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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Movie Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the cinema to see this journey.


RATING: 3.5/5


I have been seeing Brendan Fraser – well, not literally, but on screen. Having just watched Fraser’s other film, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor a little over a week ago, I can’t help but to be a tad circumspect about this film – especially after putting into consideration how The Mummy reeked of nonsense. But the amazing trailers for this movie blew away such inimical thoughts almost instantaneously and after watching this family-friendly flick, I am certain there needs to be a dichotomy between The Mummy and Journey to the Center of the Earth: The Mummy is just plain bad, but this film, while not perfect, is satisfying.

As it title suggests, Journey to the Center of the Earth is based loosely on the Jules Vernes novel of the same name. Chances are that most of you would have already read the novel before so you know what to expect. The film begins with archaeologist-cum-professor-cum-lecturer (that’s quite a remarkable job title) Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) welcoming his teenage nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) for a stay-over at his residence. Almost too coincidentally, he opens a box of old possessions after Sean arrived and discovers his brother’s (in other words, Sean’s father) writings about the Center of the Earth in well, a paperback version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. It turns out that his brother, Max, believed in what was penned in the novel and embarked on a journey to seek out the unseen world. He never came back. Trevor’s discovery, coupled with Sean’s will to relieve his all-too-vague nostalgic memories of his late father, reignite both parties’ intrigue in the Center of the Earth. On their quest to find an entrance to the Center of the Earth, they got lost and have to enlist the services of a mountain guide, Hannah (Anita Briem), who proceeds to accompany them on their journey.

I didn't know that they have a roller coaster ride beneath the Earth's surface!

A journey filled with hazards at every corner and turn, I would say. And on that count, this film nails it hands down. Once our adventure threesome locates the entrance to the Earth core, the crux of the movie begins and the thrill gets progressively better. There isn’t a doubt that the director, Eric Brevig, has done an excellent job at keeping things suspenseful throughout. Rarely has the action been let go, and even if it has, there is only a handful of seconds to either take delight in the many wonderful waterfalls and mythical creatures or attain a breather from the preceeding action sequences. While I shall not reveal details of the several nail-biting events that happen to our dear adventurers as they journey to the Center of the Earth so as to keep this review spoiler-free, I would say that each of them has been with utmost meticulosity such that each one is as intensifying as, if not more than, the previous. The pacing of this film feels really right – so much so that this movie should be more or less the pacing benchmark for future fantasy flicks.

Unlike The Mummy, the CGI here is top-notch. This is all the more important as the film is shot is Digital 3D. It’s pretty safe to say that you can reel in the wonders of the CGI as it is screened in its full glory. It’s a pity that I did not watch this film in 3D, but in the conventional 2D as the ‘selected’ theaters which screen this film in 3D do not happen to be in my vicinity.

Perhaps the only gripe I have about this film is that it fails to flesh out any its primary characters although it only has 3 of them. A considerable portion of the film was dedicated to the action, which as mentioned, was done impeccably, leaving little time for character development, but that is certainly a poor excuse (if it is) for the neglecting the aforementioned. A suggestion would be to extend the runtime of the film so that it can accommodate the shedding of more light on each of the 3 primary characters. But all things said, we don’t have an idea of who the characters really are. Fortunately, the fantastic action sequences in this film do a brilliant job in drawing much of your attention away from this shortcoming, so more often than not, the lack of character development won’t be that noticeable.

Final Comments
Journey to the Center of the Earth may seem outwardly produced with the kids in mind what with its adorable birds and giant fishes, but it isn’t – in fact, this film provides delectation for cinema goers of all ages. The pacing is right on the spot, making this film suspenseful throughout. The CGI is very well done, more so emphasized with 3D viewing at selected cinemas. The lack of character development, while a flaw, isn’t that bad because the action more than compensates for it. Overall, this movie is 87 minutes of satisfying watch.


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