Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

directed by Eric Brevig

Journey to the Centre of the Earth poster  
Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) is a professor in earth sciences. Clearly this is one of the dullest and most irrelevant sciences ever taught, since his subject is unpopular with students and his funding is just about to be cut. This is the Hollywood version of science: dull and fusty, and something the audience are unlikely to understand or care about remotely.

Trevor is intent on continuing the work of his brother Max. Max has been missing, presumed dead, for the past ten years, although his brother certainly hasn't forgotten about him. Trevor is living up to the stereotype of the forgetful boffin in other respects, though, by living in a bachelor-pad pigsty and failing to remember when his nephew is due to visit for a week.

Sean (Josh Hutcherson) isn't impressed by the prospect of a week with his uncle. He prefers to spend his time immersed in his gaming technology, and at 13 he thinks Trevor is boring. But Sean's mother drops off some of Max's old things, including his copy of Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The notes his brother left in the margins intrigue Trevor, because they seem to offer clues about Max's disappearance.

Trevor takes Sean on a trip to Iceland to investigate, where they enlist the help of a guide. Hannah Ásgeirsson (Anita Briem) is an experienced mountain guide whose father was a vulcanologist. She takes them up a hill to check out some of Trevor's scientific apparatus. But a series of accidents trap them underground, and they end up taking something of a rollercoaster ride that leaves them in a hidden lost world, miles and miles underground. In fact it's as though it was filmed with a theme park ride in mind.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth begins believably enough, with talk of igneous rocks and some practical cave exploration. But once they reach the lost world all realism is abandoned. It's full of increasingly absurd prehistoric creatures, unlikely plants and fungi, and shiny birds.

This raises some questions. Why aren't the creatures all blind albinos, like most cave-dwelling creatures which never see the light of the sun? How can such a small area support so many large predators? What about the pressure and the heat usually found deep within the Earth? It's a race against time for them to escape before the temperature soars to a level that's lethal to humans, but if that happens then how does everything else survive? These things aren't explained, and the science behind this film has more holes than a woodworm convention, and this is a movie that's not even trying to be taken seriously. Kids will enjoy its Jurassic Park atmosphere, and the carnivorous plants that are like something out of Little Shop of Horrors.

This is a film that's funny in places, briefly touching, but more often than not exciting. It's a visceral adventure that relies heavily on flashy effects. It's typical of Hollywood's take on science, and unfortunately so much of it is fantasy that it's hard to tell (unless you're an expert) what's educational and what's invented. Since this isn't a straightforward retelling of Jules Verne's novel there's no excuse for its unreality: they could have made it more realistic, or gone the other way and made it entirely fantastic, perhaps by adding a colony of gnomes for good effect. Instead it sits fairly uncomfortably on the border between fantasy and science fiction.

It's possible to enjoy this movie, so long as you disengage your brain first.

Film Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson