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Literature / Journey to the Center of the Earth

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First, an 1864 Jules Verne Science Fiction novel (the French original being titled Voyage au centre de la Terre) about a German professor and his nephew, who travel down volcanic tubes in an extinct Icelandic volcano. They then discover prehistoric animals and all sorts of danger as they go down farther. Verne was inspired by Charles Lyell's Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man to write it, although the science has not aged very well compared to his other books (at least, science as Professor Lidenbrock describes it — see the What We Now Know to Be True entry below).

Then were the numerous adaptations, including the 1959 film starring Pat Boone and James Mason, with added characters such as Gertrude the duck and Count Saknussem, notable in its day for the special effects. In 2008, a 3-D Movie starring Brendan Fraser was made, which spawned a Sequel and loose adaptation of The Mysterious Island starring Dwayne Johnson which is, apparently, Atlantis.


There was also an Animated Adaptation by Filmation in the late '60s, and let's not forget the Concept Album (plus sequel and expanded remake) by Rick Wakeman.

Relevant tropes:

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    The Book 
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: "Graüben" is not even close to an actual German name; the sequence "aü" is virtually non-existent in German. Some translations, including the German one, call her Gretchen instead. This is generally considered the only good thing to come from the awful 1871 translation.
  • Behemoth Battle: The ichthyosaur and plesiosaur are so huge they're first thought to be five separate giant animals as different parts of their bodies emerge (a porpoise, an iguana, and a crocodile for the first, a sea serpent and giant turtle for the second).
  • Beneath the Earth: The bulk of the novel takes place in a mazelike complex of caverns beneath the Earth, going from lava tubes nearest to the surface to more and more complex cave systems deeper down, ending with the enormous cavern that houses the Lidenbrock Sea.
  • Break the Scientist: Invoked, as Axel knows the whole concept of a hollow-earth journey makes absolutely no sense (see the "Science Marches On" entry on the Trivia page).
  • Cargo Envy: Axel's sweetheart Grauben is an amateur geologist who spends time classifying rock samples, and Axel states he's quite jealous of the minerals she's cleaning.
  • Come to Gawk: Lidenbrock has a problem saying certain complicated scientific words, leading to a lot of histrionics on his part. Most people who attend his lectures are there to watch him struggle with the recalcitrant term until he manages to spit it out.
  • Comic Trio: Notably lampshaded, proving that this trope is older than the Three Stooges. Axel sees himself as the Only Sane Man, with Professor Otto Lidenbrock as the idiotic leader and Hans as the even more idiotic follower. He later changes his mind...
  • Convection Schmonvection: The explorers are carried up the tube of a volcano by lava on their raft of fossilized wood (an asbestos dish in the 1959 movie, a dinosaur skull in the 2008 one) which in real life would get them cooked alive (Axel notes the temperature rises to 70°C). Some editions avoid this by having them be carried up by water (which was the case for the first part of the ascent), the implication being that lava below has caused a geyser-effect to blow them out of the volcano.
  • Dub Name Change: Some editions of the novel change Axel's name to "Harry Lawson", Lidenbrock's name to "Von Hardwigg" and/or Graüben to Gretchen.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Professor Otto Lidenbrock of the Johanneum in Hamburg.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Everything's better with ancient marine reptiles.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: At the beginning of the book, the narrator, having broken an ancient explorer's code, shows his uncle how the code is written. Unfortunately, he has his love for his uncle's ward on the brain, and the phrase he codes is that he loves her... Thankfully for everyone, his uncle's response amounts to, "Huh. Well, we'll talk about that later."
  • Fungus Humongous: The explorers find a grove of mushrooms forty feet high and with caps equally broad when they first reach the shores of the Lidenbrock Sea.
  • In Name Only: Most adaptations take great liberty with the source material, probably because "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny.
  • It's the Journey That Counts: The heroes don't get anywhere near the center of the Earth, but they become world famous anyway since the discoveries they've made are plenty revolutionary on their own.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Professor Lidenbrock has shades of this, as does Axel, but with varying degrees compared to Lidenbrock.
  • Jungle Opera: A chronicle of the adventures of a German researcher, his adventurous nephew, and a geologist as they explore some dormant lava tubes within an Icelandic volcano. Though they never get to the center of the Earth, they do discover oodles of wonders and marvels, concluding with the discovery of a lake, warmed by fumaroles, that's home to heretofore extinct dinosaurs.
  • Living Dinosaurs: Might be the Ur-Example; a plesiosaur and an ichthyosaur fight in the middle of the Lidenbrock Sea.
  • The Load: Axel, dear Axel. He spends the entire book moaning about going on the trip and trying to stop them from going, always trying to get everybody to turn back, and constantly fainting and getting lost. It was also his idea to use the gun-cotton near the end. In his defense, he really didn't want to go on the expedition, but was too afraid of Lidenbrock to say no to him.
  • Lost World: The Lidenbrock Sea, home to a great variety of primordial Sea Monsters, and its shores, covered in forests of giant fungi and prehistoric jungles inhabited by mastodons and giant ape-like men.
  • Mad Scientist: Professor Lidenbrock; at least of the one-track mind type.
  • The Millstone: Axel, whose chef contributions to the trip consist of getting lost and complaining about how much he doesn't want to be there (although in his defense, he never wanted to come to begin with and only went because his uncle made him), although he arguably functions as professor Lidenbrock's Morality Pet.
  • Mundane Solution: How do you get a large, heavy bundle of ropes, blankets, clothing, etc. down a thousand-foot vertical shaft? You drop it.
  • My Girl Back Home: Graubennote  (Gretchen in many English editions). She's from the rural Vierlande ("four lands") near Hamburg.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Axel's idea to use the gun-cotton not only nearly kills them and puts an end to the expedition, but also destroys the way downwards.
  • No Endor Holocaust: What happened to the Lidenbrock Sea and its unique flora and fauna after the explosion?
  • Not So Extinct: Many prehistoric animals are revealed to still live deep in the Earth, including mastodons, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, Glyptodon, Megatherium and a few others.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The fact that we don't really learn anything about the 12-foot man that Lidenbrock and Axel encounter, or find out what would have happened if they had been spotted by him. It arguably makes him far more mysterious and frightening.
  • Pet the Dog: Lidenbrock becomes quite sympathetic when he thinks his quest will result in Axel's death, but then reverts back to his usual behaviour as soon as they're safe again.
  • Prehistoric Monster: The ichthyosaur and plesiosaur are portrayed as nothing more than vicious, terrifying and dangerous monsters. The caveman might count as well.
  • The Quiet One: Hans, professor Lidenbrock's and Axel's Icelandic guide. Although since Axel can't speak with him due to the language barrier, it doesn't make much difference.
  • Saying Too Much: When Axel figures out the cipher to Arne Saknussemm's note, the example he uses to demonstrate it accidentally reveals his love for Grauben, Lidenbrock's ward. Amusingly, Lidenbrock completely ignores this revelation as he's more interested in decrypting the note.
  • Sea Monster: The ichthyosaur and plesiosaur, ferocious Prehistoric Monsters lurking in the depths of the underground sea.
  • Sea Serpents: The explorers briefly mistake the ichthyosaur and plesiosaur for a tangle of monsters including a sea serpent, which is simply the plesiosaur's long neck.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: It could have been a good idea for Grauben to join the expedition instead of Axel. Even if she had been no more useful than Axel was, at least she wouldn't have been whining all the time, as she at least wanted to join ... but she could not, because she's a girl.
  • The Stoic: Hans, who rarely speaks more than one word at a time. In fact, the only sign of emotion he shows is at the very end when he heads back to Iceland, cracking a smile as he says goodbye.
  • Sundial Waypoint: How they locate the cave entrance, and the cause of Lindenbrock's frenzy at the beginning of the book: if they don't get to Iceland as soon as possible they'll have to wait another year for it to happen.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: The translator working for Griffith & Farran was apparently so xenophobic and jingoistic that he couldn’t countenance the viewpoint character not being English (or worse, thought his readers would be so bigoted) and thus renamed Axel to Harry and changed his nationality from German to English, with his mother’s sister having married Lidenbrock (renamed Von Hardwigg) and then died. In Verne’s original there is no hint that Lidenbrock ever married or that he isn’t Axel’s biological uncle.
  • What We Now Know to Be True: Axel keeps protesting every step of their adventure with fairly accurate comments about the heat and pressure of the Earth's interior, and the sheer impossibility of a navigable passage leading to the center of the Earth, all of which his uncle brushes aside as outdated theory. It's left open at the end who would've been proven right if they'd kept going.

    The 1959 movie 
  • Absent-Minded Professor: Sir Oliver walks through the marching band of a Highland regiment because he's wrapped up in reading his newspaper.
  • Accidental Discovery: The plumb bob that clues Lindenbrook in to Arne Saknussem's solo expedition is revealed because of a small accidental explosion.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Redhead Hans becomes blond here.
  • Adaptational Name Change: To accompany the Adaptational Nationality below, Prof. Otto Lidenbrock becomes Prof. Oliver Lindenbrook, and Axel becomes Alec McEwan. Gretchen's equivalent character is named Jenny.
  • Adaptational Nationality: In the book, most of the characters are Germans, while in the movie, they're Scots, albeit ones with Scottish accents that range from shaky to nonexistent. Presumably, so soon after the end of the Second World War, American audiences weren't keen to see Germans as protagonists.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Sir Oliver is sure that his will not be the last expedition to the center, and wonders if any of his students will carry on his work. Hans, meanwhile, learns enough English to offer that, if Sir Oliver ever goes back down there, he'll come too.
  • Artistic License – Space: Lindenbrook remarks that more is known about the stars and galaxies than about the Earth's deeper layers. At the time the film is set, distant galaxies were called "spiral nebulae"; only our own Milky Way was referred to as a "galaxy".
  • Atlantis: The climax takes place here, with Atlantis buried in an air pocket cave rather than being the usual Underwater Ruins. Naturally, even the ruins are ultimately destroyed in a Cataclysm Climax.
  • Bad Boss: It's heavily implied Count Saknussem literally worked his servant to death.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Sir Oliver Lindenbrook and Determined Widow Carla Göteborg snipe at each other throughout the journey.
  • The Big Guy: As in the book, Hans. He towers over the other characters and easily resolves a Take My Hand! situation described below.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Sir Oliver briefly puts on a Scottish accent to imitate his mother. This raises the question that, if James Mason was able to do the accent, why he didn't do one for the rest of the movie, since his character is also supposed to be a Scot.
  • Canon Foreigner: Professor Göteberg and his wife Carla, Gertrude the duck, and Count Saknussem and his servant. Basically, half the principal cast.
  • The Cast Showoff: Pat Boone sings every chance he gets.
  • Clothing Damage: The heroes' clothes get progressively more damaged the further they go. This ends with Alec completely naked by the time he gets to the surface, in a humourous scene with some rather embarassed nuns.
  • Determined Widow: Carla Göteborg falls into this role before her husband is even in the ground, declaring her intentions to continue his work by joining his rival's expedition.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Prof. Göteberg is initially set up as the villain before being murdered by the real bad guy.
  • Disney Villain Death: Count Saknussem leans against a loose rock pile and is buried in an avalanche just after he kills and eats Gertrude, sparing the others from having to kill or otherwise deal with him.
  • Doomed Predecessor: Arne Saknussemm, who both made the MacGuffin and marked the trail the protagonists follow, died centuries before the story and his skeleton is found in Atlantis pointing to the Door to Before.
  • Double Take:
    • Alec uncovers Göteberg's blanket-draped body while searching the hotel room's stockpiled supplies, then covers it up again and goes on searching for a moment before realizing what he's seen.
    • Lindenbrook agrees absentmindedly to Carla's declaration that she'll be joining them, before backing up, asking for clarification, and protesting vehemently.
  • Fungus Humongous: The party encounters a forest of giant mushrooms just before the subterranean ocean, with skin tough enough to use as shoe leather and stems that can substitute for tree trunks when they need to build a raft.
  • Gentle Giant: Hans, until the moment he finds his beloved Gertrude has been eaten.
  • Hollywood Magnetism: The pole at the center of the earth rips away Hans's gold tooth and Carla's wedding ring, which, as Sir Oliver takes the time to point out, was also gold.
  • Jumped at the Call: Alec, who proposes to go on Sir Oliver's expedition instead of staying to marry his niece. This is the exact opposite of The Narrator in the novel, who only goes along because he doesn't have the courage to tell Sir Oliver where he can stick his mad idea of exploring the interior of the Earth.
  • Kick the Dog: Count Saknussem commits murder and mayhem to deter his rivals, but finally crosses the Moral Event Horizon for the audience when he eats Gertrude!
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: The Slurpasaurs abandon their pursuit of the humans when Hans spears one of them, opting to devour its carcass instead.
  • Mouth Cam: There's a quick shot from inside the chameleon's mouth as it whips out its tongue to trip up Sir Oliver.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Pat Boone as Alec. He started out at least attempting it, but lost it pretty early on.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Count Saknussem's dead servant.
  • The Professor: Sir Oliver is a celebrated professor at the University of Edinburgh, and is consistently the most knowledgeable person on the expedition.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Sir Oliver is not afraid to explain away Carla's usefulness because "she's a woman." He then goes on to complain about her waking the expedition up when she hears men moving above them, which Oliver dismisses as "rats in the attic." Later, when she is proven correct, instead of apologizing like any good leader would, he insults her again. Then proceeds to continue insulting her for the rest of the journey. He finally appears to pull his head out of his ass after they return to the surface, which gets him out of that mindset by the end of the film.
  • Related in the Adaptation / Unrelated in the Adaptation: In the book, the professor is Axel's uncle and is not related to Gretchen (though she is his goddaughter). In the movie, he is Jenny's uncle and not related to Alec (who is now one of his students).
  • Self-Disposing Villain: After Count Saknussem has eaten Gertrude, Hans is fully prepared to commit murder. Fortunately, the villain enacts this trope instead.
  • Shirtless Scene: Pat Boone spends a number of scenes wearing nothing but shorts and oil, and Hans gets in on the action sometimes too. Even Sir Oliver manages to show off his Carpet of Virility once.
  • Slurpasaur: The movie features rock iguanas with plastic fins masquerading as Dimetrodons, and a tegu lizard covered in red paint as a "giant chameleon." Even Gertrude was an all-white American domestic duck painted like an Icelandic eider.
  • Take My Hand!: After following the Count's false trail, Alec falls into from a precipice and is left hanging from a rope. Hans lifts him back up with no difficulty whatsoever.
  • Team Pet: Gertrude the surprisingly useful duck.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Count Saknussem spends the first half of the movie trying to sabotage the expedition, and the second half tagging along with it after none of the party can bring themselves to execute or abandon him.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: The sets of three chipped notches, left behind by Arne Saknussen.

    The 2008 movie 
  • Abandoned Mine: Shortly after taking refuge in a cave on the side of an Icelandic volcano, the crew discovers a lava tube that leads to an abandoned mine shaft.
  • Adaptational Badass: Unlike his book counterpart Axel, Sean was willing to go on the trip and was even able to hold his own in the harsh environment.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Sean and Trevor are noticeably nicer than their book counterparts Axel and Lidenbrock, at least as the movie progressed.
  • Artistic License – Geology: Veins of pure magnesium that cause violent explosions when exposed to a flare? The volcanic tube encrusted with gigantic, flawless jewels of many different types right next to each other? And this is before they fall to the Center!
  • Artistic License – Paleontology:
    • The phosphorescent birds are identified as Cyanis rosopteryx, which is stated to be a Jurassic bird. Not only is this not actually a real species, but they also resemble modern-style birds, which did not arise until the Cretaceous period.
    • The Giganotosaurus, according to the special features and tie-in material, looks more like a Tyrannosaurus rex with thumbs.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign:
    • Iceland adheres to a strict rule of patronymic, or in rare cases matronymic, naming system and thus parents and children almost never share the same last name (unless their recent ancestors came from overseas). In real life, Hannah wouldn't have the full name Hannah Ásgeirsson, as stated by the credits, but rather Hannah Sigurbjörnsdóttir (derived from her father Sigurbjörn). Even if her father was named Ásgeir, as she's a woman, hers should be Ásgeirsdóttir.
      • Although it should be pointed out that the actress, who is also Icelandic, does have an inherited surname. They're rare, but they exist, and some of them do end in "son."
    • Averted with the dialogue, though, as Hannah's actress (Anita Briem) is an Icelandic native.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Come the end of the film, Hannah looks as fresh faced and blemish free as she does when we first meet her, despite the rough and tumble of their journey. She does has a bruise on one cheek and a smudge of dirt, however this is in comparison to a pretty cut up Trevor and Sean. Hannah's clothes are bloodied and torn, however.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Trevor and Hannah.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: Bioluminescent birds, of all things. Not to mention that they're birds which normally live in a well-lit area.
  • Catapult Nightmare: The way Trevor wakes from his nightmare in the opening scene.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Getting a signal after walking into a cave and after a landside: impossible. Traversing an ocean miles underneath the surface of the Earth, in a thunderstorm: lousy reception.
  • Chekhov's Gun
    • The magnesium ore being easily inflamed by distress flares.
    • The thin layer of fragile rocks.
    • The gemstones...
  • Clothing Damage: Trevor ends up ripping one of the sleeves of his shirt. After a moment he rips the other one off himself.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Sitting in an active volcanic vent would never be a survivable adventure, especially not when you’re deep enough to see into the magma chamber.
  • Disappeared Dad: Sean’s father (Trevor’s brother), due to becoming trapped deep beneath the Earth’s surface and not living long enough to get out.
  • Dream Intro: The film starts with a Pursued Protagonist intro in which the hero is being chased by a Giganotosaurus, culminating in him falling into a lava pit. A Catapult Nightmare reveals this sequence to be a bad dream.
  • *Drool* Hello: The Giganotosaurus copiously drooling on Sean Anderson from above a boulder.
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: When Sean has trouble traversing the floating rocks, his little luminous bird buddy shakes its head in despair.
  • Flying Sea Food Special: We see the protagonist batting flying fish around, apparently so the filmmakers could throw something at the audience in 3D.
  • Fungus Humongous
  • Genre Savvy: Trevor has read the original Jules Verne novel, though he’s surprised to find that it's true. Invoked by Sean (who hasn’t read it) when he hears the Giganatosaurus stalking him.
  • Hot Scientist: Trevor Anderson. A given, since he's played by Brendan Fraser.
  • I Fell for Hours: Lampshaded when Trevor interrupts the trio’s Overly Long Scream with, "We're still falling!"
  • Loyal Animal Companion: The bioluminescent bird.
  • Man-Eating Plant: The cavern is filled with giant Venus flytraps that are unable to eat humans, but growl and snap at them anyway for no apparent reason. Also, their roots are attached to snake-like vines that hang people by the neck to strangle them, also for no apparent reason. It seems that even when it comes to plants, Carnivores Are Mean.
  • Offhand Backhand: Trevor to a carnivorous plant.
  • Overly Long Scream: When the main characters fall down the hole leading to the center of the Earth. Of the "take a deep breath, then continue screaming" variety.
  • Uncle Wolf: Trevor fights giant piranhas, man-eating plants, a huge carnivorous dinosaur, and Mount Vesuvius to protect his nephew.
  • Rollercoaster Mine: Complete set with a jump a point where the track splits into three, follows the same route, finally meeting up at the same point.
  • Pursued Protagonist: The opening Dream Sequence in which Trevor is being chased by a Giganotosaurus.
  • Shoot the Money: Lots of point in the film show off the 3D... unless you're watching it in 2D of course, then it just looks a bit odd.
  • Soft Water: The heroes fall easily thousands of feet down a rock shaft and hit water with little more than a few gasps after they surface. They try to subvert this by using the walls as a "water slide" to slow their descent.
    • They landed on a non-boiling geyser, spraying a lot of air and water upward to cushion their fall.
  • Super Cell Reception: There is a cellphone that works at the center of the Earth. Worse yet, not only is it just a joke that's not essential to the plot, but there was a scene in the same movie where a cell phone won't work inside of a normal cave.
  • A True Story in My Universe: Here all Jules Verne books were based on true accounts.
  • T. Rexpy: Giganotosaurus, actually, as is stated in special features. Naturally chasing the protagonists.

    The 2012 movie 
  • Artifact Title: A mild case. The title would have made more sense if they had left off the "Journey 2" part, but there is technically a journey (just not to the center of the earth and it's not particularly long as they spend most of the movie trying to get off The Mysterious Island).
  • Big Damn Kiss: Between Sean and Kailani in the movie's climax.
  • Canon Welding: This movie makes at least the settings of Journey To The Center of The Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and The Mysterious Island equally real in-universe, as well as parts of Treasure Island and Gulliver's Travels.
  • Death by Materialism: Narrowly averted with Gabato, who nearly dies trying to dig up a giant lump of gold. He isn’t motivated by greed, however. He just wants to give his daughter a better life and a good education.
  • Disappeared Dad: Hank’s father ran out on him when he was a small boy. As a result, Hank is determined to be the best stepfather he can possibly be to Sean.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Henry... er, I mean Hank. Actually, it's not made clear if Henry really is Hank's name, or if Hank isn't really a nickname, but all the same, Hank doesn't like being called Henry.
  • Fanservice: Vanessa Hudgens wearing a tank top and short shorts for almost the entire movie. Also, did any male viewers who saw it in 3D regret paying extra in the scene where she crawls out of a collapsing tunnel with the camera on her from behind? Thought not.
  • Genre Blindness: Hank. Lampshaded at one point.
    Sean: You didn't expect mysterious things from a place called The Mysterious Island? It's right there in the title."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hank is a genuinely caring person, and does worry about Sean. But, the way he insults Sean's grandfather, in front of Sean, is just a tad mean-spirited. He gets better though.
    • Alexander, for mainly the same reasons. He and Hank pretty much take turns insulting and undermining each other for the first half of the movie before beginning to respect each other.
  • Male Gaze: Practically the moment Kailani appears, in a tank top, the camera goes straight to her breasts.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Hank attempts to punch the giant lizard.
    Hank: I think I just made it worse.
  • Ominous Crack: The giant lizard egg that starts cracking under Gabato's weight.
  • Pec Flex: Hank's "Pec Pop of Love."
  • Psycho Electric Eel: A very big nippy one in the sea cave where the Nautilus is hidden.
  • Shout-Out: The giant iguana is a huge Shout-Out towards monster movies in the 50s when they used iguanas and gators for dinosaurs.
  • The Stinger: A mid-credits scene reveals that three small elephants survived the submerging of Atlantis, and they are seen swimming underwater towards that city.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: "Why did it have to be lizards? Why couldn't it be snakes?"

Alternative Title(s): Journey To The Center Of The Earth, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth