Journey To The Center Of The Earth (2008)
Some stories are such classics that they practically demand to be reinterpreted by every generation. They contain themes and characters that can be moved from one decade to another, hopefully without losing the appeal of the original. One such story is ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’. It original saw life as a novel by one of the grandfathers of modern science fiction, Jules Verne back in 1864. One of the best known film adaptations was released in 1959 staring James Mason, Pat Boone, and Arlene Dahl. It was full of excitement, adventure and loads of fun. It was also a representative of what special effects could achieve back then. Of course that was long before computers were ever considered for movie effects. The dinosaurs were lizards with some clay stuck to their backs and the sets were simplistic by today’s standards but in 1959 it wowed the audiences. It was also presented in the video format Cinemascope, which was one of the earlier forms of widescreen projection. Over the intervening years there have been many versions released, many either made for television or direct to video. Even though these were typically low budget they still were entertaining and had varying levels of special effects usage. The latest incarnation released earlier this year added a new touch to the mix; 3D. It does sport the best special effects seen for this story to date. It admittedly does not hold true to the original novel but most of the mandated elements are there. If you gathered together all the versions of this story on film it would be a history class of the advancements in special effects technology. This latest version is out on DVD and Blu-ray care of new Line Cinema. Currently the discs contain both the 2D and 3D versions but the studio has included in the press kit a notice that after the initial pressing subsequent copies will only have the 2D version so doesn’t waste time in getting this title. You do have to wear those plastic 3D glasses to appreciate the full effect. Just a little note for people with glasses just try putting them on first and place your glasses on over that. In any case this may not be the best version of the film but it is one of the most exciting. This is one that the entire family can have fun with together so get it and enjoy.
The film was written by committee with three authors credited for the screenplay; Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett and Michael D. Weiss. Levin has experience in family faire, science fiction and romantic comedies. On television he wrote for ‘The Wonder Years’ and co-created the shorted lived ‘Earth 2’. He also penned the screenplay for ‘Wimbledon’, ‘Nim’s Island’ and ‘Madeline’. Flackett joined Levin on most of those projects. Most of Weiss’ work has been in action and disaster flicks. Together they come up with a workable albeit predictable story but let’s face it not many people are going to watch this movie for the story. They provide the means of setting up the action and that is most of what a screenplay like this is required to do. In many ways this is written almost ass a sequel to the 1959 defining ‘Journey’ movie. It takes place years after that one; bringing it to the current era. Otherwise the story is much the same. A descendant of the original explorer is pulled into finding his missing nephew and the trek takes them down to the center of the earth. People who are into real science and know that the earth’s core is molten and very hot should just turn off the rational side of their brain before placing the disc in the player.
This is the first feature length movie as director for Eric Brevig. This is not to say he is a novice by any means. Previously he did direct episodes for ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’. Most of his work time has been in a field that made him perfect for this movie. He has worked as a visual effects supervisor on a broad range of films. He also has experience as an assistant director so he has the chops for moving up. During his time supervising special effects he worked on films such as ‘Pearl Harbor’, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ and ‘The Abyss’ to name just a few. Most of those films did have more in the way of a story to present using the special effects to help define the world it takes place in. the reverse is true here. The story just provides a scaffold to hold the effects together. Ironically considering the title of the flick this is not a deep movie at all. Adding to the degree of difficulty the special effects had to be done with a 3D version in mind. That called for a lot of object getting flung at the screen every few minutes. Since this movie would also have to work in 2D the effects had to translate to a flat screen as well. Many may deride 3D films as gimmicks and in many ways there are. You should remember that 3D has been around for decades. Even the rightfully lauded Alfred Hitchcock tried his hand at it with ‘Dial M for Murder’ back in 1954. The film comes across as designed; a simulation of an amusement park ride. It contains one of the most protracted falling scenes in the history of film. After the initial setup there are barely a few minutes between action shots.
Boston volcanologist Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) is awaiting the arrival of his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) who is coming for a visit. Trevor’s brother, Max (Jean Michel Paré) is also into geology but his lab is about to be closed due to lack of funding. When Sean is dropped off by his mother, Elizabeth (Jane Wheeler) Trevor is also giving a box that belonged to Max. Inside are several strange items including the novel ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’. Max had disappeared awhile before under mysterious circumstances. Trevor decides to track down Max and heads off to Iceland. He wants to send Sean back to mom but ultimately the young man comes along. Once there they meet Hannah (Anita Briem) who offers to guide them to the caves they are searching for. Well, after a short time they wind up falling after a lightning storm causes a collapse of the ground. Now they have to find a geyser that will bring them back to the surface.
New Line Cinema has certain flair with their DVD releases. They not only provide the movie they take care to make sure the fans get some interesting extras for their purchase. In the original release there were 2D, 3D and DVD versions spread over a couple of discs. This edition also had four sets of those cheap two color cellophane glasses for 3D viewing. Thankfully, this release was made on the cusp of a significant upgrade in technology. Now that Real3D has taken over this portion of the market New Line has had the foresight and consideration for the fans to take the old school elements and recombine them to be compatible with the new technology. This provided a rare opportunity to directly compare the old and new methods for providing the illusion of depth.
With the new methodology the effects are stunning; significantly enhancing the effects and overall enjoyment. For example in one of the early special effects scenes, falling endlessly down a chasm the old way was somewhat effective bound limited by the inherent alteration of the color palate and decrease in resolution. With the new methods fully compatible with 1080p high definition you receive the best of both technologies. The level of depth combined with the detail of high definition brings a new degree of realism. The same holds true with most of the other effects shots. Explosions now depict tiny pieces of debris flying through the various layers of depth 3D provides. This new release brings this film to an entirely new level of entertainment.
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