The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: New Line/Warner - 2008
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 92 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem
Directed by: Eric Brevig
Music by: Andrew Lockington
Written by: Michael Weiss, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: October 28, 2008
"Same planet. Different world"
Brendan Fraser stars in this action-packed adventure based on the Jules Vern Classic that is sure to deliver fun for the whole family! On a hunch to find the center of the earth, Trevor Anderson (Fraser), his nephew and their tour guide make a breakthrough discovery that launches them on a thrilling journey into the unknown. On a scramble to find their way back, the group travels through a never-before-seen world encountering creatures and objects never imagined.
My 14 year old son saw this in the theater earlier this year and said it was okay but not any great shakes. I think a film like this plays to Brendan Fraser’s strengths and I like Josh Hutcherson so I looked forward to reviewing it. It appears to me that this film is aimed at a younger audience although there is no reason why it couldn’t be enjoyed by everyone. The plot is rather elementary and the dialogue (especially Fraser’s) is somewhat trite at times. In a film like this it wasn’t altogether out of place and younger viewers will probably get a kick out of it. The story’s main focus is on Fraser who portrays Professor Trevor Anderson, and his nephew Sean (Hutcherson) who embark on a journey to Iceland in search of a signal generated by a seismic monitoring device that detects unusual activity near a region where Trevor’s brother Max (and Sean’s father) disappeared 10 years earlier. Before they left they discovered Max’s copy of Jules Vern’s Journey to the center of the earth which has illustrations and notes that they cannot quite interpret but which lead them to a specific location in Iceland. Once there they meet up with Hannah who is a mountain guide. It just so happens that her father is the man whose name is scribbled in Max’s book. Hannah looks at it and informs them that her father was a “Vernian” (someone who believes that his books have factual basis) and that it appears that Max was as well. She agrees to take them to the seismic monitor’s location which is high up in a mountainous region. They hike to the location, and find the monitor but get caught in an electrical storm which drives them into a nearby cave that subsequently leads down the rabbit hole, literally.
If you put aside your thinking cap and try and look at the film as nothing more than a simple fantasy adventure I suspect that it will be more entertaining. The opening segment was poorly executed and seemed like its only purpose was to provide a fast character intro and the minor details required to send them on their way. Once they meet up with Hannah (Anita Briem) things pick up and the story becomes a bit more fun. In the end I found the movie to be mildly entertaining but not much more than that.
The rating is for intense adventure action and some scary moments. The scary moments are few but it might be a bit much for kids under 10.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Journey to the center of the earth comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner/New line featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 mbps and lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 channel audio that has a constant bit rate of 640 kbps.
The video presentation was generally solid and had a pristine quality that is consistent with movies shot using high definition video cameras. Images were highly detailed with resolute sharpness and fine structure. It had a smooth, glossy quality that lacked filmic characteristics. This is the first film live action film to be shot in digital 3D and overall the results were positive. Both the 2D and 3D versions are included and switching between the two is as simple as accessing the features menu and toggling back and forth which is instantaneous. I watched both versions and preferred the 2D simply because the 3 dimensional aspects give me a headache after a while. Four pairs of 3D glasses are included in the blu-ray disc case and are the cheap cardboard type with one green and one red lens that never feel comfortable while you are wearing them. The 3D effects are abundant and were actually good enough that they made me flinch once. The opening and closing segments of the film (the ones that basically didn’t take place in the center of the earth) offered boldly vivid colors that appeared over saturated and slightly exaggerated in tonality. Skintones were washed out and lacking in complexional delineation. Once the group enters the caves and eventually the world at the center of the earth the video took on a different look. Primary colors were less vibrant and there appeared to be filtering applied that gave the video a light tan colored cast which didn’t permeate everything but was visually intrusive none the less. The majority of the sequences shot in the fantasy world were in front of green screens with the backgrounds, water, and creatures being CGI. The computer generated creatures/effects didn’t look the best and at times resembled animated objects (especially in the case of the fish and T-Rex). The mixture of live people and CGI backgrounds sometimes made images appear less resolute. This was not to a degenerative degree but it made sharpness feel less consistent. Shadow detail was very good in the darkened cave segments and black levels were respectable but not the best that I have seen. I didn’t notice any signs of video related anomalies.
Here is another Blu-ray release from Warner that does not include lossless audio support. I am not clear why they have chosen to do this but the decision in my opinion is not a good one. This soundtrack is tailor made for high resolution audio and the included 640 kbps lossy Dolby Digital track didn’t provide the definitive articulation and superior dynamic presence that lossless can. Dialogue intelligibility was never a problem and its place within the front soundstage was firm. Surround activity is abundant and quite engaging as falling debris, crashing water, and the heavy footfalls of a large prehistoric animal bear down on the listening position. Dynamic impact and low frequency detail had excellent room penetration and palpable resonance that was notable.
- Behind the story: Commentary by Brendan Fraser and Director Eric Brevig
- (HD) A world with our world: 10 Minute Documentary on historic “hollow earth” theories
- (HD) Being Josh: 6 minute segment that follows actor John Hutcherson during a typical day on the set of the film
- (HD) How to make Dino drool: 3 minute how to documentary
- Digital Copy: Bonus disc containing a standard definition version of the film that can be downloaded from a compatible PC to a portable playback device
- 2D and 3D versions of the film including 4 pairs of 3D glasses
Journey to the center of the earth was an average action adventure film that will probably appeal more to younger viewers than die hard genre fans. I didn’t dislike it but felt that its story was somewhat simplistic and myopic. Its high definition video quality was quite good although its overall technical merits are slightly diminished by its lack of lossless audio support. Hopefully Warner sees fit to resume including high resolution audio encodings on their Blu-ray Disc releases soon. I would recommend this disc as a rental prior to purchase.
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