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MTBS Review of Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D

By Pam Swartz

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D is a movie based on the classic science fiction book of the same name (minus the “3D”) written in 1864 by Jules Verne. The movie’s startling first scene is a man falling into an active lava pit after being chased by a stereoscopic Tyrannosaurus. We are then introduced to Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), a disrespected scientist and college professor. We quickly surmise that the unlucky man at the beginning of the film was Max, Trevor’s older brother who went missing while on an expedition years earlier.

Trevor’s teenaged nephew, Max’s son, arrives at Trevor’s home for a previously scheduled but forgotten visit. While going through a box of some of Max’s old things, Trevor finds out some surprising information that leads them on a quest to find out what really happened to his missing brother.

Trevor and his nephew fly to Iceland and find a mountain guide who agrees to help them in their search. After a brief hike up a large mountain, the group becomes trapped inside a cave when a lightening storm forces the mountain to cave in. While exploring through the cave for a way to the surface, they fall into a pit and plummet down into…the center of the earth.

Forgetting the story for a moment, the 3D technology adds a lot of depth and fun to this movie. There are times when it felt like an amusement park ride more than a movie. For example, there is a scene where the three characters are riding old carts along a very fast and bumpy railroad inside an old mine. Stereoscopic 3D made it seem real and exciting, and it reminded me of the recently retired Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. I did feel as though I was twisting and speeding in the carts with them.

Another memorable scene is when the group is being threatened by dozens of prehistoric fish – at times looking as though the fish were jumping out of the screen at me. I had to close my eyes a few times, too!

Unfortunately, there are large parts of this film where the 3D is not as effective. For instance, in an early scene where the characters are scaling down a mountain, the areas beyond the characters are rich with 3D and feel very realistic, but the characters’ faces appeared flat. It looked as if the actors were paper doll cut-outs on a 3D background.

During the movie, I removed my glasses several times to see if the actors were being shown in 3D, and only saw limited levels of separation in the picture for objects up close, and much more for elements in the distance. With the exception of special effects scenes, this created an invisible flatness barrier for the film, and it took away from the experience for me.

The colors in the movie were distractingly dull. The scenes where the surroundings were dark appeared darker, and the scenes that should have been full of color were lackluster. The film was only available in Real D in my area, so I don’t know if it was the film or the technology that caused this.

Going back to the story, I have to say it was disappointing. The actors did the best they could with what they had to work with, and a stronger script would have made a big difference for this movie.

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D is the first live action movie to be filmed specifically for the 3D market. Without the 3D technology this movie would be bearable, but not enthralling. It’s wrong to think that 3D can make a so-so movie captivating. It can enhance the experience for sure, but a good script is so much more important.

This movie has been hyped as a blockbuster of non-stop thrills during the best movie season of the year. To keep things in perspective, when comparing the story and acting to another summer blockbuster, the sleeper hit Ironman, this movie, even with the 3D, falls short.

Ironman had a story that was attention grabbing, and a cast of actors that were captivating to watch. Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D did not have the basic elements that a movie needs to be a blockbuster - and it easily could have. The real litmus test should have been a movie being amazing in 2D before it is expected to be amazing in 3D, and that didn’t happen here.

However, all is not lost, and the movie is still worth seeing in 3D. I am hoping that the much anticipated 3D movie, James Cameron’s Avatar, has a great story and great actors to go along with the visually impressive 3D.

MTBS Rating: 7/10 because the 3D is worth seeing.

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