Monday, January 28, 2008

Journey To The Center Of That Show I Don't Watch

It's not Rick Schroeder's fault.

Last night, my wife and I watched a made-for-TV movie called Journey to the Center of the Earth. It was an "RHI Weekend Movie", a distinction which, at the time, seemed innocent enough but which I've come to learn has more sinister connotations. We kept seeing promos for it, so of course we wanted to watch it because, dude -- dinosaurs. Right? I mean, sure, no Nazis, but...c'mon.

Now...I will admit to never having read Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. However, I know enough about it to know that its protagonist is NOT a prize-fighting American scientist, nor does he get hired by a wealthy heiress to help her track down her missing husband in Alaska, nor is there a friendly Russian dude in it, NOR does it mostly concern some sort of tribal rivalry subplot centered around some Native American dudes and Thomas and the Magic Railroad's Peter Fonda in "I Am These Native People's God" mode.

In other words, why the hell did the film's producers call it Journey To The Center Of The Earth, and mention Jules Verne in the credits, when it is clearly NOT really based on Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth?

Oh, ho ho ho ho-HO. I'll tell you why.

Because the film's producers are Robert Halmi, Sr. and Robert Halmi, Jr. (the "RH" in "RHI"), who are also the producers of Sci-Fi Channel's epic mis-interpreted f***-up known shamelessly as "Flash Gordon".

I don't watch that show, so when I saw their names on the credits to Journey, the red flag did not go up and scream its warning in my face.

The fact that it's barely an adaptation is forgivable; it should've been called something else, just like I, Robot with Will Smith should've been called something else*, but what's double-plus unforgivable about this flick is the utter, bald-faced ineptitude with which it was made.

Oh! You want an example to back up my accusation? Very well: What's the first and, arguably, the biggest, most-important reveal in a story like this? Obviously, that big reveal is in the "Holy Crap, There's A Whole 'Nother World Down Here!" moment. That's the Wow Button; you press that. In this film, The Big Reveal is handled like this:

The principals walk out of a cave.

Oh, there's some gasping on their part, I think, followed by scientific assertions of just WTF, seriously. But the scene has all the dramatic weight and momentum of "Hey, I found a quarter in my pocket".


Oh, yes, speaking of pathos: there are, indeed dinosaurs. Actually, there are two: some flying, feathered dinos ("There's a theory that modern birds are descended from flying dinosaurs", Professor Rick Schroeder asserts, citing a theory that probably wasn't around in the period in which the film is set), and a plesiosaur ("One of the most dangerous creatures that ever lived!" he explains, which, you know, might be accurate on account of it having been a carnivore), which attacks the PCs' -- I mean, the protagonists' raft.

That's it. The other denizens of Vancouver, British Col- er, the Earth's center are the aforementioned Native American dudes. That's cool, it makes sense that they're there, but...hello? SeƱores Halmi? Journey to the Center of the M-Fing Earth?



Truth to tell, the film's not a complete and total waste. No, it it serves a purpose, and it is of great use to anyone getting ready to run, say, a game of Hollow Earth Expedition:

Watch this flick.

Then, at the table, don't do that.

* I suggest "Will Smith vs. Some Robots". By no means an elegant title, but seriously -- what else do you need to see the flick?