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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Eric Brevig
Cast:
Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem, Seth Meyers, Jean Michel Paré, Jane Wheeler
Writing Credits:
Michael D. Weiss, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin, Jules Verne (novel, "Journey to the Center of the Earth")

Tagline:
Same Planet. Different World.

Synopsis:
Brendan Fraser stars in this action packed adventure based on the Jules Verne classic that is sure to deliver fun for the whole family! On a hunch to find the center of the Earth, Trevor Anderson (Fraser), his nephew and their tour guide make a breakthrough discovery that launches them on a thrilling journey into the unknown. On a scramble to find their way back, the group travels through a never before seen world, encountering creatures and objects never imagined.

Whether in 3-D with glasses or in 2-D, get close to the action, engage your sense of wonder and take your own journey to the center of the Earth.

Box Office:
Budget
$45 million.
Opening Weekend
$21.018 million on 2811 screens.
Domestic Gross
$100.101 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 10/28/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Eric Brevig and Actor Brendan Fraser
• Both 2D and 3D Versions of the Film
• “A World Within Our World” Featurette
• “Being Josh” Featurette
• “How to Make Dinosaur Drool” Featurette
• “Adventure at the Center of the Earth” Challenge
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Jounrey To The Center Of The Earth (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 14, 2008)

Maybe cinema history will regard 2008 as the year that 3D made a big comeback. U2 3D did well at IMAX screens, and Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert made pretty good bucks at standard theaters. The summer’s action spectacular Journey to the Center of the Earth managed to produce at an even better rate, as it grabbed a decent $99 million. No, that’s not a killer figure - The Dark Knight made the same amount in its first couple of days! – but it’s a respectable gross, especially since Journey apparently only cost $45 million to make.

Would the flick have done nearly as well without the 3D gimmick? That seems doubtful, as it provides pretty mediocre action/adventure fare enlivened mostly by its wild effects. Loosely based on the Jules Verne novel, Journey introduces us to Professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser). A decade after the geologist’s brother Max (Jean-Michael Pare) goes missing – and presumed deceased – Trevor takes in his teen nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) for a 10-day visit.

While the pair prepare to bond in an awkward way, the situation changes. Sean’s mother Elizabeth (Jane Wheeler) delivers a box of Max’s old stuff to Trevor, and the scientist discovers some intriguing notes hidden in the margins of Max’s favorite novel (the Verne book, of course). This sends Trevor to Iceland to investigate – and he brings Sean along for the ride.

When they arrive, they meet Hannah (Anita Briem), the daughter of another dead scientist, and she leads them around the terrain to find data. During a storm, they wind up trapped in a cave, and they can’t dig out of it. This means they need to take an alternate path – and guess where it leads them?

“Disneyworld” isn’t the correct response. The threesome follows the route to the titular location, and we go along for the ride. The big question becomes whether or not any fun accompanies the quest.

Yeah, we get a little excitement, but not as much as I’d like. In essence, Journey often feels like a videogame brought to the movie screen. Much of the time the flick alternates between development akin to game cut scenes before we get various action pieces. It’s a lather, rinse, repeat affair, as we go through this cycle on a nearly constant basis.

On the surface, I don’t much mind that presentation. It lacks depth, but not all movies need to be rich, meaningful affairs; there’s always room for some popcorn. Unfortunately, the action of Journey just doesn’t cut it. The clunky pacing makes those scenes stand out in an awkward manner, and they feel somewhat forced.

I think this occurs because the 3D cart drives the story/character horse. Journey often comes across like a gimmick forced to become a real movie. It feels like it wants to be a short Disney attraction but it gets stuck in feature film territory. There’s not much plot on display, as the movie essentially consists of loosely connected action scenes, all of which are motivated by the desire to shove wild 3D effects in the viewer’s face.

And those actually work pretty well. As a 3D extravaganza, Journey succeeds. As an interesting narrative action film, it’s fairly dull. Director Eric Brevig made his name as visual effects supervisor on flicks like Men in Black and Day After Tomorrow. I’m sure he’s skilled in that area, but as a director, he shows room to grow. Granted, the guy’s stuck between a rock and a hard place, as the 3D format dictates a certain tone, but he still doesn’t manage to bring much life to the flick.

Given Brevig’s history, Journey suffers from surprisingly weak visual effects. I expect the film’s low budget hampered its effects potential, but I still think the results disappoint. The visuals always look moderately cheesy, and not in a cool 50s throwback manner; they just seem unconvincing.

As a 3D showcase, Journey throws out some cool effects, and they work quite well. As a movie, it’s less than scintillating. The flick moves briskly enough and is brief enough to keep us with it until its end, but it never becomes more than mediocre. Without the 3D, it’s completely forgettable.


The DVD Grades: Picture NA/ Audio A-/ Bonus C+

Journey to the Center of the Earth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this double-sided DVD-14; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Note that the film came in both 2D and 3D renditions; while the packaging claimed to include a fullscreen 2D option as well, I couldn’t locate it here.

As was the case with the Hannah Montana DVD, it became difficult to objectively rate the picture quality of the 3D edition due to the problems inherent in the red/blue format. The degraded presentation that comes with those blasted 3D glasses makes it more difficult than usual to rate the picture quality of Journey - so I didn’t. It just didn’t make sense for me to try to objectively rate a visual presentation that came with so many inherent flaws. The red/blue 3D glasses meant those hues dominated; anything not red or blue in the film showed up as a neutral tone. The technology used for this kind of 3D work simply made natural colors impossible.

The glasses also tended to negatively affect sharpness. Actually, much of the 3D presentation showed fairly good delineation, but the nature of the material meant the shots occasionally provided double images and were somewhat blurry. It’s an inherently flawed technology, so I didn’t want to saddle it with a grade.

Given the potential for the red/blue 3D format, I thought it looked fine. The 3D effects themselves worked quite well. The movie boasted a great sense of depth, and the occasional gimmicky shots succeeded. These put us in the action well, and they even made me jump a couple of times. Some might find the 3D effects to be over the top, and they were, but that’s much of the fun in this kind of project. Anyway, although I didn’t grade the quality of the visuals, expect them to seem good for this sort of project.

One quality-related footnote: I gave parts of the 2D version a look and thought it boasted pretty solid visuals. That image could be a smidgen soft at times, but it usually appeared concise and accurate. It also featured lively colors, good blacks, and no real concerns. Granted, the movie lost almost all its appeal when viewed in 2D, as the 3D gimmicks were its claim to fame. Nonetheless, at least the 2D option offered nice picture quality, and it proved easier on my eyes; I got a bit of a headache from the 3D presentation, but no similar concerns emanated from the 2D version.

No qualms greeted the strong Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Journey. As expected, the movie’s many action scenes created the greatest impact. From flying objects to explosions and blasts to swirling waters, the soundfield used all five channels to excellent effect. The elements swarmed all around us and firmly placed us in the action.

Never did the quality of the audio disappoint. Effects remained concise and robust. They presented great dynamics and lacked any distortion or other problems. The score occasionally threatened to get buried under the onslaught of action effects, but the music managed to stay lively and bright nonetheless. Speech was crisp and distinctive, while bass response seemed terrific. Really, I found a lot to like and virtually nothing to criticize from this superb soundtrack.

When we move to the disc’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Eric Brevig and actor Brendan Fraser. Both of them sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast and performances, shooting in 3D, sets and locations, budget restrictions, effects and a few other production issues.

At times, Fraser simply narrates the movie, so expect the commentary to sputter on occasion. Otherwise, the pair offer a pretty good look at the flick. The slow spots tend to pass pretty quickly, and we learn a reasonable amount of info about the movie. This turns into a mostly satisfying chat.

The Adventure at the Center of the Earth Challenge offers two mini-tasks. “Ride the Mine Car” and “Bat the Fish” offer similar tasks that require you to push your remote’s directional buttons in an increasingly hectic manner. Neither is much fun.

Three featurettes flesh out the set. A World Within Our World goes for 10 minutes, eight seconds as it mixes movie clips, archival elements and interviews. We hear from Bucknell University Professor of Geography Duane Griffin, Hollow Earth author David Standish, Koreshan State Historic Site Park Services Specialist Mike Heare, and Caltech Professor of Planetary Sciences Dave Stevenson. “World” examines the development of theories about the nature of the Earth’s center as well as some aspects of the Jules Verne novel. Since “World” fills barely 10 minutes, it can’t offer a great examination of its complex subject. However, it provides a brisk and interesting synopsis of the issues and entertains as it goes.

Being Josh goes for six minutes and follows actor Josh Hutcherson around the set. We see his typical day on the movie, an endeavor that allows us to get a few good shots of the production. It’s a fluffy little piece, but those glimpses make it worthwhile.

Finally, How to Make Dinosaur Drool fills two minutes, 47 seconds and features Hutcherson and Brevig. They talk about the dinosaur scene and what was used to form the saliva that drops on Sean. Don’t expect much, but a couple of cute facts emerge.

A few ads open the 2D side of the DVD. We get clips for Primeval, Get Smart, Speed Racer Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Blu-Ray Disc. No trailer for Journey appears here.

Although Journey to the Center of the Earth provides some fun 3D effects, it fails to join these to an involving story or exciting action. A few sequences work okay, but the movie feels too much like a long gimmick reel. The DVD presents acceptable 3D visual quality along with terrific audio and a smattering of extras. I have no complaints about the DVD, but I don’t find much entertainment in the film itself.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.9473 Stars Number of Votes: 19
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main