It's important to note straight off that this IS NOT a remake or a retelling of Verne's classic novel in any way. This story is surprisingly original.
The storyline, in brief, is about a college professor, played by Brendon Fraser (The Mummy and George of the Jungle) with his usual boyish charm who lost his brother 10 years ago when he went off to prove that Verne's novel wasn't really fiction. Now, out of a sense of guilt or obligation he takes in his brother's son each summer, well played by Josh Hutcherson (Zathura, RV, and Bridge to Terabithia. Hutcherson is in danger of being typecast as the bitter, rebellious teenager with a secret heart of gold. His acting is good, but he's been essentially playing the same role over and over again.
Well, the pair get it in their heads to try and track down the possible entry to the center of the earth and end up in Iceland trying to track down another professor who may be of help, but discover he died awhile back. They are instead greeted by his lovely looking, but rather cold exterior daughter, nicely played by relative newcomer Anita Briem, who agrees to be a mountain guide for them in what she considers to be a fool's errand.
The rest of the film is the trip to the center of the earth which only seems to take them a few minutes to get to and includes a shamelessly copied scene on mine carts from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as well as a T-rex scene lifted from Jurassic Park. I wasn't sure if they were paying some kind of homage to these films (or genre), or if they were literally just copying the scenes thinking the 3D effects would make them better somehow. Other than that the film moves along at a fun and rapid pace with several predictable, but touching moments.
(1) The 3D effects are the advanced type (not the blue and red glasses) that doesn't leave you with a headache afterwards. The entire film is designed with 3D in mind and while a gimmick, it is effective and fun.
(2) The special effects themselves are magnificent and would hold up nicely even in 2D. The most beautiful effect is the beach scene. It was absolutely stunning!
(3) The performances were all much better than this gimmicky action genre would normally dictate. They know it's all nonsense, but they make themselves into rather believable characters that we care about.
(1) Although the plot is fast-paced, it is rather silly and even ludicrous much of the time, but again, we know this going into the film.
(2) There is some really awful cliché-ridden dialogue. It's a bit of a miracle that these actors were able to deliver them without bursting into laughter and that is to their credit.
(3) In spite of the overall nice entertainment factor of this film with all it's clever special effects, decent acting, and fast-paced feel, it is a rather shallow film that is hard to recall even right after seeing it.
The problem with all gimmicky films, whether they are 3D or using camcorders to tell the story, the focus is primarily on the gimmick and little else. So much time, energy and money goes into the gimmick that the other aspects of storytelling fall to the wayside. This film does a bit better job at trying to be more entertaining and cohesive than other gimmick-driven films, but it is still rather shallow when all is said and done. I doubt very much I would have enjoyed this film much at all if not for the 3D effects and that says a lot all by itself.