Journey To The Center Of The Earth 3D

Director    Eric Brevig
Starring    Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem
Release    11 JUL (US) 11 JUL (UK)    Certificate PG
3 stars


20th July 2008

This isn't a direct remake of the classic Jules Verne tale that we all know and love (I for one had a cracking animated version of it on video when I was younger. It was bloody fantastic). Instead, it's a bang up-to-date story of a familiar journey that features mobile phones, PSPs and Google, referencing the original story in droves - kinda like a tech-savvy sequel. The gimmick, of course, is that it's all in 3D, although that really depends on whether your local flea-pit is stacked with the appropriate tech-deck. But still, it's a nice idea.

Scientist and volcano enthusiast Trevor Anderson (Fraser) is in a spot of bother. Not only is the lab his late brother set up on the verge of closure, but he's been lumbered with his thirteen year-old nephew. But when young Sean (Hutcherson) comes with a box of his dad's belongings, Trevor discovers a copy of - wait for it - Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, filled with equations, doodles and confusing scientific squiggles. Trevor begins to realise that his brother's (and Jules Verne's) outlandish theory of a centre of the Earth - the same mad rant that cost him his life ten years before - may in fact, be true. Cue one quick flight to Iceland, an attractive mountain guide in very tight black shorts, a few caves, a couple of tunnels and the odd freefall here and there, and our heroes turn up slap-bang at the planet's core.

It's less of a journey, more an accidental discovery of the centre of the Earth. They didn't plan to wind up in the planet's hot, sticky bowels but that's where they end up. And once they're there, they want to get out, because they're besieged by special effects and CG creatures. It's a simple story that won't require much brain power but it'll definitely entertain you, whether it's in 3D or not.

Brendan Fraser revisits his usual exploring adventurer-type role; nothing we haven't seen from him before but it's a role he's worked on solidly over the years. Josh Hutcherson's moody teen act quickly evaporates and he morphs into a chatty little adventurer with a thirst for knowledge and exploration. Icelandic-born Anita Briem's tour guide Hannah, meanwhile, provides something nice for the dads to looks at. These are by no means stand-out performances, rather adequate human representations that serve to anchor the CG-saturated set-pieces.

Journey To The Center Of The Earth does what it promises. It doesn't do anything wrong and stays pretty loyal to the original story. It's also a massive bit of promotion for Jules Verne's novel, with Trevor having the book constantly at hand as a kind of Rough Guide to the Earth's core. There's some fairly obtuse lines angled towards getting kids to read more, but hey, it's an admirable trait for a big-budget summer blockbuster, especially one purporting to be a bold new cinematic revolution.

Of course, not every cinema in the country has proper 3D technology, and until the rollout is more widespread and wearing those ridiculous glasses becomes commonplace, there's going to be a lot of people missing out on the film's true potential. (I mean, who doesn't want to know what it's like having Brendan Fraser flobbing mouthwash in their face?). By no means does seeing Journey in 2D make it a bad film, but it certainly renders it less impressive. In three awesome dimensions, it's like jumping on board one of the very best (and very expensive) theme park roller coaster rides. In two, it's a little like a tarted-up version of those '80s-style simulators you see at cheap funfairs and Scottish airports (can you say 'mine cart sequence'?).

It's still a good, child-friendly adventure that will make you jump (watch out for the big fish!) and have the kids oohing and aahing in all the right places. But to get the most out of it, make sure you see it on the big screen in as many dimensions as possible. After all, we're not quite sure how its 3D gimmick will translate to DVD... a pop-up case, maybe? Rob

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