Instead of simply adapting Jules Verne’s classic novel, the latest screen iteration of Journey to the Center of the Earth takes a campier, kid-friendly approach. It’s simple fun, though never properly paced or well acted. Still, for the younger set, there’s some mild fun.
Brendan Fraser is Trevor Anderson, intrigued with the theory that the center of the Earth contains something more than molten rock. Conveniently, his nephew happens to visiting when he finds evidence of his lost brothers previous adventure, and they set off to find the locales described in the Verne novel.
An agonizing slow start doesn’t take advantage of its dialogue sequences to develop characters. It’s nearly an hour into the film before the excitement can finally grab hold. The lone exception is a mine cart ride that ranks low on “special” side of effects.
A rather small budget was likely spent on the 3-D effects, lost on a home audience even with the glasses included in the case (and the 3-D version is now out of print anyway). The vistas of the underground labyrinth don’t have the impact they should, despite the bright colors. All of the attempts to “wow” an audience with the 3-D effects are painfully obvious now as the script works around showcasing as many effects as possible.
Dialogue is awful, with the expected low-rent science interspersed with terrible one-liners. Delivery is equally painful. For the younger set, this is all forgiven, but an adult watching with their kid is in for an extended ride.
There is some mild excitement generated, including a fun fish attack on a raft, T-rex romp, and some nifty man-eating plants. This is all too late, as the plodding adventure is already flat, and the action too brief. It’s inoffensive and a perfect way to keep the younger set entertained. However, there’s more potential in this story than what’s contained in this script.
Assuming you have one of the early releases on Blu-ray (such as the one reviewed), you have your choice of 2-D or 3-D versions of the film. Since the 3-D relies on red and green glasses to work splitting the print in two with only mild excitement, the score below represents only the 2-D version.
This is a VC-1 encode, one lacking in every possible area. Black levels are terrible, falling into a gray scale trap that it never seems to escape from. Since the film was shot on digital cameras, there is no film grain, and no detail to speak of. Faces are pasty and flat, without depth.
Sharpness is mostly high with the exception of a few shots, particularly the first reveal of the center of the Earth. Colors are bland and faded. The final credits suffer from banding issues. While clean, the transfer consistently appears digital and unnatural. Journey is a complete disappointment on Blu-ray.
Unfortunately, the disc contains only a standard compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 track. While it’s a shame there’s a lack of hi-def audio, this is still a wildly fun mix. It succeeds at subtlety, such as the yo-yo rolling across the floor at the start. Storms nicely load the soundfield with rain and thunder. Bass is thick, resonating during underground tremors, the dinosaur attack, or when the lava kicks up in the finale.
Extras are all aimed at the younger set, including a dry commentary from Brendan Fraser and first time director Eric Brevig. This is followed up by a simple featurette about the science used in the novel called World Within our World. Being Josh focuses on Josh Hutcherson for a day on the set, with some nice behind-the-scenes footage. How to Make a Dinosaur Drool is a short piece on the drool sequence.