Journey to the Center of the Earth
by Laura Tucker
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I have never read Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, but my 15-year-old son, who is a fan of most classics, considers it one of his favorites. With the popular story now being released as a new film starring Brendan Fraser, it opened up the story to me, as well as many others who have never been exposed to it.
Fraser plays a science teacher, Trevor, who appears to be somewhat of a recluse. We see the 3D come to life for the first time as he spits into the sink after brushing his teeth. His brother, Max, also a scientist, disappeared while researching the truth behind the book Journey to the Center of the Earth in 1997. Trevor’s nephew, Max’s son Sean (Josh Hutcherson), comes to spend ten days with him while his mom relocates to Canada. Sean sets the rules right away for himself, telling his uncle that as long as he keeps the fridge stocked with Mountain Dew and TiVos Family Guy, they’ll get along.
The two go through the belongings Max left behind and find a copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth. Trevor takes the opportunity to show Sean his father’s research, which is still being carried out, and they realize that, while he was tracking blips across the globe, with 29 blips that have now been reduced down to three, the activity has now increased to four blips. Trevor reluctantly brings Sean along with him to Iceland to track that newest blip.
The two look up another Verneian (followers of the Jules Verne book), Sigurbjörn Ásgeirsson, but are told by his attractive mountain guide daughter, Hannah (Anita Briem), that he died three winters ago. She doesn’t put much stock in her father’s beliefs, noting it was just another failed idea like the Berlin Wall and eight-track tapes. She agrees to help them track the seismic activity they have noticed in the area, and in the process, the three get trapped in the center of the earth.
Although I hadn’t read the original story, I checked in with my son to see how this version compared. Obviously, they changed the setting to the present, for one thing, and obviously, if the characters are followers of the book itself, that’s another change. My son felt that the rest of it stayed true, though, thinking everything they went through, discovered or saw was something similar to what was experienced in the Jules Verne book.
One odd thing he noted, though, was that it was odd to him to see “real people” in 3D. Only being 15, he has limited exposure to 3D movies and doesn’t realize they started out being live-action with real people. One theatre in our area was showing Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D, and another in just 2D. It was an easy choice to spend a few extra dollars to see it in 3D, and I was glad I did. It really added a lot to the experience. There were a few times where I literally jumped out of my seat when something came flying out at me.
I have to also appreciate this latest endeavor of Fraser’s. He seemed to have slacked off appearing in new films lately, with his last major film being Crash. This could have something to do with the news that his marriage was ending, or it could be that he was saving it all up for this summer, as next month we’ll have the release of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and there are four other movies he has planned for the end of this year and 2009.
Fraser seems to be back and stronger than ever. His presence always adds a unique spin on a role, such as noting to Sean that he’s man enough to “call dibs” on the mountain guide, but not rappel down a steep, craggy wall. Hutcherson adds some value to his role as the young Sean, as well. He was seen in the recent family films Bridge to Terabithia and Firehouse Dog.
The real star of this film, though, is the story laid out by Jules Verne and embellished here to meet with modern times by Michael Weiss, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin. It’s a classic story, and looking at it for the first time myself, one that I feel all kids—and adults—could benefit from knowing.
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