Professor Trevor Anderson receives his teenager nephew Sean Anderson. He will spend ten days with his uncle while his mother, Elizabeth, prepares to move to Canada. She gives a box to Trevor that belonged to his missing brother, Max, and Trevor finds a book with references to the last journey of his brother. He decides to follow the steps of Max with Sean and they travel to Iceland, where they meet the guide Hannah Ásgeirsson. While climbing a mountain, there is a thunderstorm and they protect themselves in a cave. However, a lightening collapses the entrance and the trio is trapped in the cave. They seek an exit and falls in a hole, discovering a lost world in the center of the Earth.
Directed by: Eric Brevig
. Starring: Brendan Fraser
, Josh Hutcherson
, Anita Briem
, Seth Meyers
, Jean Michel Paré
, Jane Wheeler
, Frank Fontaine
, Giancarlo Caltabiano
, Kaniehtiio Horn
, Garth Gilker
. Music by: Andrew Lockington
The 3D effects of this spine-jarring yarn largely offset the hammy, over-the-top nonacting method practiced by Brendan Fraser to provide quality family entertainment - as long as you don't mind your family seeing perilous attacks by carnivorous fish, dinosaurs, plummets to the center of the earth, molten lava, and cave-ins.
Some kidding aside, this is a fun movie, a reminder of how escapist movies used to be - that is, not over-hyped balls of crapitude. We didn't hear much about this redo of Journey to the Center of the Earth, not with so many other widely anticipated movies coming out this summer. And this version lives down to the lack of hype. It simply is what it is, which is a lazy way of saying it's amusing as long as you don't expect it to be, you know, terrifyingly awesome.
First, a note on the 3D effects. Not all showings are in 3D, because 3D projectors are expensive. If you're unfortunate and can't find a 3D theater showing this, my advice is to skip it entirely - or perhaps watch it at home on your big-screen TV anyway. The truth is that once you strip away the effects, this is less Raiders of the Lost Ark (which it desperately wants to be) and more Alan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (don't remember it? wonder why). It's like watching Sheena of the Jungle without the jiggle factor. It's got a main story thread - they must escape to the surface - and little else save for the great 3D effects. Another quick note: I don't know much about 3D technology, but I did notice that when an object was presented in 3D (say, a yo-yo darting toward the audience), everything else in the scene was in soft focus. I don't know if this is an artifact of the technology or if it was by design (i.e., diverting attention to solely the 3D), but it's not good that I noticed it.
The plot is straightforward. Fraser plays a Trevor, science teacher whose brother disappeared seven years earlier while researching tectonics. His widow drops off their son to Trevor so they can male bond, or something, and soon they're off adventuring, looking for clues to the brotherfather's disappearance. They wind up in Iceland, where they figuratively hook up with a lovely mountain guide named Hannah (Anita Briem), whose father had been working with Trevor's brother. And off they go to check on a seismic reader on a remote mountaintop, when a freak lightning storm traps them in a cave, which leads down, down, down, and eventually they're at the center of the Earth.
Fraser has been gunning for these kind of roles for a while now, but here he's even less swarthy and manly than he was in the Mummy movies - he's more like Link, the caveman he played in Encino Man. Well, he's smart, and he's got courage, but Indy Jones he's not. In fact, he screws up so often early on that Hannah has to keep saving his life. That's gotta sting. So Fraser doesn't exactly fit the hero mold here, but what's more he can't show emotion properly. He either delivers his lines in a flat monotone or pushes the needle in the other direction and camps up a storm. I half expected him to look at the (nonexistent) sky and wail, "WHYYYYYYYY?" But certainly the big deal here is the effects, and many of them are especially awe inspiring. The movie lends itself rather well to 3D effects, what with the plummeting and the running and things flying at our heroes and stalking them and trying to stomp on them or eat them. It's good to see such creative use of 3D effects, because the better these outlying special movies are, the more likely we'll get to see more 3D in the future. It's expensive to make these, and theaters have to be specially equipped to show them, so unless there's a huge demand, there's no real reason for studios to make a lot of 3D movies.
Journey to the Center of the Earth is based on the eponymous Jules Verne novel, and the novel itself figures prominently in the movie - pretty meta, huh? Yes, the book's probably better than the movie, so let's dispense with that, but even so, this isn't a bad adaptation. In fact, it's kind of clever in spots; Trevor's brother discovered, apparently, that the adventures and exciting places in Verne's book actually occurred and do exist, so Trevor, Hannah, and Sean (the nephew) can follow the book to see what perils await them. It's more of an homage to Verne's work than a ripoff of them, which is nice. Oh, and the movie even mentions Vernians, people who (in real life, not just this movie) do believe that Verne's novels are really nonfiction travelogues.
Watch this movie in 3D, and you're sure to ooh and aah and OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS at various moments of impending doom. Journey to the Center of the Earth is imaginative, fun-packed, and a real treat; it's just that there's not much else there other than the effects, which somewhat blunts the appeal. Watch this movie in 2D, and it'll be just another two-bit B action movie with pithy one liners.
Review by Dan Franzen from the Internet Movie Database.