Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Greg Evigan, Dedee Pfeiffer, Jennifer Renee, Sara Tomko, Caroline Atwood, Vanessa Lee Evigan
Directed by David Jones & Scott Wheeler
This is not a review of the new 3-D version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. This is a review of The Asylum's mockbuster of that big screen blockbuster. If you're wondering why there's a review of this film on Dread Central; this version of Journey to the Center of the Earth plays more like a straight-up monster movie than an adventure flick. The Asylum's version owes next to nothing to its source material or the Brendan Fraser movie - more a mishmash of The Core and another recent (and surprisingly decent) Asylum film, 100 Million BC. For the sake of not constantly spelling out Journey to the Center of the Earth I'm just going to refer to the film as JCE from here on out.
There's no Pat Boone or Brendan Fraser or precocious kids to be found here, thankfully. JCE focuses instead on a small squad of photogenic female soldiers after being mistakenly teleported 600 kilometers below the earth's surface. It's been 48 hours since I watched the movie and I've already forgotten what exactly their mission was aside from it involving a teleporter.
600 kilometers beneath the earth's surface, eh? This center of the earth has a sunny blue sky with fluffy clouds, grassy hills, forests, rivers, waterfalls, etc. It's an earth within the earth and it looks an awful lot like Southern California or South Africa (the end credits list Belize - close enough). I think these lady soldiers actually got tele-zapped to the center of the earth from the 1979 film The Last Dinosaur. No sign of Richard Boone but there is a man-eating T-Rex. The women now have to stay alive in a world within a world loaded with hungry dinosaurs, toxin-spraying plants, and giant spiders of increasing degrees of gigantism.
So unbelievable are these women in action that having to watch them function in a militaristic capacity is probably the greatest argument there's ever been for not allowing women into the armed forces. At least that makes watching them in action rather laughable. Otherwise, they’re practically interchangeable and offer little reason to sympathize for them. The standout in the bunch is a brainy brunette with glasses who knows a lot about the prehistoric lifeforms they keep encountering because she was in her high school paleontology club. Though I did like when one of the other women asked, "Has anyone begun to wonder yet when we're going to meet Satan?" They can save that for the sequel.
I believe JCE might be the first B-movie I've seen in a long, long time where women in peril encounter a waterfall and do not feel compelled to strip naked and frolic in the shower. Worth noting.
Back up top, scientist Dedee "sister of Michelle" Pfeiffer is called in by mission commander Greg "DeepStar Six" Evigan to help with the rescue. She's got extra incentive: her sister is one of the soldiers lost deep within the earth. Pfeiffer and Evigan will spend most of the movie inside a pod they rigged in record time drilling their way towards the ladies’ impossibly subterranean location.
Like a silly, two-person, community theater production of The Core with more romantic flirtations and the occasional lava worm monster attack thrown in, I enjoyed their scenes much more than I did any of the stuff with the female soldiers doing the standard wandering around and running from danger. Pfeiffer's performance borders on giddy at times and her enthusiasm appeared to be rubbing off on Evigan.
Also amusing, these soldiers are being attacked by dinosaurs and giant arachnids and yet the survivors still come out in better shape than Pfeiffer whose face is so beat-up from piloting this pod through treacherous territory you'd think she'd picked a fight with Chuck Liddell.
When the T-Rex first appeared I actually picked up the DVD case and double checked to make sure I was actually watching an Asylum production. Not only are the digital monsters light years ahead of that I've seen in every other Asylum film; this is even better than the creature effects in most Sci-Fi Channel original movies. I couldn't believe an Asylum movie had CGI this good (some of the shots of the pod drilling its way down are a bit iffy though) until I learned the co-directors of JCE are visual effects artists. Suffice to say they had extra added incentive to make certain their filmmaking debut wasn't marred by shoddy CGI work.
Though much livelier than most recent Asylum movies, JCE still suffers from not having much of a story and barely being capable of sustaining itself for a full 90-minutes. This tale is just hollow earth. I didn't care about any of these stranded women in between monster attacks. Though my interest waned from time to time, JCE is definitely above average for an Asylum mockbuster.
The thing that has always annoyed me so much about The Asylum's mockbuster mentality has been the laziness of it. The Asylum has too often shown no interest in giving their mockbusters their own identities. For example, When a Killer Calls was just a carbon copy of When a Stranger Calls with one word changed in the title and an R-rating. In the past I've called that shameless when I really should have just called it lazy. Even lazier were the Asylum mockbusters that just offered next to nothing by way of entertainment value: boring movies, poorly made movies, joyless movies so cynically manufactured they lacked even the faintest sense that anyone involved was trying (or was allowed to try given the numerous tales I've heard of Asylum producer David Latt's constant creative interference). The majority of the time the knock-off titles they come up with have been more entertaining than the no-fun movies themselves.
Morbid curiosity and a fool's hope that maybe this time they'll get it right keeps me watching these films. Or maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment. Fortunately for me, Journey to the Center of the Earth didn't hurt, it wasn't just a blatant copycat, and it actually showed some enthusiasm. I'd wonder if maybe The Asylum is beginning to turn over a new leaf but then they also just announced a mockbuster called The Day the Earth Stopped. No, really.
2 1/2 out of 5
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