“Journey to the Center of the Earth” follows Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), a professor and scientist who can’t seem to hold his student’s attention or keep track of his own life. He has nightmares about his brother, Max who disappeared ten years earlier while searching for the center of the earth. In honor of Max, Trevor runs a laboratory to continue Max’s research about volcanoes. Unfortunately, the sensors Max put up ten years earlier have dwindled from 29 to 3 active, which leads to the lab being closed down.
Taken aback by the news, Trevor returns home, sinks into his chair and listens to his messages. On his machine is his sister-in-law, reminding him that she’s bring his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) to visit for ten days while she looks for a new house. Sean is your average teen who wants little to do with his uncle and cares even less about moving, that is until Trevor opens a box of items that belonged to Max, Sean’s dad. Sean’s mother gives Trevor the box, and to his excitement there’s more to the box than old trinkets and memorabilia, there’s one of Trevor’s favorite books: “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne. Sean admits that he doesn’t know much about his dad, but he’s eager to learn more.
As Trevor flips through the book, he notices writing throughout, including three locations very familiar to him and his research: Bolivia, Mongolia and Hawaii. They are the only locations that happen to have working sensors. Excited by the thought of discovering what’s behind his brother’s notes, he and Sean go to the lab to further research the sensors. From there, Sean notices that there aren’t three sensors working, but four. The fourth sensor is in Iceland, which is where “Journey to the Center of the Earth” took place. Piecing together Max’s notes and the locations of the sensors, Trevor decides he has to go to Iceland to retrieve the newly active sensor to gather the seismic activity that’s taken place over the past decade. Before long Trevor and Sean are on their way to Iceland, continuing to decipher Max’s notes. It’s Sean that realizes some of the notes are actually the name of a man in Iceland who ran an institute for progressive volcanic study.
When they arrive at the institute, they discover it’s no longer an institute and the man they’re looking for has been dead for three years. There instead is his daughter, and mountain guide Hannah (Anita Briem). She invites Trevor and Sean in and tells them that Max was a “Vernian” (someone who believed Jules Verne’s works were true instead of science fiction) like her father. She even has her father’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” book to prove how similar they were in their belief. Undaunted, Trevor decides he still must retrieve the sensor and Hannah is just the person to help him find his way.
The group make their way up the mountain to the sensor, only to be caught in a vicious storm. They have to take cover in a rock shelter that caves in, covering the way they entered. Forced to find another way out, Trevor, Sean and Hannah wander through the cave and come across a deep hole that appears to have belonged to miners. They make their way to the mine shaft and from there the adventure really begins. They risk their lives on rickety rail cars with treacherous ends, they encounter a thin rock layer that could break beneath their weight at any moment, and finally they find volcanic tubes that help validity Max’s belief in the center of the earth.
Before long, they fall deeper into the core of the Earth and make their way to the world described in Verne’s classic novel. The center of the earth is stunning, a work of literary scope brought to life for the characters and the audience. Despite the beauty, there are dangers around every corner and sad surprises for Trevor and Sean. As the group reads journals and notes left by Max, they have to agree on a plan of action to escape the center of the earth before the temperature rise to deadly heights.
“Journey to the Center of the Earth” is entertaining throughout, though not without flaw. Some of blue screen effects are rather obvious here and there, although I'm guessing that is at least in part due to a smaller budget. However, being a film that forces you to reach beyond what you know, it adds an element of whimsy that otherwise wouldn’t work in another type of film. Director Eric Brevig does a fine job here bringing the story to life and the actors have great chemistry together, offering believable performances that help carry the story further. Filled with prehistoric creatures, magnetic rocks, and dangerous situations, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” is enjoyable family fare.
** Four pairs of 3-D glasses are included. Both 2-D and 3-D versions of the film are included.
VIDEO: "Journey to the Center of the Earth" is presented in 1.78:1 (1080p/VC-1) (both 2-D and 3-D versions) on this release. While some may not find watching old-fashioned 3-D comfortable to watch for 90 minutes, those who do not mind it will find some fun moments here. The 2-D presentation looked very good (although given the film's 3-D effects, watching in 2-D isn't the same experience), as sharpness and detail remained pretty good during much of the film, save for a few moments, such as some of the effects sequences(and the effects did appear somewhat more obvious than they did on DVD on the crisper Blu-Ray) that looked softer. A few minor instances of artifacting were spotted, but the majority of the film looked clean and detailed. Colors appeared just fine, with solid saturation and no smearing or other faults. Overall, this was a very nice transfer, if not demo quality.
SOUND: It's rather surprising that we don't get a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 presentation. Instead, we get a Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was terrifically entertaining, as the sound design remained enveloping and aggressive during much of the picture. Surrounds were used very effectively to provide various effects and ambiance, as well as reinforcement of the score. Audio quality was wonderful, as effects sounded punchy and well-recorded, while dialogue was clear and was never overwhelmed by the action. It's surprising that a lossless audio option isn't offered here.
EXTRAS: Unfortunately, a pair of interactive games that were included on the DVD are dropped here.
“Commentary with Brendan Fraser and Director Eric Brevig”
Fraser and Brevig open by talking about their budget, and how there were some things they weren’t going to add, or didn’t add due to the film’s budget. Then they go on to offer a play by play of what’s happening before starting to focus on other aspects of the story and filming experience. Once they get going discussing the film, they talk about the characters in the film and the actors who play them. There are a lot of fun tidbits about getting shots, finding the right locations for filming and the 3D aspect of the film. This is an interesting commentary that doesn’t lag and offers enough new information to keep your attention.
“A World Within Our World” (HD)
A look at where the idea of “a world within our world” began. With all the books written on the subject, this behind the scene feature explores its core. Philosopher and Astronomer Sir Edmond Halley (Halley’s comet) is focused on here with discussions from professor Duane Griffin and Author David Standish. They talk about his ideas that the world was hollow. John Cleves Symmes and Cyrus Teed are also focused on here for believing the world was hollow. Finally, Jules Verne’s work is discussed, focusing on what he knew at the time he wrote his novel and how that played a part in his novel. This is an interesting feature that offers some insight into the idea of “a world within our world”.
“Being Josh” (HD)
This is a day with Josh Hutcherson who plays Sean. You follow him from first thing in the morning to the end of his filming day. With a glimpse inside his trailer and some behind the scenes footage of him working on the magnetic rock sequence and going to makeup, this is an entertaining look at a day in the life of an actor. There’s some interviews and even footage of him going to school between scenes.
“How to Make Dinosaur Drool” (HD)
Director Eric Brevig talks about the dinosaur scene that takes place in the center of the earth and the need for special effects drool. There’s behind the scenes footage of effects artists trying to come up with recipes for the perfect drool. The recipes are shown here throughout the feature, each one getting a step closer to the final product. It’s fun to see all the concoctions they come up with to make this moment come to life. Worth a look.
A digital copy is also offered on a separate disc.
Final Thoughts: While not a classic, this "Journey" does remain a fun and entertaining family film, with fine performances. The Blu-Ray doesn't offer too much in the way of upgrades over the DVD in terms of presentation quality, but we do get a digital copy included. Recommended.
The Film B