Friday, January 16, 2009

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008: Greg Evigan)

This is the second time I've opened a Netflix package and discovered that I'd ordered an Asylum film. I need to be more observant, obviously.

Not that I'll never watch another Asylum movie, but this is also the second time I've been kind of excited to watch something, seen the Asylum logo, and gone, "Ohhh. Crap." I just need to have my expectations adjusted to the appropriate level before I open those envelopes.

Continuing our journey through the cinematic Journeys to the Center of the Earth (the previous ones are here and here), we get to this attempt to cash in on last year's big-screen Brendan Fraser version. The Asylum wasn't the only one doing that, but they're certainly the worst. (We'll talk about the other, much better copy-cat soon.)

The Asylum's version borrows heavily enough from At the Earth's Core that it could just as easily have taken that name had it not been hoping to cash in on the popularity of a Brendan Fraser flick. Greg Evigan plays a scientist named Joseph Harnet who's developed a way of transporting military troops through the center of the earth to locations on the other side of the planet. Handy, right? Unfortunately, one of his squads - an all-girl squad, I might add - gets trapped in the center of the earth and needs rescuing.

The first borrow from At the Earth's Core is the design of the center of the earth. Instead of a series of massive caves it's a wide open expanse that we're told has a rock ceiling somewhere above the clouds. I've got no problem with that - in fact, I like it a lot more than dark, dull caves - but I imagine the choice has less to do with style and more to do with the cost of filming in certain locations.

At any rate, we're never really told what went wrong with the transporter, because the movie doesn't care. All we need to know is that there are hot girls in danger and Evigan's got to save them. Enter his ex-wife (the hero always has to work with his ex-wife in Asylum movies), another scientist who's invented an experimental drilling machine (the other nod to At the Earth's Core), and whose sister Kristen just so happens to command the Hot Chick Unit.

The movie's then divided into two simple storylines. Kristen has to keep her team of supermodel soldiers alive while being chased by (horribly fake, but this is Asylum so we're used to that) giant spiders and a T-Rex. Meanwhile Evigan and Wife bore (pun intended) through the earth's crust to try to rescue the girls. This involves their sitting in a cockpit and arguing for most of their story, but things do get dangerous the closer they get to the core.

I almost hate to rag on the acting and writing. Like with the effects, you just really shouldn't expect much from an Asylum movie, so it's no good pretending to be disappointed. But really, if you're going to make your crack military unit consist entirely of beautiful women (and I'm in full support of that), at least go to the effort to make them seem like a military unit and less like contestants from America's Next Top Model. The women on the team are so shallow and bickering that you never for a second take them seriously. And their leader Kristen's response to it all is to ignore it, so when Harnet tells someone that she's a "natural leader" it's a horrible - though unintentional - lie. If we're to pretend that the writers actually knew what they were doing, Harnet's a lousy judge of leadership potential. But what's sad is that I'm pretty sure the writers thought they were writing a competent leader.

All that said, the T-Rex and giant spiders (crappy as they were) were kind of cool.

Two out of five sexy co-ed soldiers.

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