Monday, August 20, 2018

Journey To The Center of The Earth Is Utterly Disposable Save For Its Historical Context Among Modern-Day 3D Cinema

You know how certain spectacle-driven movies take forever to get to the spectacle, usually because the entire overlong first act is devoted to solely boring dialogue? Journey To The Center of The Earth does not have that issue, no sir. From the moment it begins, it feels somebody's pressed the fast-forward button and will not let go as we rapidly go through what's going on in the life of Professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser). Turns out the campus he works at is about to go under thanks to a smarmy character played by Seth Meyers (wow is it a shock seeing him acting in a movie) and he's stuck with taking care of his nephew, Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson), whose dad, Max, vanished on a scientific expedition years ago.

Where did Sean's dad go?? After discovering some notes he jotted down before vanishing, Trevor and Sean go overseas to track down some kind of scientific anomaly Max was searching for that solely exists as a contrived excuse to get these two, along with helpful guide Hannah (Anita Briem), to the center of the Earth. This fast-paced movie, which doesn't even run 90 minutes with credits, gets the characters down to the titular location just as quickly as the characters decide to make a mad retreat for the surface world. It's all go-go-go, with no time at all for the slow-slow-slow. Sometimes this makes watching Journey to the Center of the Earth an experience akin to talking to someone who's drank one too many Red Bull's but at least it doesn't waste your time with extraneous content.

The major downside to such quick-footed pacing though is that the center of the Earth itself never becomes as impressive as it could have been. Trevor, Sean and Hannah are determined to leave this place as soon as they arrive so we never get the chance to take in the sights and wonders down here. At least the assorted mystical entities in this realm provide some decently fun conflict for the characters to endure, I especially like the man-eating plants and some floating rocks that the characters have to try to get out of. Journey to the Center of the Earth is basically just a Universal theme park ride drawn out to just over 80 minutes and it has the kind of dialogue and acting you'd find in one of the worst rides at such a location, but at least there's some mild fun in a handful of the spectacle-driven sequences.

Such spectacle was presented in 3D during this features original theatrical run, something that sounds like a "Well no, duh" factoid today considering every live-action movie with even an ounce of spectacle gets presented in the third dimension. But this Eric Brevig directed feature was released all the way back in July 2008, nearly a whole 18 months before Avatar and even a week before The Dark Knight! This means Journey to the Center of the Earth was actually the first ever live-action film that was neither a documentary or a music concert film to be presented in the modern-day format of digital 3D, laying the groundwork for future live-action efforts filmed in the format by filmmakers like James Cameron, Alfonso Cuaron and Steven Spielberg.

That important bit of historical context for this movie is pretty much more interesting than anything that actually transpires in Journey to the Center of the Earth, which has a script that feels like it totally could have been filmed as a 1950's B-movie without any alterations sans Sean not being able to be fixated on his PSP. But it's at least harmless enough and there are some fun moments to be had in its adventure sequences. I'm sure watching this back in July 2008 as a theatrical 3D movie was a scream, especially since there are numerous moments where objects (including some measuring tape held by Seth Meyers) pop out of the screen. Like I said, Journey to the Center of the Earth is harmless, but if you want an actually super fun throwback adventure movie starring Brendan Fraser, go watch the 1999 version of The Mummy instead.

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