh Hutcherson) team with a mountain guide (Anita Briem) to find out what happened to a missing explorer. The group discovers a world hidden beneath the surface of the earth.
What Works: Journey to the Center of the Earth is an interesting take on adapting a literary text. Instead of just retelling the story, the heroes acknowledge Verne’s novel and treat it as a kind of guide for the lost world. Although this is not a movie for showcasing great acting there are a few nice bits between Hutcherson and Fraser and the story makes it characters likable and intelligent enough that they do more than just react to the special effects. The film includes a lot of humor, which helps a lot, and the tone is consistently family friendly; the picture includes dinosaurs, earthquakes, and molten lava but it is lighthearted enough to stay within the box of PG. Select theaters showing the film present it in 3-D and Journey to the Center of the Earth has some of the best 3-D gags in this new wave of 3-D films.
What Doesn’t: If not for the 3-D effects, a lot of the fun of Journey to the Center of the Earth would be diminished. This is essentially a theme park ride designed to play in your local theater, so narrative takes a backseat to thrills. When the film plays in a 2-D theater or on home video, its impact will be much less. Many of the action sequences are nothing new and at least two are shamelessly lifted from other films: a mine car ride is copied, almost shot-for-shot, from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and a stormy voyage on a raft highly resembles a similar scene in Cast Away.
Bottom Line: Journey to the Center of the Earth is what it is: a two-hour thrill ride. Even as a thrill ride it’s not that great but the 3-D effects are fun and it is successful as a piece of family friendly entertainment. Although it’s not Raiders of the Lost Ark it is better than Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
Episode: #199 (August 10, 2008)