It’s happening. Across the Web, early reviews for next weekend’s Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D are moderately apologetic and yet thoroughly positive, with a fair number of comparisons to the  “Spielbergian wonder of old” popping up in support. Like seductive ooze, it seems that Hollywood’s first live-action tent-pole in the forthcoming theatrical 3D boom (boon?), will win over moviegoers with great 3D special effects, an epic wonderland scope and, to quote Variety, the “highest screams-per-capita ratio in the history of action-adventure pics.” Lalala. In other words, it’s only a movie-as-theme park ride, but they like it…well, save for the scene where star Brendan Fraser spits into a sink in 3D. And there’s also a requisite 3D yo-yo scene to rival the one in Friday the 13th Part 3(D). Where’s a hologram of Pauline Kael when we need it?

Based on the marketing, he expected to hate the film, but Cinematical‘s Christopher Campbell informs that it’s an “astonishing 3D experience” and admits twice in his review that he “reverted back to my 8-year-old self”…

“Basically, throughout the movie there are three kinds of effects shots, which I labeled as silly, neat or wow! As you might guess, most of the time the shots fall within the “neat” range. But those considered ‘wow!’ are really ‘wow!’ They more than make up for those I label ‘silly.’ …With Journey, I was immersed almost entirely, only conscious of my real surroundings when the audience jumped, gasped and/or laughed at (with) the pop-out 3-D effects.”

He compares the film sans “wow” but favorably to The Goonies and Raiders, but says that, in the end, Journey‘s flimsy storyline can’t compete. Surveying the early reactions online, perhaps the film’s TV spots should feature excited testimonials from kids outfitted in mysteriously over-sized and mundane clothing. Over at CinemaBlend, Katey Rich gives the film 4 1/2 stars, saying…

“Experiencing it all in glorious 3D ups the ante—it’ll be a brave 8-year-old who never finds his palms sweating. …Journey 3D is predictable, cheesy and not even a little edgy, but it’s also as much fun as you’re likely to have in a PG movie this summer.”

Palm sweat! Take that Speed Racer, Kung Fu Panda, Meet Dave and Midnight Meat Train. Spoiler alert: Rich says that a “T. rex, for whatever reason, lives happily in the earth’s molten core.” And with that, we’ll circle back around with a closing endorsement from Variety’s John Anderson, who feels that Journey‘s cocktail of humor, an ever-entertaining Fraser, and “thrills a minute” would be just as successful in 2D.

“…fortunately [the film has] thesp Brendan Fraser—whose mission in Hollywood seems to be to humanize the most f/x-besotted adventure. Boisterous action, 3-D visuals and equal doses of humor and chills should rocket the deep-dwelling tale into strong B.O. orbit.

For many months, Journey 3D was anticipated by skeptics (like ourselves, but less carefree) to be surefire evidence that Hollywood will utilize its new 3D tech to shovel empty spectacle into theaters for years to come. Similar to Paramount’s roll-out with Beowulf (which was awesome), New Line will release Journey in both 3D (approx. 1,000 screens) and 2D (lawd, the children). Several reports peg Journey‘s budget as far, far less than Beowulf‘s $150 million, but its box office performance will be a more definitive sign of whether 3D is the future of cinema—especially family-oriented stuff—or simply an increasingly alarming option for stoned college kids at midnight. Either way, Brendan Fraser has The Mummy 7.

Discuss: Will you check out Journey 3D and how do you think it will perform this summer? What do you think of the early reviews?

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