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Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 29, 2015

I fear that contemporary FX snobs—which means most of you, right?—will simply dismiss, may go so far as to scoff at this marvel of time-illuminating adventure and derring-do. This was cutting edge! More, that cutting edge completely operated in the service of the story, which is why the film should still stand, and receive our proper appreciation and commendation.

What’s wonderful, and not so true of Michael Todd/1956’s fairly painful Around the World in Eighty Days, is that those special effects also reflect, actually parallel the wide-eyed, wondrous, optimistic spirit of Jules Verne, or at least of the first spate of novels that he published. By this point in the 21st century Verne’s scientific speculations, though rooted in real attention to the innovations of the time, might well impress us as being passé. You can’t deny that, as time marches on. But were you young when you read him? Are you youngsters bothering to make the effort anymore? He’s so engaging! And not simply by entertaining us, or by mere distraction. Rather his was the best kind of material for children. His books sent you outside, to survey the night sky, or to wish that you lived by the ocean. They sent you to the atlas, or to the library, and quite possibly, eventually, to find gainful, substantial, joyful adult employment.

This film? Still. Definitely! And have some fun, comparing the amazing James Mason’s contributions to Verne/Disney 1954, and his utterly distinct characterization here. Oh, and do you have something to say about Pat Boone? Yes, I know. But do we have to always be dismissive? He was a young star at the time, and there’s an understandable, most precedented, still present strand of exploitation in his casting. So what! That didn’t hurt Rio Bravo (Ricky Nelson, to be specific), did it?

Furthermore: we really like the 2008 version too. Way different, reflecting a whole new spate or network of special effects conventions, and still ingratiatingly in the service of you and your family.