15 July 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth - a movie review

Jules Verne is truly a visionary. He lived in 1828-1905 way before "modern travel and transportation" was available, and yet he told stories way ahead of his time. In "20,000 Leagues under the Sea", he narrated the exploits of Captain Ahab in his submarine and diving equipment to explore the ocean depths... but these were yet to be invented! His other works include Around the World in Eighty Days, and the latest movie adaptation, Journey to the Center of the Earth. Indeed, he pioneered the science-fiction genre.

I have not yet read the book actually (though I'm inclined to buy one because I enjoyed 20,000 Leagues), but I read in other reviews of this movie that it is a loose adaptation of the book. It is an adventure created by following the clues in Jules Verne's book on how to go to the Center of the Earth.

Plot Summary (consider this a SPOILER)
Professor Trevor Anderson taught Earth Sciences in a university and headed the Center of Volcanic Activity. Prior to Trevor's leadership of the center (of which he only had one assistant, his older brother Max took charge and placed monitoring systems in strategic places in the world ten years before. At the lowest point of Trevor's career, the Center was on the verge of getting closed down and only three of the many monitors were functional. But one day, while Max's son Sean was on vacation with uncle Trevor, they noticed a fourth monitoring device spring to life. The instances of that time were the same as the circumstances ten years back when Max disappeared. Determined to know what happened to Max, Trevor and Sean embarks on a journey to Iceland and hires mountain guide Hannah (Anita Briem) to check on the monitor.

A thunderstorm forces them into a cavern and subsequently gets trapped. Their adventure to the center of the earth begins.

SPOILER OFF


Brendan Fraser is one actor whose movie career I was able to follow principally because he starred in adventure / fun films. Think Encino/California Man, George of the Jungle, a movie where they live underground (forgot the title), The Mummy, etc. Fun movies all. He disappeared from the big screen for quite a while and is now making a big comeback through this film and a third installment of The Mummy.

As the professor character Trevor, Fraser did his part well although his acting and humor is what you would expect from watching too many of his films. I don't know about Anita Briem, though. As the love interest of Brendan, I did not see any spark, and did not click with the audience overall (unlike the chemistry with Rachel Weisz in the Mummy series) but she did fine as an outdoorsy lass who knows the ropes of trekking. (Speaking of which, we sorely missed doing our own trekking and spelunking adventures while watching this movie). As a kid who has never read the book and now finds himself in it, I find that Josh Hutcherson as Sean did not truly bring to the screen a sense of wonderment and surprise at being in such an otherwordly environment.

Other than these, the plot was simple enough. But it's the adventure that made the grade. From the start the trio gets trapped in the cave up to the last part, it was an awesome trip!

I noticed that the manner by which it was filmed was suggestive that it was done for a 3D movie, with things flying about and action scenes in the first person perspective. My hunch was justified when I learned that there is indeed a 3D version of this movie. It would have even been more wonderful to watch it on 3D! Too bad The Block and iMax is too far from us.

I loved the movie because it was fun and a nice adventure overall. And it makes me want to pick up the Jules Verne book the next time I visit the bookstore.


Related link: Jules Verne on Wikipedia


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