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, starring 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 in 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 don’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 fare, 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
objects 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 a 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. There are three versions contained on the DVD
release; 2D full screen, 2D widescreen, and on the ‘B’ side the 3D widescreen
version. Again, be advised that shortly the ‘B’ side will be omitted. All
variations contain Dolby 5.1 audio tracks. There are four sets of those
paper/plastic 3D glasses but if you need more just dig out sets from almost
any other 3D DVD. The effects come across pretty well in 3D, far better than I
imagined and much better than I have seen before. The film retains its
excitement even in the 2D viewing but a lot of the fun is the 3D effects. This
is an enjoyable flick that is perfect for an evening at home with the kids.