The third dimension
This review only applies to the 3-D version of this movie. I really see no reason for you to watch this movie unless you are wearing the funny glasses while bobbing and weaving in your seat. As a 3-D theatrical experience, it’s quite the gas but, as a stand-alone movie experience without the glasses, it probably kind of sucks.
I couldn’t really tell you it’s bad in 2-D because I was, indeed, wearing the funny glasses and ducking out of the way when flying, man-eating fish were coming at my face. However, I did flip my glasses up a couple of times to see how the thing played without them. It was blurry and all, but I could tell that it was sort of boring and stupid. The reason to see this movie is for the groundbreaking 3-D effects. It’s like going on a Disneyland ride, without the large hotel and souvenir bills.
Brendan Fraser, back this summer with a vengeance in this film and the upcoming second Mummy sequel, proves a decent star for this sort of thing. He plays scientist Trevor Anderson, whose fellow scientist brother, Max, went missing years ago. Max was a super fan of Jules Verne’s original novel, A Journey to the Center of the Earth, and the film cleverly plays it that the novel was based on truth. The book suggested that there are volcanic shafts leading to the Earth’s core, and Max disappeared while searching for them.
Trevor, while looking after his nephew (ever reliable teen actor Josh Hutcherson), spies a seismic occurrence that matches up with some notes his brother left behind, so he and the kid are off to Iceland. They meet up with a mountain guide (Anita Briem), this leads to that, and they eventually find themselves falling thousands of miles (I’m guessing) into the center of the Earth. This locale is filled with flying birds, the afore-mentioned nasty fish, dinosaurs and more—each of these things providing way cool 3D opportunities.
As for the 3-D, let’s just say your eyes will never be bored for the duration of the picture. The film is astonishing to watch in both its fantasy and normal-world sequences. Hell, it’s even damned neat when Fraser spits his toothpaste into a sink. And, as I reported in my U2 3D review earlier this year, the new technology allows for simple, black sunglasses-looking devices rather than the blue and red headache inducers of yesteryear. Eyestrain is minimal, and the experience is mostly pain free, unless you are attending the movie with a real asshole or something.
The film provides some killer sequences, including that fall into the center of the Earth that lasts quite a few minutes. The fall is punctuated by an underwater sequence that had me gasping. It also had me wishing for another 3-D Jaws movie. That one from the 1980s with Dennis Quaid was terrible. The new technology provides a chance for 3-D Jaws redemption. Get Louis Gossett Jr. on the phone!
There’s a raft sequence that is probably the film’s best, where our heroes are attacked by flying predator fish that look somewhat like the creatures I used to pull out of the Long Island Sound on childhood fishing expeditions. The sequence also includes sea monsters, one of which managed to scare the hell out of me. Yes, I’m man enough to admit when a movie monster scares me.
Fraser and Hutcherson do battle with an impressive dinosaur effect that rivals the best moments of Jurassic Park, although I’d still give the edge to Spielberg; that T-Rex intro scared me to death. (OK … I am truly a wuss when it comes to movie monsters and should stop sharing this particular weakness.) Overall, most of the attempts to impress with 3-D work quite effectively.
As for the film’s intellectual content, well, it’s rather void. It really is just a setup for one 3-D trick after another, and folks who don’t do their research and seek out theaters with digital 3-D will be severely let down. Many theaters are showing it as a regular movie and, trust me, you don’t want to watch it that way. The film’s ending hints at further adventures in Atlantis, which means more underwater coolness. Please, please let 3-D stick around this time. I’m having a blast with this stuff.