Journey to the middle of the demographic

July 13, 2008

We went to see Journey to the Center of the Earth yesterday, though none of the cinemas in the area bothered with the 3-D version. It’s not going to change anyone’s life, but it doesn’t waste anyone’s time either. It’s paced well, reasonably charming, and exciting and funny often enough that I didn’t spend any time wondering if people in the other theaters were having a better time. (That’s partly because it’s relatively short.)

The 1959 version was one of the first movies I saw in a theater. (It was in its second release. I’m not that old.) I remember being very impressed, and the new version doesn’t replace it, but I like Brendan Fraser a lot, and I don’t regret the 92 minutes I spent. (How’s that for a poster blurb?)

One thing I did notice was how perfectly Anita Briem embodied what I would call “the new action movie girl.” Briem’s character, mountain guide Hannah Ásgeirsson, is attractive without being unattainable, witty without being castrating, competent without being threatening, and generally a narrative utility player of perfect reliability. I ended up wondering if the producers hooked test audiences up to electrodes to make sure they were getting just the right kind of stimulation from her, refining their new action movie girl formula as they went along. (To keep you from missing their hard work, the screenwriters have Fraser and Briem’s characters keep a non-hostile, running tally of how often they save each other.)

Briem is charming and works hard, and the new action movie girl paradigm is a lot better than the victim-bait construct that was in place for so long, but I did end up wondering how much fun it can be to play a character that’s been conceived so conscientiously.