Journey to the Center of the Earth
I already wasted 90 minutes of my life seeing this film, let me try not to waste much more reviewing it. That may sound mean but it doesn't seem like the filmmakers put much more of an effort into making the film. Brendan Fraser took on executive producing the film, and from an actor's point of view I can't see what would have been attractive - except maybe the paycheck. Fraser, a likable but unsubtle actor, plays Trevor Anderson, a scientist still obsessed with his brother's disappearance during a trip down a volcano in Iceland. When a little seismic activity peaks his interest, Anderson takes his visiting nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) on a wild adventure to the volcano. They are joined by a guide named Hannah (Anita Briem), but none of them is prepared for what they find when they head down the volcano.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (Warner Brothers)
The film marks the directing debut of visual effects supervisor Eric Brevig so you'd think that the effects would at least kick ass. But it's a sad state of affairs when Brendan Fraser spitting proves to be the best 3D gimmick in a movie that takes us down a volcano to a hidden world filled with dinosaurs and other strange creatures. There is a nice bit with a cool carnivorous plant that would be a perfect mate for Audrey II. I think the writers spent more time thinking up 3D gags then on developing a plot or characters, and the truly sad thing is that there really aren't many 3D effects shots that register an "oh" or "Ah" from the audience. A number of times there are things that are falling away from the screen and that just does nothing in 3D. The most interesting thing about the film is that it took four writers to bring it to the screen - two of whom are named Michael Weiss. What are the odds of that happening? Now if just one of them could write maybe we'd have at least two dimensions to the characters and their story.
The potential for imaginative adventure still exists in Verne's story but Brevig and his quartet of writers haven't a clue where to find it. The film moves ploddingly along from one set piece adventure to another. Tension fails to mount as dangers are quickly disposed of and the mounting heat, which threatens to kill them, doesn't do much except make the leads strip down to show more cleavage and biceps. Everything looks like it was shot on a soundstage so the film has a very artificial and claustrophobic feel. The film also suffers from opening the same weekend as the truly fantastical Hellboy II in which Guillermo Del Toro show just how you go about setting up an imaginative parallel world.
Brendan Fraser emoting. (Warner Brothers)
As for the acting... All I can say is Fraser flexes and screams a lot, and in between he gets such obvious lines as "this ride is about to get bumpy." Duh. For a "big" summer film, it's also odd that besides Fraser, there are really only two characters in this film.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (rated PG for intense adventure action and some scary moments) proves that not even 3D technology can bring dimensionality to a lackluster script. The really scary thing about the film is that it ends with Trevor giving his nephew a book on Atlantis . Does that mean Atlantis in 3D is coming next? Yikes!
Companion viewing: Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959 and only moderately better), Voyage to the Moon (1902 George Melies film), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)