JOURNEY TO The Centre Of The Earth takes the original Jules Verne novel as a point of departure, with three unknowing travellers following codes scribbled in the margins of a tattered copy of the book directing them to a hidden world far underground.
They discover a landscape teeming with gigantic plants and wildlife, all of which are enhanced for the audience in 3D (3D glasses are provided at the cinema ). The result is a family friendly film with entertaining and occasionally startling effects which appear to jump out of the screen.
Scientist Trevor (Brendan Fraser ) still mourns his brother Max, who disappeared 10 years previously in mysterious circumstances. Trevor has devoted his life to furthering Max’s geological research. When Max’s teenage son Sean (Josh Hutcherson ) arrives for a visit with his uncle, he brings with him Max’s old copy of Verne’s fantastical novel, which has cryptic notes and numbers written inside.
When Trevor accidentally comes across odd volcanic activity currently emerging in various places around the world, he decides to investigate what’s happening using Max’s notes. He and Sean fly to Iceland, location of one of the volcanic anomalies, and attempt to explore the phenomenon at close range with the help of a local mountain guide, Hannah (Anita Briem ).
However, the three become trapped inside the mountain Trevor is examining. The only way out appears to be a tunnel, but it only goes deeper into the mountain. Before they know it, the explorers are hurtling towards the centre of the earth.
Verne’s stories are perfect cinematic fodder, and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth is no exception. There are opportunities galore for CGI effects which work well here. There are no surprises, but plenty of action and suspense, along with at least two breathless journeys at breakneck speed which will probably lead to the creation of similar rides at Disneyland.
All three leads are game for anything here, although the (inevitably ) precocious Sean, played with wide-eyed wonder by Hutcherson, gets to show off his ability to cope in an utterly unknown world with just his wits.
Fraser’s film career includes some surprisingly impressive performances, particularly opposite Ian McKellen in 1998’s Gods and Monsters and as Alden Boone in The Quiet American in 2002. Yet he remains best known for recurring roles in various action franchises such as the Mummy series.
In Journey To The Centre Of The Earth he is in full fledged action-man mode, and thus has little to do except react with fear or astonishment to the array of phenomena opening up before him, and occasionally crack a family friendly joke.
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth is old fashioned family fare, with extra novelty provided by the 3D effects. Additionally the film spurred me to revisit the Verne canon, something younger viewers may want to pursue too.