Brendan Fraser as Trevor Anderson
Josh Hutcherson as Sean Anderson
Anita Briem as Hannah Ásgeirsson
Seth Meyers as Professor Alan Kitzens
Jean Michel Pare as Max Anderson
Jane Wheeler as Elizabeth
Frank Fontaine as Old Man
Giancarlo Caltabiano as Leonard
Kaniehtiio Horn as Gum-Chewing Girl
Garth Gilker as Sigurbjörn Ásgeirsson
This new take on a literary classic proves much more flash than substance, because once the wow-factor of the RealD 3D technology wears off viewers are left with a campy shell of an adventure film that in the end will likely play better to kids than adults.
Trevor Anderson (Fraser) is a seismologist and professor trying to prove up his missing/presumed dead brother's hypothesis about the existence of a world within the world. After receiving his brother's copy of Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and pouring over notes his brother Max made in the margins, Trevor and his nephew Sean speed off to Iceland to seek out the location of a long-dormant seismic monitor that has suddenly reactivated and a man mentioned in the notes that they believe can help in their quest. After a bit of a mishap, Trevor, Sean and the man's daughter Hannah – a mountain guide – end up plunging down a lava tube and into a world within the world. Working from a new set of Max's notes found at the earth's center, Trevor and his tribe work to return to the Earth's surface and share their findings before the rising temperatures take a fatal toll.
"Journey to the Center of the Earth" is rated PG for intense adventure action and some scary moments.
This is a good-looking film. The RealD experience is striking and makes the scenery of the world within the world really pop. "Journey" was definitely the right kind of film to use this technology.
I also will give it up for the actors – Fraser, Hutcherson and Briem. While none of them give stand out performances, the trio does an admirable job of carrying the film (since they are the only ones on the screen for most of it). Fraser blends his inner goofball seen in films like "Bedazzled" with his more rugged persona from the "Mummy" movies with decent results. Hutcherson and Breim hold there own just fine.
The effects beyond the RealD experience also are mostly good as well – from the T-Rex to the man-eating plants to the mutant 'fastball' fish and the magnetic chasm.
What Didn't Work:
I'm usually pretty good about 'letting things go' or 'suspension of belief' when it comes to pulp adventure type films like this one. You can, occasionally, shake your head and think 'Oh geez', but then carry on and not let it color the rest of the experience for you. With "Journey," I was moving along in this mode rather well for the first half of the film… and that's when the nephew's cell phone rang while he was navigating a makeshift raft across a stormy ocean AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH! Now, I'm with AT&T, and I get a pretty good coverage… but DAMN! Even this would not have colored the experience as badly had the kid not commented upon just arriving at the center of the earth that he had no signal. This attempt at humor really shouldn't have been a deal breaker with me, but for some reason it was. At least the audience was spared further telecom follies when a mutant fish devoured the boy's cell shortly thereafter.
The second major thing that kind of stuck in my crawl was the bird. One of the first things the trio sees after their near infinite plummet into the Verne-sian world is a flock of glowing, blue sparrow-like birds – beautiful and harmless. One of the little critters inexplicably takes a shine to young Sean. No real reason behind it as best I could tell. He just seemed to linger a bit at their first meeting. Well, later in the film the bird pretty much saves the boy's life by leading him – Gollum-style – to the place he needs to be. Lucky kid.
There were other plot points I didn't think were handled very well. A bit spoilery here, but I thought the Max subplot was oddly resolved. Mainly due to the matter-of-factness of it, and that it was handled completely off camera.
The two-dimensional part of the story really cost this 3D movie in the end. With richer development, this visual feast could have been a good ride for adults too. Sadly, this "Journey to the Center of the Earth" is solely for the under 42-inches crowd.