Friday, August 15, 2008

Re-create Jules Verne -- Journey to the Centre of the Earth

I was there for Jules Verne. Previously I expected a remake of this all-time classic novel, just to find out that this is actually a "re-creation".
A geologist happened to find the clues to his brother's mysterious missing, so headed for a journey to discover the truth, along with his little nephew, and a novel named "Journey to the Centre of the Earth", yup, THAT one, by Jules Verne. On the way they met a beautiful mountain guide, and the threesome set out for an exciting adventure.

Sounds familiar? If you have read the book before, it will be even more familiar. Director Eric Brevig was smart enough to not to make it like a LOTR trilogy (if you stick to the novel, could be), but use several classic scenes to re-create a story instead. Of course he deleted quite many days of the journey (the movie shows around 72 hours' length, while in the novel the adventura lasts for weeks), like those Robinson Crusoe style of survivor games. I particularly thank him for deleting those scenes that the uncle and nephew pair quarallling about the question of "to go ahead or to go back", which is the thing I hate most in the novel. Finally the movie length is below 100 min, and was rated as "PG" in most countries, which means it became a ideal "summer vacation movie". Now you know why there are some many parents taking their school-age children to this movie.

Although there are some many deleted scenes, the re-created story still sounds reasonable, all thanks to the extremely strong logic lies in the novel itself. And the writer is smart too. With such a classic, the best thing you can do is to keep the mainframe, adding some funny conversations, a little bit details here and there, and that would be perfect. Never, ever, try to destroy a classic and build up your own on the ruin.
Brendan Fraser did not get his chocolate muscles in this movie, so don't expect those "eye icecream" scenes, like in "The Mummy 3". But he is really set for such kind of roles.
The little nephew played by Josh Hutcherson looks like a combination of Elijha Wood and Daniel Redcliffe. Cute.

The scene that the threesome taking on a trolley trip in the abandoned mine is totally recycled from "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". Similar settings, similar shootings, even similar roles! (Man, woman and a boy) Talking about that trolley track, I clearly remembered that I played that before in some theme park. And the worst thing is, the digital effect sucks! You can easily find out that the threesome and the trolley are "pasted" to the background, and the edges are fragmented, even an amateur CG job now could do better than this. Actually the whole scene is just to show how the threesome find the entrance to the lava tunnel. In this case, if they can now do it nicely, why not change to some other way?

Finally there is a hint for a possible sequel, as quite many Hollywood movies did these days. Hope that could come true.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Firework Show -- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

A firework show, this is my feeling after watching the latest episode of that all-time classic, The Mummy.

Actually it was the leading actor, Brendan Fraser himself, that described a blockbuster movie without a good story as a "firework show", during a recent interview with some movie magazine. Unfortunately, this term could be used to describe his movie here, too.

The leaving of director and writer Stephen Sommers has predicted the problem of this movie. The story line is neither convincing nor surprising. To those audience that have some basic knowledge about Chinese history, it's even worse -- the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (literally "the first emperor of Qin dynasty), was renamed as "Emperor Han" (Han is actually a dynasty that right after Qin)!
The new writer seems to have focused on the dragons and zombies only, and thrown out of the window those funny conversation and small tricks from the previous two episodes. Come on, this is summer, blockbuster season! We have had more than enough CGs, robots, explosions, etc., adding one more doesn't look that interesting. I happened to watch the first "The Mummy" last week, really miss the laughters that Rick, Eve and Jonathan can bring me.

Rachel Weisz is wise enough not to get involved with this movie. The replacement, Maria Bello, seems to have more interests in becoming the next Lara. But as far as we remembered, Eve was just a cute little girl, the brain of the threesome in the adventure, and always need some rescues from Rick (and such rescues are always the most attracting scenes). We do not like Eve because of her kick-ass techniques; we like Eve because she is Eve.

Brendan finally gets back to fit. But this movie seems to be a big waste of his muscles. Hope he could get some more luck in the next "Journey to the Center of the Earth", at least that one has a genius writer.

Luke Ford, as the son Alex, is just too normal. Without a memorable name like Shia LaBeouf (I still cannot pronounce it!), or the shining and killing smile of Freddie Boath (who plays the role Alex in "The Mummy Returns"), he just couldn't make us excited.

Oh BTW, there are some other people in this movie, namely, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh and Isabella Leong. In this movie, they could be replaced by anybody.