tek's rating: meh

Journey to the Center of the Earth, on USA Network
IMDb; Sonar Entertainment; TV Tango; Wikipedia

Caution: spoilers.

This aired in 1999. I kind of vaguely feel like I might have watched it, or I might just have been aware of it. I definitely remember Jeremy London being in it, but for some reason I also remember John Rhys-Davies being in it, which he definitely wasn't. (I suppose I must have seen him in something similar at some point, like "The Lost World" maybe.) In any event, it's based on the novel by Jules Verne, which I've never read, but of course the book has been adapted numerous times, with widely varying degrees of faithfulness. And... I'm watching it on DVD in 2014. It doesn't seem particularly good, but it's not terrible. I gather the plot diverges a fair bit from the book, but probably not as much as some versions (and probably more than some). Anyway, the plot of the miniseries is kind of "meh," and the acting is just sort of okayish, and the visual effects are pretty thoroughly unconvincing.

Part one
There's a man in a boxing match, in Boston, in 1875. We soon learn that the man (who wins the match) is Professor Theodore Lytton, who I think it was said had been on a certain famous voyage with Charles Darwin, some years ago. (But the time frame would be off, so that doesn't make sense. Maybe he was just a fan of Darwin's work, or maybe... the writers just don't give a damn.) And now he proposes various theories that most scholars seem not to like. But he is assisted by his nephew, Jonas, who has been studying to become a lawyer. Jonas has a fiancée named Helen, who doesn't seem very fond of Theodore. Anyway, Theodore is approached by a rich woman named Alice Hastings, who wants to finance an expedition for Theodore to search for her husband, who has been missing for seven years. Of course Theodore wants Jonas to accompany him on this expedition, and Helen doesn't want him to go. But he does, and throughout the journey, he'll write journal entries as if they were letters to Helen.

They get to New Zealand, which is near where Casper Hastings had disappeared on his own expedition. At the time of the Lyttons' arrival, there is a Maori uprising against the colonials, which complicates things. So, they're joined by a guide or bodyguard or whatever, named McNiff. And Alice herself shows up to join the expedition, which surprises Theodore. Eventually, the four of them make their way to caverns under a volcano, and begin a long, boring descent. (I mean, I found it kind of boring, but I'm sure they didn't.) Finally they come out upon an underground world, where there are like dinosaurs and pterodactyls and stuff, but we don't see too much of that, at first. They manage to build a pontoon boat or whatever, and sail across a big lake. Eventually they find land, which looks just like the land they'd just left. And um... throughout the journey thus far, they had occasionally found skeletons or skulls, which could have been Casper or one of the people who'd been with him, or they could have been other people entirely. But finally, Alice kind of gives up hope of ever finding her husband alive. So, naturally, she makes out with Theodore. (McNiff and anyone watching the miniseries had seen that coming, but Jonas hadn't.)

Then Jonas sees a girl on some cliffs or whatever, and he follows after her when she runs away. So that leads to a kind of silly-looking blue forest. Jonas and the others try to track the girl, and eventually encounter some scary-looking bipedal saurians (or "sauroids"), who manage to abduct Alice. But then they meet some humans, who lead them to their village, where Joans finally meets the girl he'd seen. Her name is Ralna, and to his surprise, she speaks English (though she doesn't call it that). Up to this point, all the other humans had been speaking some tribal language. But they take the newcomers to meet a teacher, who, it turns out, is Casper Hastings.

Part two
I really don't want to say much of anything about part two. Part one was mostly boring, and I expected the second installment to be more interesting. Well, maybe it was less boring, but it was a lot more ridiculous and annoying than part one. I will say it didn't take too long for Alice to be rescued from the sauroids and reunited with her husband. And Jonas becomes quite close to Ralna. And there are lots of complications before some of the characters finally return to the surface. But I'm not going into detail just because I don't think any of it is really worth talking about. I'm glad I've finally watched the miniseries, and I'm even gladder that I'm done with it.

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