Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson star in Journey to the Center of the Earth, based on the famous Jules Verne book of the same name. “Vernians” will love the book’s prominent incorporation into the plot while general audiences will enjoy a satisfying, “low stress” experience with a minimal cast of characters.
In this version, Fraser plays college teacher/scientist Trevor Anderson, who follows in the footprints of his brother Max on an important expedition. The adventure surfaces at a great time. Trevor and his research partner are stuck in a stagnant situation in their plate tectonics work. Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" anchorman and regular cast member Seth Meyers plays professor Alan Kitzens, Trevor’s academic research rival who looks to take over Trevor’s fledgling lab. Not bad for a basic setup, which quickly moves into discoveries and clever suppositions in a free-roaming adventure.
After Trevor’s sister-in-law connects him with some important items, the expedition becomes a family affair when Trevor’s nephew Sean, played by Hutcherson, joins this accidental adventure. After some awkward moments, Trevor and Sean bond very well with some help from a very important book that builds on their family connection while guiding them through a wide open adventure. A native Icelander named Hannah, played by newcomer Anita Briem, also joins in. This trio’s varied knowledge meshes well together throughout the constant challenges and suppositions as they encounter a new world with their world.
The performances stay fairly even, but never become cartoony or forced thanks to some great dialogue humor. This film has a fun tone as the trio balances discovery and escape with some logic and comedy to relieve some tension. Most audiences should see any potential danger or scares coming a mile away, which continues the “low stress” thrill trend. This trend involves some decent filmmaking techniques (timing, editing, etc.) which eliminate any manipulative tactics that audiences have experienced countless times in other films. The family ties and personal discoveries provide some good drama as well.
Visual effects master Eric Brevig directs a fast paced one hour and 32 minute film full of creatures and environmental challenges very well. The high quality creatures illustrate no cut corners in the special effects department, but the continuity needs work. Detail-oriented viewers might be bothered by missed details like inconsistent shirt wetness and sudden backpack appearances, but these notable oversights do not really hurt the bulk of the easy-to-follow story.
Filmmakers recreate the same nostalgic feeling that the Indiana Jones film series captures, especially during a rock-crossing scene, while adhering to modern trends like hinting at a possible sequel and other scenarios. Higher level acting and music could’ve taken this film further, but it’s definitely an enjoyable experience.
A nice, all ages film recommended and rated PG for intense action, a few scares, and scenes of peril. This film is the first full-length, live action feature shot in digital 3D.