Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth

2008, PG, 92 min. Directed by Eric Brevig. Starring Brendan Fraser, Anita Briem, Josh Hutcherson, Seth Meyers.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 11, 2008

Make sure to catch this latest iteration of the Jules Verne novel on a screen projecting it in 3-D format (some prints are 3-D, others regular 2-D), because without all the fun visual effects of stuff "comin' right at ya," this journey's center will not hold. Seemingly created to whet the audience appetite for a new age of digital 3-D (technological advances have recently improved the 3-D landscape – and the studios and exhibitors sure like the opportunity to remind us they have some big-screen tricks up their sleeves that can lure us away from our home-entertainment consoles), the filmmakers have paid little attention to character development or the screenplay, trusting Verne's far-fetched fantasia about the inner-Earth biosphere to carry the day. And for the most part, it does. Early scenes accustom the viewer's eyes to the 3-D phenomenon with yo-yo tricks and a memorable spit take shown from the point of view of the sink drain. These moments prepare us for the eventual experience of such things as 3-D dinosaur drool, carnivorous plants, piranhalike fish incisors, roller-coaster runs down mining transport tracks, an iridescent flock of birds, general free falls to the center of the Earth, and more. When the action is in the foreground, the film's visual thrills provide fun gasps and the feeling of a genuinely collective moviegoing experience. But the backgrounds generally look like 2-D matte paintings, and when combined with the hellzapoppin' happenings in the foregrounds, the finished look appears dull and desaturated. Brevig, a visual-arts coordinator making his first film as director, has been handed the reins of this sci-fi classic, a job appointment that probably predetermined the film's balance in favor of its graphic aspects. Verne, despite his visionary insight into so many futuristic things, kind of missed the boat with his goofy concepts about what resides at the center of the Earth. The dinosaurs and parallel, navigable tunnels alongside the magma are all Verne and can't be blamed on the imaginations of the overeager filmmakers. Perhaps the utter nonsense of it all is what makes the story ripe for eternal retelling. In Brevig's version, three central characters carry essentially the whole movie on their own: scientist Trevor Anderson (Fraser, who's become the studios' favorite go-to guy for family-friendly fare that nevertheless needs a muscular male hero), Trevor's nephew Sean (well-played by Hutcherson), and beautiful Icelandic mountain guide Hannah (Briem). The threesome often face their peril like some kind of chipper Swiss Family Robinson below the Earth's crust, but the quick 92-minute running time keeps the action moving chockablock forward to every new set-piece. No follow-up to Middle-earth, this Journey to the Center of the Earth provides tepid but fun entertainment.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Eric Brevig Films
Yogi Bear
This mixture of animated talking animals and live action is unbearable.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Dec. 17, 2010

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Story of America's itinerant population wanders too much

Feb. 19, 2021

The Reason I Jump
Poetic insight into autism, based on Naoki Higashida memoir

Jan. 8, 2021


Journey to the Center of the Earth, Eric Brevig, Brendan Fraser, Anita Briem, Josh Hutcherson, Seth Meyers

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle