Movie Review – Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Out this week is the new Brendan Fraser vehicle – “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, a film that attempts to update the classic Jules Verne novel by placing the story in the 21st Century and using the latest 3-D digital effects.  For Brendan Fraser fans this movie whets the appetite before the latest “Mummy” movie is released later on this Summer.  Fraser seems to be in danger of becoming typecast as the macho, “laugh in the face of danger”, action hero as he basically reprises his “Mummy” role in this Eric Brevig directed adventure.

Playing a Professor who along with his nephew (played by Josh Hutcherson), the inevitable child sidekick, and the film love interest Anita Briem, our hero travels to Iceland to find out what has happened to his brother (the father of Sean, the character played by Josh Hutcherson).

Falling through a convenient volcanic fissure, the brave band find themselves in a lost, underground world and that the novel penned by Verne is not a work of fiction at all but a factual account.  Naturally, they have to battle all sorts of creatures and survive various scrapes in order to get themselves back to the surface.  The film is short on plot (no real explanation is given as to how the Verne novel has been transferred to modern times), and long on special, digital effects.  It is almost if the film itself is swamped by the need to show off the 3-D technology, for example does the audience need to be treated to Brendan Fraser rinsing and spitting water on them.

The original novel (published in 1864, in French as “Voyage au Centre de la Terre), was based on a published scientific text, and at the time little was known about the properties of the Earth’s crust, mantle and core.  These days the emphasis is on adventure and the special effects.  Having watched the film it is possible to imagine a theme park ride being created to entertain tourists at one of the many resorts in the USA.  Indeed, one is left with the feeling that the movie may have been written especially to accommodate the technical requirements of a theme park attraction.

Dinosaurs make an appearance, along with ferocious flying piranha fish, birds that glow and strange floating rocks.  The Tyrannosaur chase scene is a little reminiscent of many of the T. rex scenes in films such as Jurassic Park 1 and 2, we have sort of seen this all before but at least the 3-D adds a new dimension (no pun intended).  Professor Anderson (Fraser’s character) is asked in mid chase “haven’t you ever seen a dinosaur before”, in the typical understated tones of our action hero he replies “yes, but never one with its skin on”!  The trouble is we have all seen CGI dinosaurs before and much of the spectacle is lost as the characters are hurled from one predicament to the next.  It is all good, wholesome family fun, although it does contain one or two scary moments that might upset very young children (hence the PG rating).

Fine film to view on a Summer afternoon, a reasonable way to entertain the children for a few hours over the long Summer break, but if they want real excitement and adventure, try the original Verne novels – much more enthralling.

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