Eye For Film >> Movies >> Journey To The Centre Of The Earth 3D (2008) Film Review
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth 3D
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
This is an unashamed thrill ride of a movie, loosely based on Jules Verne's oft-filmed Journey To The Centre Of The Earth with a set of standard Hollywood stories and a range of moments designed to show off its 3-D technology.
Brendan Fraser is Trevor Anderson, a professor of geology at a university so devoted to his subject that it's got a class on Plate Tectonics (and Plate Tectonics alone). This devotion only stretches so far and his lab is about to be shut down to be turned into a storage room. Trevor's brother was also a geologist, but he disappeared 10 years ago, leaving behind a son called Sean. Sean's moving to Canada, and while his mother's arranging things he gets to spend some time with his uncle.
When a previously lost sensor starts reporting, the two jet off to Iceland to investigate. There's some odd seismic activity, a massive lightning storm, and then there's a hole to fall into. The duo are accompanied by Mountain guide Hannah Sgeirsson, played by Anita Briem who really ought to be Hannah Sigurbjrnsdottir, as Iceland actually uses proper patronymics. That aside, there's a hole for them to fall into, and they do so. From there on in it's a series of set pieces designed to show off the 3-D, with nods to Verne's text throughout.
At one point or another viewers' science glands might activate, but there's enough well natured humour and lurid B-Movie intensity here that even relatively large quantities of factazine aren't enough to completely remove suspension of disbelief. Journey... isn't setting out to be earnest, just fun, so avoids most of the pitfalls that plague films like The Core and Armageddon. This isn't a serious film, but it isn't an out and out comedy either. It's safer to say that it's self aware, and has its tongue firmly in cheek.
There's the almost obligatory mine-cart sequence, a bit with a dinosaur, and a job website with a silly name, but it's one of the smaller bits that shows Journey's class: while going through a box of his brother's possessions Trevor finds a vintage stereoscope, effectively a primitive form of 3-D. He shrugs his shoulders, says "I've no idea what this is", and puts it to one side. It isn't much, but it's affectionate, and shows the film's concern for its various audiences.
The central trio all have a chance to shine. Fraser gets to show his range, though not to the full extent he's proven capable of in films like Gods And Monsters. As Sean, Terabithia and Zathura veteran Josh Hutcherson neatly manages to be wide-eyed and worldly wise, an internet enabled ingenue. This is a film about discovery, and in terms of cast it's probably Anita Briem. Her character also has an eccentric geologist's legacy to cope with, on top of maternal and romantic instincts towards the other two.
The B in B-Movie stands for Brendan Fraser. It might also stand for Bruce Campbell, but even though Campbell's got the chin and the indie credibility, Fraser draws the dollars. Bubba Ho-Tep might be a gem, but The Mummy's on it's fifth outing this summer. B-Movies aren't just about filling the screen, they're about filling seats, and despite his forays into the arthouse Brendan Fraser has a nose for popular projects. He served as an Executive Producer for Journey... and one can't help but suspect his role in the sequel friendly denouement.
This is big screen spectacle, a single-minded film dedicated to event. It's in 3D for a start, taking a side in the secret format war that's consuming Hollywood. Forget Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, the real struggle is between Real-D and IMAX. On one side are Fraser, Miley Cyrus, James Cameron, and glasses with circularly polarised lenses. It's solid, including in the cinematic release two 3D trailers, and with credits featuring 3D dynamite. On the other side, however, is Batman. The Dark Knight will be the first film to feature footage shot with hand held IMAX cameras, and that's hugely significant. It wasn't so long ago that IMAX cameras became small enough to mount on the space shuttle.
While Journey To The Center of the Earth is great fun, it's going to suffer in comparison with other summer blockbusters. It's child friendly, certainly, but it might not exert the same pull over audiences as The Mummy III or Hellboy II. It might also suffer because it isn't a sequel, though Hancock has done pretty well by disguising itself as a superhero comedy. As a film, it's far from a waste of time, but it's unlikely to win anything other than technical awards. As an event, however, with glasses for the audience and trailers and credits in 3D, it's great fun, and well worth catching.Reviewed on: 15 Jul 2008