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277 13 A New Formulation, 2008–Present By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, two conflicting trends were apparent. Along with the renewed scholarship and the appearance of some titles for the first time in English, many lesserknown Verne books were also translated anew.1 For all the progress, however, a fresh peril emerged, threatening to extend indefinitely the life of the worst nineteenth-century Verne translators: public-domain texts from such Internet sources as Project Gutenberg could be reissued with minimal investment, and so the market was flooded.2 Both of these approaches would resonate on the screen. For every film having any originality, there was another reiteration. Experimentation foreshadowed by biography and pastiche was about to enrich the adaptation vein, combining all three in 2008 in a new theatrical version: Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D. Immediately before this version was released, however, two lower-budgeted exercises were made to cash in on the Verne interest, one by Robert Halmi Sr. and Robert Halmi Jr. and the other a direct-to-video production by the same firm that had created 30,000 Leagues under the Sea. The latter company, The Asylum, has a reputation for producing films from public-domain stories and titles reminiscent of big-budget productions concurrently offered by major studios, so it was not surprising for it to continue riding on the Verne bandwagon. As weak as The Asylum’s Journey to the Center of the Earth is, however, it is vastly superior simply as entertainment to 30,000 Leagues under the Sea. Although the latter actually has more in common with Verne, it is such a distortion 278 Hollywood Presents Jules Verne that the company’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, which simply abandons the author’s plot save to credit his name, deserves less opprobrium . The retelling written and directed by Scott Wheeler and Davey Jones has a greater similarity with the pattern established in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar saga, and locating dinosaurs is as close as the movie gets to Verne. Halmi’s Journey to the Center of the Earth appeared first, followed by The Asylum version on July 1, 2008. As with Halmi’s 2005 adaptation of Mysterious Island, the filmmakers did not return to the novel but chose instead to take inspiration from an earlier film, in this case with a rewrite of Halmi’s 1999 miniseries of Journey to the Center of the Earth, compressing it into a ninety-minute telefilm for RHI Entertainment that appeared on the ION network on January 27, 2008. William Bray adapted the 1999 Tom Baum teleplay, this time helmed by T. J. Scott; the principal characterizations and motives remained the same but were more tightly paced. The setting remains around the 1870s but is transplanted to Alaska, still known as “Seward’s Folly” and with vestiges of Russian influence. This locale and a decidedly similar center of the earth were a result of Vancouver location shooting, which determined production design. The switch to an American background, with Western-style towns, however, gives the adaptation more of a familiar, natural feel rather than an exotic one, but the fact that the center of the earth looks almost exactly like the world above makes the narrative less convincing. Even as the underground visuals of the 1999 miniseries are lost, the basic characters and situation remain; anthropologist Jonathan Brock, like Theodore Lytton, is engaging in boxing bouts while his nephew Abel handles the betting to earn the money for an expedition to the Dutch East Indies. Neither Rick Schroeder nor Steven Grayhm is as appropriate for his respective role as were Treat Williams and Jeremy London in 1999, Schroeder lacking the physical strength and Grayhm unable to reflect the transformation the journey exerted on London. By contrast, the wealthy Martha Dennison, who hires the pair to search for her husband, is this time incarnated by Victoria Pratt, who had a decade of female action roles to her credit. There is no mention of Saknussemm; instead, Martha’s husband Edward Dennison has a map German art advertising the 2008 television version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. 280 Hollywood Presents Jules Verne supposedly pointing to a mine shaft leading to the center of the earth, which he had followed four years earlier. Martha is presented as the daughter of a mine owner, who had grown up surrounded by men and is consequently unconcerned about the...


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