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.