Brendan Fraser journeys to the center of the earth

Brendan Fraser, who has starred in such horror-themed work as THE MUMMY movies and GODS AND MONSTERS, is set to star in a remake of Jules Verne's JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH.

Special effects expert Eric Brevig makes the jump to the director's chair. Walden Media (THE CHRONICLES OF NARNAI) is the production entity. New Line Cinema will distribute. Shooting begins on June 10 in Montreal.

For the life of me, I can't understand why Hollywood would want to return to this subject matter. Verne's novel may have been okay in its day, but it is lacking in drama, reading like a fictional travelogue that describes the sights, sounds and wonders of the underworld, with an occasional dinosaur or some other kind of monster thrown in to liven things up. (The beasts sometimes turn out to be dreams in the fevered imagination of the narrator, as if underlining how irrelevant they are to the plot.)

The 1950s film version starring James Mason managed to make the story interesting by turning it into a race, with two competing groups trying to be the first to earn the honor of having reached the center of the Earth first. And some great location shooting and plenty of special effects lent a visual splendor that helped overcome any deficiencies in plot. (Unfortunately, you do have to sit through Pat Boone, in a rare acting role, singing a song early on.)

But that movie pretty much exhausted the potential of JOURNEY, as far as movies go. In the late 1980s, producer Rusty Lemorande wrote and directed a new version that was so bad it never got released. Cannon, the production company behind the disaster, hired low-budget director Albert Pyun to try to fix the mess. In exchange for retooling Lemorande's version, Pyun (who had wanted to direct JOURNEY) was rewarded with the opportunity to make his own "underworld" movie, called ALIEN FROM L.A. Starring swimsuit model Kathy Ireland in her feature film debut, ALIEN also went unreleased (although it did show up on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 several years later).

You would think this track record would -- I don't know -- engendered some second thoughts on the part of anyone considering the journey again. But you would be wrong...

Of course, there's always a chance the new version will find some life in the old globe-trek. But listen in on this plot synopsis:

The story revolves around a scientist who is stuck with his nephew as they embark on a trip to Iceland to check on a volcanic sensor During a storm they are trapped in a cave and hte only way out is through the center of the Earth.

Think about that for a second: they're in a cave, which means they're maybe a few hundred feet below the surface, and the only way out is to go through the center of the Earth and out the other side -- a trip of approximately 8,000 miles?

That's pretty dim, even allowing for suspension of disbelief (which will be required in abundance, since we all know that the center of the earth is an impassable molten mass). One can only hope that the film is presented as a spoof of old fantasy-adventure movie cliches.