Friday, November 16 , 2018, 9:13 am | Fair 55º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’

A moral tale that does much more than scratch the surface of courage and relationships.

3 Stars — Wholesome

In 1864, when Jules Verne imagined a cavernous world miles below Earth’s surface, he caught everyone’s imagination. Although the science is not as supportive as in some of his other novels (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days), the images of a lost world with dinosaurs and plants that are extinct on the surface has spawned a whole collection of imitations. But this most recent version, Journey to the Center of the Earth directed by Eric Brevig (Pearl Harbor, Signs) and screenplay written by Michael Weiss, follows closely to the original plot and strikes a creative chord as it joins the old story with new interests. One of these changes is of the gender of the guide in the story from a man to a woman, which not only fits the change in our view of women in the last 100 years, but also adds a little romantic tension.

As in the original story, the travelers are a professor, his nephew and a guide. The professor is Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), whose older brother, Max (Jean Michel Paré), had disappeared 10 years earlier in an attempt to prove that Verne’s novel is a real story. Trevor shares his older brother’s love of geology and is unsuccessfully continuing his research when his sister-in-law wants him to care for his brother’s brooding teenager.

Having lost his father at the age of 3, Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) is angry and does not want to communicate or spend time with his uncle. But, when they come upon Max’s copy of Verne’s original novel with coded notes in the margins, they begin a journey that leads them first to Iceland and then to the center of the Earth. In Iceland, they are joined by a guide named Hannah Asgeirsson (Anita Briem), whose skills are greatly needed to accomplish their journey.

The moral messages within the film are several: the power of belief, the importance of courage, the necessity of teamwork, the need for education are only a few. Although there is nothing new within the film, it is a moral tale that will not only entertain but also enrich those who view it.


» The original novel by Verne included the nephew deciphering the secret codes in the manuscript of an Icelandic story by Snorri Sturluson by simply realizing that the words are written backward. In the film version, the nephew again deciphers the code by simply reading the code vertically. The message is that discoveries are often made by thinking about the problem in a different way. Have you ever experienced such a discovery? How did you break out of the mental boxes that often confine us?

» Although the science does not support the possibility of such a world deep within the Earth, why do you believe this story is still told today? What catches our imaginations about a lost world?

» The pain that Sean experienced when his father left him comes from “father absence” and often causes an angry hyper-masculinity. Have you met anyone who demonstrates this symptom of “father absence”? Were you able to create a bond with this person like Trevor did with Sean?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit

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