Journey to the Center of the Earth Blu-ray Review
PictureOf course, the biggest thing about Journey to the Center of the Earth, and arguably the main reason for its success, is that it came to cinemas in 3D. In the cinema, an expensive digital projector was required to show it in this format, so not everyone got to see it as it was meant to be seen. For many, the first opportunity to do so will be on this disc, so I will address the 3d and 2D transfers (both are available on this disc) in turn.
Having seen this film in the cinema in 3D (I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of a cinema with a digital projector) I was pleasantly surprised by the effect that is rendered within this transfer. Of course, in the cinema you have a full blown colour 3D effect, whereas in the home you have an anaglyph (red/green) version. Four pairs of glasses come within the box. This makes reviewing the transfer in conventional terms an impossible task.
However, considering the limitations of the format and the technology, they have done a very good job of recreating the 3D effect here. The complete 3D effect that was present in the cinema has not been recreated, mainly due to an unfortunate blurring effect that can be present on objects that stick out far into the foreground - but the sense of depth going back into the screen is much better than I was expecting.
The sense of characters being almost like cut outs against a background is as prevalent here as it was in the cinema, but this is something that is going to happen with any 3D transfer at the moment. The scenes that stood out best in the cinema also stand out here, so prepare to be amazed at the scene where they are climbing the mountain near the beginning and also at many of the underground landscapes. As in the cinema, this works best when revealing a sense of depth going back into the screen - rather than when it tries to be gimmicky and send things pushing out towards you.
The picture, as a limitation of the format, does have a purplish / blue tinge to it, and this has led to some complaints from people after viewing. However, this really is a matter of expectation. 3D in the home is a very limited technology, and you will always get this colour effect when watching 3D on your screen. As long as you do realise this, and don't expect full colour depth, then you are seeing 3D HD, and I was impressed.
Slightly more worrying, however, is the number of people reporting headaches after watching the 3D version. At no point did I suffer from this, but a member of the family watching with me had to give up quite early on exactly for this reason.
Overall, I was seriously impressed with the transfer and what it achieved within the limitations of the home cinema environment. The only other 3D disc I have viewed was Shrek 3D on DVD and this absolutely knocks that into submission. My overall picture mark will be for the 2D version, but if rating the 3D version it would merit an 8/10 purely for effect. It could not be marked conventionally though.
The 2D version can be marked more conventionally, and of course is also presented in a theatrically correct 1080P transfer. Seeing the film in a 2D transfer is actually quite a revelation after only viewing it in 3D before. 3D always wipes out the colour, so it is a surprise to see just what a colourful film Journey to the Center of the Earth actually is.
The transfer is incredibly bright and vibrant, and colour levels are similarly well served. This really does bring forward the colour and is quite a pleasant surprise after watching the 3D version. This is particularly noticeable early on, with the outdoor scenes. The greenery of the grass and trees, subdued to almost nothing in the 3D version really shine here.
The source, of course, being a recent film is absolutely pristine. There are no scratches, dirt, or other imperfections to spoil your enjoyment. The transfer is also superbly sharp, another revelation after the 3D version. Detail is also ramped up in this version with both foreground and background showing a lot more than the 3D version ever did. The CGI created landscapes once they reach the center is a perfect example of this. The level of detail all the way back as far as the eye can see is revelatory, from the fronds of leaves in the foreground right back to the furthest volcanic hill; you really do feel drawn into the world.
Sadly, however, this ramping up of the brightness does have an unfortunate side effect which is very much to the detriment of the film. Black levels, for a start, are nowhere as deep, or as dense as one would hope from a recent Blu-ray, but even worse is the fact that the brightness level makes the film look rather washed-out in places. This is more prevalent in certain scenes than others, but it is certainly something that is obvious even to a casual viewer.
SoundI was very impressed by the sound in the cinema, so was disappointed when I saw that all we are presented with on Blu-ray was a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. This is a bit of a disappointment when you consider all the Lossless options available. However, it soon became pretty clear that like Transformers on HD-DVD before it, this is another example of just how good a lossy sound format can be.
The sound mix on Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of the most dynamic I have heard for a long time. It may not be subtle, it may not be nuanced, but what it does do very well is impress and entertain.
From the beginning to the end the sound field is wide, full and enveloping. The dialogue is always clear and easy to hear and the music is clear and well mixed. The dynamic level is surprisingly wide for a lossless track with trebles and bass wide accentuated and pronounced.
Center forward panning is well engineered and clear, and always consistent with action on the screen, and the rear speakers are always well used. What is good about the mix is that although the rears are constantly used, it is always in sympathy with the action that occurs within the film. There are no examples where the rears are just used for effect - they are never overbearing or sound unnecessary.
LFE is also deep and satisfying with the Sub getting an excellent workout when required. The levels here go deep.
Considering just how good this Dolby Digital track is, just how much better could a lossless track have been? Well, it is really hard to imagine, but at the same time I feel I still have to deduct a mark for the inclusion of a lossy track, however good it might be. I am reviewing a high definition format, and therefore if an HD source is not provided I have to deduct a mark. However, this really is one of the best Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks I have heard, and manages to impress on every level.
ExtrasJourney to the Center of the Earth does contain all the extras from the SD version, but the difference here is that all the extras are in HD. Sadly, it is not the most comprehensive selection of extras - and there are no Blu-ray exclusives.
We start with the almost obligatory Commentary and this one is a disappointing effort featuring director Eric Brevig, and actor Brendan Fraser. The director is reasonably engaging, giving some interesting behind the scenes info, and some technical detail. Sadly Fraser, who always comes across as lively and likeable on screen, is muted here - so much so sometimes it is easy to forget he is even there. He falls into the trap of recapping the story, rather than being illuminating on aspects of the filming.
The only other extras are Making dinosaur drool (self explanatory - 2 minutes), Being Josh (6 mins) in which Josh Hutcherson goofs around and generally acts the fool. It does feature some quite interesting behind the scenes shots of the rock-hopping scene, but apart from this does little to engage. Finally, the 10 minute World within a world is a potentially interesting but far too brief look at the science behind the original novel.
VerdictJourney to the Center of the Earth is a throwback to the kinds of movies that Disney might have made for children back in the sixties. Despite all the action, and set pieces, it is a strangely old-fashioned film. This is not necessarily a bad thing - as you could quite happily sit children down in front of them without ever worrying about what they might see. There is no over the top violence, and nothing truly scary.
Some adults find the film unsatisfying for this very reason - but I enjoyed the film in the cinema and enjoyed it again on Blu-ray. Yes it is undemanding and predictable, but the chemistry between the leading actors, and their performances, are very enjoyable. And in a summer of dark franchises, and “reboots” Journey to the Center of the Earth, for this reviewer at least, makes for a welcome change of pace.
Early pressings are presented in both 3D, and 2D - subsequent versions will ship with the 2D transfer only. If you are remotely interested in picking this up, therefore, you are strongly advised to jump in as soon as possible. If you have the facility to play them, you must also go US - as you get twice the number of 3D glasses than you get with the UK version.
The 3D effect works surprisingly well on this Blu-ray, although the limitations of the technology mean that there is a purplish tinge. The 2D transfer is much better, more colourful and detail-laden although the brightness is ramped up a little too much. The sound is only Dolby Digital, but is easily one of the best examples of a lossy soundtrack I have heard. It is excellent. Extras are poor, but are in HD and we do get everything from the SD version.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £35.99
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