Recently as my husband and I were unpacking books (always the biggest part of moving for us), I came across Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne. I’d forgotten we had a copy—or maybe I didn’t know my husband had it. Anyway, it reminded me that way back in September, my husband and I had gone to see the movie when it came out.
It was the only movie playing at our small-town movie theatre and we wanted a night out together before he started teaching. Besides, I was kind of curious to see what Hollywood had done with Jules Verne’s classic. I should have known I would be disappointed.
On the positive side, I liked the fact that they didn’t just try to make the book into a movie, but rather made the movie to be a “sequel” to the book. That was about the only plus, however.
Parts of the story were too overdone – of course they’d manage to fall a gazillion feet into the centre of the earth without dying, and then of course they’d manage to get blasted out a gazillion feet on a geyser, again without dying. (Okay, I know it’s sci-fi and not real, but still, there could be some elements of believability—or enough plausibility to make me suspend my disbelief.)
The plot was stereotypical – computer-geek nephew coming to stay with forgetful professor uncle who hasn’t seen him in six years, a dad who disappeared ten years ago but leaves behind a touching letter to his son that the son just happens to find, and the guide who of course has to be female so that there can be a love interest.
That love interest was the worst part of the story. It was fake, it was shallow, it was unnecessary. The guide could have just as easily been a male and it wouldn’t have changed the story. (Or maybe it would have made it better – two sons discover what their fathers were chasing.)
I’ve seen too many movies lately where the love interest is unnecessary to the plot and so adds nothing to the story. It also contributes to a false idea about love—like, of course if you throw a man and a woman together for so many hours, they’ll always fall madly in love with each other.
Writers are constantly told that every part of our story must be necessary. Each character should have a unique identity that contributes to the story in a unique way, so that they couldn’t be anyone else. In the Batman movies, Rachel is necessary; she provides the motivation for some of Batman’s actions. In the James Bond movies, the woman is usually unnecessary, just a pretty trophy for Bond to flirt with.
The writers of the screenplay for Journey to the Centre of the Earth seemed to simply want a romance, without bothering to fit it into the plot in a real and meaningful way. It should be a challenge to us as writers to write real stories, real characters, real love.