While the summer was rather void of moving family films that were truly moving, Journey to the Center of the Earth was a film that actually received a Heartland Truly Moving Picture Award. This wasn’t all this little film managed to do—it raked in over $200 million worldwide, making the $60 budget it received seem incredibly paltry in comparison. While the box office numbers weren’t huge, for a film with only one real star to speak of and a bit of a gimmick going for it with the 3-D glasses, Journey to the Center of the Earth managed to not only move audiences emotionally but to also make them jump out of their seats as the world came to life before their eyes.
Brendan Fraser stars in this action-packed adventure based on the Jules Verne classic that is sure to deliver fun for the whole family! On a hunch to find the center of the earth, Trevor Anderson (Fraser), his nephew and their tour guide make a breakthrough discovery that launches them on a thrilling journey into the unknown. On a scramble to find their way back, the group travels through a never-before-seen world, encountering creatures and objects never imagine.
It should be noted that if it weren’t for the 3-D effect, this movie really wouldn’t be all that amazing to watch. While the visuals of the Center of the Earth are impressive, there’s nothing actually all that…well, real looking about them. It’s not until you don the psychedelic shades do you begin to feel that this movie is truly something different about this film. Thankfully the entirety of the movie is given the 3D effect so even a dull lab or airplane ride is in full 3D glory, adding that extra degree of visual depth to further spur your senses. Unfortunately I had to wear the glasses over the glasses I already wear everyday and on top of that I was fighting a cold while watching this film, so the overall experience of the film ended up leaving me with blurred vision and a bit of a headache, but I’m sure on a better day I would have been endlessly enthralled with it.
Journey to the Center of the Earth really is deserving of its “Truly Moving Picture” award as, even though it can get to be a bit sappy, it is highly enjoyable on more than one level. The film even took a bit of a surprising turn when it didn’t bring back the long lost father/brother of Sean (Josh Hutcherson) and Trevor Anderson, which I thought was a genuinely unexpected spin of events. Strictly speaking, Journey to the Center of the Earth doesn’t have a whole lot of plot and in the end it’s just about watching the cast go through as many crazy and eye-popping scenarios as possible until they can escape, but that’s really where the enjoyment of the film stems from anyway.
For me it was all very reminiscent of Jumanji in that the film plays out like a video game. They traverse form level to level and eventually split up all the while running to the “end” of it all. It’s a strict point A to point B film, which is completely OK, it just doesn’t really deviate much from its set formula. Of course this is a family film, so if it did deviate any at all, I’m not sure where it would go—they were pretty much trapped after all. Still, any issues you can pick apart with this film really hold no weight as it was never meant to be a an Oscar-winner, it is simply a film that you can enjoy watching, no matter your age, and leave filled with warm fuzzies.
Without a doubt the way to view this film is with the 3-D glasses and just to be sure I popped in the standard 2-D version and I found it very underwhelming (even if my eyes didn’t end up bleary by the end). As gimmicky as it may seem, this film begs to be seen in 3-D. Luckily the DVD and Blu-ray releases come with four pairs, so no worries there. Recommended.
Arriving in a standard two-disc Elite Blu-ray case (once again, one of the discs is a digital copy) with a 3-D slipcover where the effect is the people literally just moving back and forth on the cover (ohhhh, cool! I can make the same effect my moving my head). Unlike most Warner releases this one comes with a menu, though more so you can select which version of the film to watch than anything, I surmise. Inside the case is a set of four 3-D glasses as well as inserts for the digital copy and a note to keep your player’s firmware up-to-date.
Both 2-D and 3-D versions of the film are included and as previously mentioned it’s the 3-D edition you’ll want to watch, though because of this it makes it kind of hard to tell the exact level of clarity and definition that this 1080p VC-1 transfer brings to the table. If the 2-D version is any indication, however, then this transfer is absolutely flawless and the 3-D version offers so many jump-out-of-screen moments that it’s hard to believe that this technology has been around for so long and hasn’t been used a whole lot in the past few years until very recently. Granted they’ve no doubt perfected it since the early 90’s, but it’s still curious that it took this long for a revival. Unfortunately those expecting a highly impressive lossless audio mix to go with this will be disappointed as all we get here is a standard DD5.1 track. While this track is nothing to snuff at, it’s also nothing that’s impressive either. Although the surrounds and subwoofer are used frequently, nothing pops out at you quite like the image does and as such it becomes an immediately disappointing mix. New Line is a studio that gave us Harold and Kumar in 7.1 DTS-HD MA—how did we manage to get screwed so badly on a film that genuinely deserves a lossless track?
Moving onto the extras we first come upon a commentary by Brendan Fraser and Director Eric Brevig. Fraser is the most eager on this track as he talks quite a bit more than Brevig does, but both manage to offer up plenty of comedic and interesting anecdotes about the production of the film. Worth a listen if you truly enjoyed the film—just be sure to flip on the 3-D version again in case you get bored and want to see a yo-yo fly at your face. The remaining extras are short, but are offered up in 1080i. “A World Within Our World” (10:09) provides a history of the original Jules Verne classic, while “Being Josh” (6:00) focuses on actor Hutcherson’s daily routines on the set. Finally “How to Make Dinosaur Drool” (2:47) is a nice little piece on the slobbery goo that falls upon Hutcheron in the third act of the film.
Overall Journey to the Center of the Earth is a bit gimmicky, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a lot of fun to watch. With the 3-D effect I’m not entirely sure how much clarity you’ll be getting over the standard DVD release, especially since the audio track here is strictly a DD5.1 track, but if you don’t plan on watching it in 3-D then the Blu-ray transfer is definitely worth checking out. It’s a bit drab for the first part of the film, but that only makes the Center of the Earth visuals that more impressive when they pop off the screen and flood your retinas with color. Recommended.
Journey to the Center of the Earth is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.