Science fiction and fantasy
Journey to the Centre of the Earth
directed by Eric Brevig
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.
If you like this, try:City Of Ember by Gil Kenan
The subterranean city of Ember is falling apart, so two young people search for a way out of the darkness.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor by Rob Cohen
In this sequel to The Mummy Returns, Rick O'Connell and his family awaken an Emperor of ancient China and his terracotta army.
Bridge To Terabithia by Gabor Csupo
Two friends create an imaginary kingdom in this adaptation of a novel by Katherine Paterson.