Journey to the Center of the Earth


Journey to the Center of the Earth

Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche

I’ve been anticipating and/or dreading this movie ever since I first saw preview some months ago. I had sort of resolved not to see it — as it was pretty obviously going to be wretched — but I stumbled into the film nonetheless, and boy howdy! Was it ever.

Journey, originally called A Journey to the Interior of the Earth, is my favorite Jules Verne book and one of my favorite science fiction novels ever. It was also made into a truly kickass 1959 movie in which you get to see Pat Boone naked. What, then, was I expecting when I discovered it was going to be remade as a goofy amusement park thrillride 3D kids’ movie? I have no effin’ idea, citizen.

The first half of the flick is glurgy and stupid. But it has a goofy, appealing credulousness to it; I always love Fraser, Josh Hutcherson is neither good nor bad as his young nephew, and Icelandic actress Anita Briem — of “The Tudors” — is fine in every sense of the world as the hot Icelandic tour guide. Fraser is Trevor Anderson, a scientist whose conveniently-also-a-scientist brother, Max, disappeared ten years before. Max’s son Sean comes to visit Trevor right about the time Trevor realizes Max has made a bunch of notes in an old copy of Verne’s book. Turns out Max was a “Verneian,” a member of a secret society that believes Verne’s books were fact. They decide to go to Iceland! They’re able pay for their last-minute flights ($1619 apiece from NYC at Expedia) because Trevor’s been saving quarters for years.

Then things get stupid.

Once in Iceland, they meet up with Hannah, the daughter of a scientist who helped Max find the center of the Earth or something. A random lightning strike traps the trio in an old Icelandic mine, which just happens to have a conveniently-placed rollercoaster; pretty soon they’re staring glurgy-eyed at Blue Velvet-style bluebirds, flying kites, hitting piranahs with baseball bats, dodging attacks from Nessie and running from dinosaurs. Turns out the Professor Lidenbrock of Verne’s novel was a real person (though apparently Axel, the narrator of the novel, was not) and he really went to — yes, yes, yes, the center of the Earth. Trevor and Sean get to process their grief over Max’s death in a sensitive-manly geek sort of way, and we get to see lots of things coming toward us fast enough that I think we’re supposed to jump.

Which brings me to one of the many reasons this movie may have sucked so bad; it was made in 3D, but I saw it in thrilling 2D, which I didn’t think would be a big deal… but it was. The colors of the film looked amazingly washed out and kind of embarrassingly grey. Many times a shot would be onscreen, and it was clear from narrative tension it was expected to elicit oohs and aahs from me, but the shot was just kind of empty and weak and shallow looking. My own damn fault for seeing a 3D feature in 2D? Yeah, well, they still charged me $10.25 for it. See it in 3D if you’re going to see it — but no brilliant 3D effects could have saved the dumb script.

Still, unlike so many bad contemporary movies, this one didn’t piss me off. I actually enoyed its dorky goofiness, and despite the washed-out look, some of the thrills and special effects were vaguely fun. Unfortunately, they were interrupted periodically by horrible dialogue. If you love Verne’s novel, as I do, and if you hate yourself and want to feel pain, as I do, it’s worth seeing Journey. It’s one-third inexpert homage, two-thirds popcorn, and a whole lotta train wreck.

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