Adventure Movies

Bring Back This Brendan Fraser/Josh Hutcherson Adventure Movie Franchise!

December 1, 20237 Mins Read

The Big Picture

  • Original adventure movies have become less common in Hollywood, as IP dominance now reigns and tie-ins seem required.
  • The Journey to the Center of the Earth films, kicking off with the first movie starring Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson, were fun and successful, but the franchise has not returned.
  • Reviving the franchise in the style of mid-budget genre films could offer an opportunity for a filmmaker to learn and propel their career forward.

Original adventure movies, once a cash crop for Hollywood, seem like they’ve started to go by the wayside. IP dominance now reigns over Hollywood cinema, to the point where it seems like everything has to have some kind of tie-in. Films like the latest Jumanji or Jungle Cruise – or anything Dwayne Johnson is in, seemingly – are perfect examples of this trend. For studios and audiences alike, there was once a franchise that people seemingly enjoyed, that was relatively fresh, had a few stars, and even had an IP tie-in, but that franchise fell off the face of the earth. The Journey to the Center of the Earth films, especially the first one starring Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson, were fun films that people generally enjoyed, and made a solid chunk of money on a budget that today we would consider pretty small. Yet, we haven’t heard a peep about this franchise returning in any form, at a time when we have had extended universes to films like Wonder, a fine film, but a weird choice to make a franchise out of. Why hasn’t Journey to the Center of the Earth gotten the same treatment?

Brendan Fraser as Trev running from a dinosaur on the movie poster for Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)

Journey to the Center of the Earth

On a quest to find out what happened to his missing brother, a scientist, his nephew and their mountain guide discover a fantastic and dangerous lost world in the center of the earth.

Release Date
July 10, 2008

Eric Brevig


Michael D. Weiss , Jennifer Flackett , Mark Levin , Jules Verne

Same planet. Different world.

When Did Hollywood Start Making Adventure Movies?

The history of adventure movies dates back to the beginning of cinema as a whole. George Meiles’ A Trip to the Moon, one of the most popular and revered silent films ever made, is a perfect example of that, and we can trace that line to films like Gunga Din, the Zorro serials, all the way to Indiana Jones and The Mummy. You could even argue films like the Lord of the Rings franchise would not exist without the groundwork adventure films laid for them to build on.

With that in mind, there’s a lot to like in your standard adventure film. Traipsing through far-off places, hunting for lost treasures, fighting incredible monsters, and doing that all with a fast-paced script and fun performances from major Hollywood stars. It’s perfect popcorn fun. Journey to the Center of the Earth ticks many of those boxes. The setting (the center of the earth) is fun, and makes for many great setpieces throughout the film such as the falling sequence in the beginning, the massive underground caves and waterfalls, and the eventual geyser finale. The variety of locations contributes a lot to the globe-trotting feeling as well. The Iceland sequences in particular give a unique feel to the opening act of the film, very dreary and rainy, contrasted by the fantastic visuals we see later on.


The 10 Best Adventure Movies That Expertly Blend Genres

These adventure movies go above and beyond in terms of drawing influence from different genres.

In terms of performances, Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson deliver their usual standard of quality. They don’t really have to do much besides just inhabit the generic adventure film pairing of a man with his son/nephew/sidekick facing incredible things, but they do that very well. And for the studios’ sake, the tie-in to the work of Jules Verne doesn’t hurt either, providing a known quantity to the film that gives it a level of recognition beyond just the stars themselves.

Why Should We Reboot ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’?

Is Journey to the Center of the Earth high art? No. I wouldn’t even say it’s one of the better adventure films, especially compared to the original Indiana Jones trilogy or, a more non-traditional choice like O Brother, Where Art Thou? But it is a pretty fun time at the movies, and that is something that we don’t see much of anymore, unfortunately. This is not to say that movies are worse now, that will never be true. The art of cinema is always expanding to new places, producing new filmmakers capable of things we haven’t seen yet, and the old masters are still making incredible films. The fact that we can see a great movie from an emerging filmmaker such as Emma Seligmann while also getting films from veterans like Sofia Coppola, is really something we should appreciate.

That being said, walking into your local movie theater nowadays can be a pretty disillusioning experience. You will mostly encounter IP films that we all know are becoming cookie-cutter drivel that you need to watch 8 movies and 17 shows to understand, maybe a few films that are actually interesting, and then just some of the most forgettable stuff you’ll ever see. The answer to this is not to make every movie a 3-hour auteur-driven film, but rather allow a space for filmmakers to make something fun. Make a genre movie.

What makes Journey to the Center of the Earth an interesting film to pull from the archives, is that you see an opportunity for a filmmaker to try something, to work with crazy special effects and locations, and make something that knows what it is, but does it well. To me, it possesses an awareness of its roots and doesn’t shy away from that. And why should it? It is part of a lineage of film history that dates back to the foundations of the genre, and features entries that are some of the most iconic and well-made movies ever made.

Why Haven’t We Gotten a ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ Reboot Yet?

With this in mind, why haven’t we seen a return to this franchise? We can only really wonder, as the hard facts sway towards another film, at least in the immediate aftermath of the sequel, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Swapping out Fraser with Dwayne Johnson, adding Michael Caine, and new setpieces, the film outperformed the original at the box office. With an obvious sequel setup at the end, another film seemed to be in order, but the well has dried up. However, that was at a very different time in Hollywood.

Smaller, more genre-focused films like The Menu or Evil Dead: Rise have been some of the more successful Hollywood films in recent memory in terms of actually turning a profit, and maintaining a level of cultural relevance. Slowly but surely, we are seeing the resurrection of the mid-budget movie, and reviving Journey to the Center of the Earth in that style of filmmaking could be something fascinating. Genre films have historically been a place where some of the greatest filmmakers have honed their craft. Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, and even Martin Scorsese all attribute their time under genre kingpin Roger Corman to being instrumental in their film careers. Reviving this franchise could be more than just another adventure, it could be giving someone a chance to really learn something, and shoot their career light years ahead. That is something we desperately need more of in the film industry. For studios, audiences, and filmmakers alike, giving this franchise another shot could be just what the doctor ordered.

Journey to the Center of the Earth is available to stream on Max in the U.S.

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