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Journey to the Center of the Earth

1 rating: 1.0
A movie directed by Eric Brevig

This 2008 movie update of Jules Verne's classic sci-fi/fantasy novel uses the 1864 tale as a template, with its hero, scientist Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), referring to his missing brother's notes on the novel. His nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) … see full wiki

Director: Eric Brevig
Release Date: 2008
MPAA Rating: PG
1 review about Journey to the Center of the Earth

Fantastic Journey

  • Dec 21, 2008
Pros: What you see is what you get

Cons: Think you'll remember it the next day?

The Bottom Line: Down they go again!

Okay, I can be a big man about this and admit I probably shouldn't be reviewing the 2008 movie version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. I made a game attempt to read the book around the fifth grade or so but gave it up. (I was an advanced reader for my age.) Since then I've only read one book by Jules Verne, and that was Around the World in 80 Days. I've never seen any movies inspired by Journey to the Center of the Earth until this one. So I must admit, I'm pretty much taking a shot in the dark here.

I may not know a whole lot about the original story, but somehow I doubt this movie is based on it. I find it hard to believe that Jules Verne made third-person references to himself in the book. I also find it hard to believe that if he did, he did it in the context of portraying a group of devoted followers known as Vernians who believed that everything he ever wrote about in his books was to be taken as scientific truth. This is what Journey to the Center of the Earth movie version 2008 is trying to get us to swallow. Jules Verne's classic book itself becomes a character in this movie. The three actual characters, Trevor, Sean, and Hannah, use it as their reference point when they get trapped underground in Verne's world of prehistoric creatures and odd magnetic fields. The movie makes the very unique effort at acknowledging its direct inspiration while still trying to identify itself as its own entity.

Journey to the Center of the Earth is strictly an adventure movie. There are no bad guys in it. There is a group of three good guys who get caught in a cave-in and must find their way out by going through the other end. The other path leads them through the center of the world. 

Now when I say there are three good guys in this movie, I mean there are THREE good guys. Trevor, Sean, and Hannah are literally the only characters in around 90 percent of the movie. Trevor is introduced as some kind of bigshot professor or scientist. Then Sean is introduced as his nephew. Then Hannah is introduced when Sean and Trevor head to Iceland, and - surprise! - she eventually becomes the love interest of Trevor. This actually makes it harder for me to write a long-winded review of this movie because there isn't a whole lot to write about. The three of them go to the mountains because Trevor gets a sudden flash of scientific inspiration. Then they get shut into a cave when it gets struck by lightning. After that, they go on the spelunking expedition of a lifetime in their attempt to find their way out. Along the way, we see some impressive computer visuals of prehistoric creatures, our heroes falling through countless holes, and a mine car roller coaster ride worthy of the Temple of Doom.

There are no nuanced character backgrounds here. Well, Sean's father was a great scientist himself and he disappeared when Sean - who is in his early teens - was around three years old. (Guess what he was doing when he disappeared!) Sean has to stay with Trevor for a few days, and he's clearly very resentful of that. One of the things I liked about Journey to the Center of the Earth is that these annoying cliches are sorted out with record speed. After being introduced as the bratty counterpart, Sean takes an almost immediate liking to Trevor and shows some of Trevor's curiosities and problem-solving abilities. When they go to Iceland and meet Hannah, the spluttering of Trevor upon seeing what she looks like is very minimal, and Hannah isn't playing the hard-to-get game that's always so annoying in movies like this.

There real stars of Journey to the Center of the Earth are the visuals. They don't really look realistic, but they are nontheless sites to behold. After the lightning strike which traps the three characters in the cave, the movie becomes nothing but a really sweet-looking roller coaster ride. It's like a video game: When one problem is over, they run right into another one. When the characters find an ocean they have to cross, they have to devise a method of crossing it. While they cross it, large prehistoric fish jump out and try to eat them. Sean later finds himself in the very spot where the magnetic field reverses polarities and must leap from rock to rock to cross a huge gap. The party spends lots of time falling into the unknown, and then of course there is the great mine cart scene.

Surprisingly, Journey to the Center of the Earth works rather well because of its crashing directorial approach. It doesn't try to give you a whole lot of character depth and background tragedy or misunderstanding. Instead, it merely gives you these people and says "this is what they got themselves into. Now here is how they're going to get out." It is an outright what you see is what you get approach, and so you don't feel like the director is trying to lie to you or insult you. He doesn't try to trick himself into thinking he's delivering a deeply moving human drama or a thoughtful movie about the dangers and wonders of science. All he's doing is giving you a ride to get on and get off when it's over, and he gets all the credit in the world for actually being able to understand this. There are many directors who will try to give something deeper with a similar idea, and their attempt to deliver is almost an insult. (This year's movie Wanted is a particularly grating and obvious example of this, trying to gloss itself as a ponderous idea on the idea of choice and fate when all it really was was a stupid action movie.)

Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of those movies you just watch to kill a couple of hours. You watch it then you go to sleep and wake up not having remembered a single thing about it. It isn't a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but with Journey to the Center of the Earth, what you see is what you get. It doesn't try to be anything else. and for that, it has my gratitude.


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