Can't wait until Christmas of 2009 for James Cameron's Avatar? This family adventure might tide you over. Shot with Cameron's high-tech 3-D cameras and directed by Eric Brevig, his Abyss visual-effects photographer, Journey will be the first live-action narrative feature film shot in digital 3-D. It promises serious action, with a high-octane ride through a mine shaft, a giant Tyrannosaurus rex, and startling 3-D gimmicks (imagine flying fish heading toward your face). The plot centers on a scientist (Brendan Fraser) who, with the help of his nephew (Josh Hutcherson) and an Icelandic guide (Anita Briem), uses his brother's marked-up copy of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth as a guidebook to find the planet's core.
Despite the computer effects, it was a physical shoot. A typical day might find actors rappelling down a rock wall that Fraser dubbed ''the cheese grater,'' due to its effects on the skin, or hanging for long periods in genital-crunching harnesses. But the most harrowing moment involved Briem and a long underwater swim. After she practiced the dangerous sequence a few times, Brevig rolled the cameras. But when Briem started acting distressed emphasis on acting divers decided to ''rescue'' her. ''We went crazy; she went crazy,'' says Brevig of the botched sequence. ''The only reason she was at risk was because of the safety divers!''
The high-tech part went a little more smoothly. With those digital cameras, the director could shoot in the morning, view the footage in 3-D at lunchtime, and move on to the next scene by the afternoon. ''Visitors to the set could watch the footage in 3-D as I was filming,'' says Brevig. ''This is definitely moviemaking of the future.'' (July 11)