Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/Hallmark Entertainment/Sonar Entertainment
Jules Verne is one of the literary world’s greatest names. If he were alive today, he would be proud to see that so much of what he crafted in his books has ages later become reality. One can’t help but wonder though, how he would react to the countless adaptations that have arisen from his books ever since the dawn of the moving picture. There have been some good adaptations, some that are…well…we’ll say forgettable. And then there are those rare few that somehow manage to fit more into a middle ground between the two. Sonar Entertainment’s 1999 take on Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of those adaptations that fit more into the latter of the three. And like so many adaptations that came before and that have come after, it doesn’t stay entirely true to the original book. Despite that, it’s still an entertaining story nonetheless. Audiences should take this into account first and foremost with this adaptation. Also to be taken into account with this this take on Verne’s classic story is that it isn’t the big budget version released to theaters in 2008. Believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing. That will be discussed later, too. Because the story runs roughly three hours in length, its composition is just as important as any other factor in this take on Verne’s story. Splitting the mini-series up especially on DVD will help viewers to not feel drained by the story’s end. Along with the story itself and the production values, it helps to make Sonar Entertainment’s take on Verne’s story that much more worth checking out at least once.
The central story of Journey to the Center of the Earth in this adaptation is anything but true to the original story written by Jules Verne. There are those that have discredited this take on the story for that. But the reality of the situation is what movie ever crafted from a book ever stays entirely true to the original source material? Keeping that in mind, the story presented here is actually surprisingly entertaining. It incorporates more action into the story as well as the standard romance subplot for specifically aimed audiences. From angry subterranean pre-historic natives to deadly lizard creatures, dinosaurs and fiery caverns, Theodore Lytton (Treat Williams), his nephew Jonas (Jeremy London) and their travelling companions have lots to face on their journey. Writer Thomas Baum’s script spaces all of these dangers out just enough to keep viewers engaged throughout each of the mini-series’ segments. In the same vein, Baum didn’t allow the script’s dual romantic subplot to overpower the primary story. This helps to keep the story moving at a reasonable pace. There are certain comic elements included in the story that add to its entertainment value, too. One of those instances comes when Theodore, Jonas, and their friends meet a group of natives in New Zealand. There are some jokes involving whether or not their king is a cannibal that will most certainly have any viewer laughing if only slightly. It is still a nice touch to the story.
The mix of action, comedy and yes, even romance, make Baum’s take on Verne’s classic an entertaining story. Audiences should also take into account with this adaptation of Verne’s novel, its production values and special effects. It’s pretty obvious in watching this mini-series that this take on the story likely didn’t have that large of a budget. That’s obvious in the sets, the special effects, and even the costumes. This is not necessarily a bad thing, either. In fact, there’s something somewhat endearing about the fact that the special effects, the sets, and the costumes were more low-budget. It goes right back to the writing. Much like classic movies from Hollywood’s golden era, the lower grade sets, costumes, and special effects forced Miller and his cast to focus more on Baum’s story. The result is acting that will actually keep viewers engaged in both the character development and by connection, story development, too. So in the mini-series’ defense, it’s actually nice to see these lower-budget pieces, instead of something more over-the-top. It’s one more part of the whole that makes this take on Journey to the Center of the Earth worth at least one watch.
The overall production values and story in Sonar Entertainment’s Journey to the Center of the Earth make this take on the timeless story worth at least one watch. They alone don’t make this adaptation work, though. Just as important as the production values and the story itself is how the story is how the story is built. The full run time of the mini-series is roughly three hours. It only makes sense with such a long run time that it would be separated into separate segments. Had the story been one long piece along the lines of the Lord of the Rings, it might not have been so easy to stomach. But it didn’t go that route. It took the other route. And to top it off, it made each segment enjoyable to watch even though this take on the original story might not be entirely true to the source material. And it’s because of all of this tied in together that this adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth is worth at least one watch by any fan of Verne’s original work and by any science fiction fan in general. It is available now and can be ordered online in a special two-movie bonus pack along with Hallmark’s Dinotopia at http://www.millcreekdirect.com/dinotopia-journey-to-the-center-of-the-earth-fantasy-double-feature.html. More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at http://www.millcreekent.com and http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.