‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ Review
About as good as a movie titled ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ can be.
Going into a movie titled ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ with high expectations is pretty much setting yourself up for disappointment right there. But going in with no expectations is the way you can have fun with the movie, which is a sequel to 2008′s ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’. And while it has a screenplay filled with some hokey and ham-fisted moments, dazzling visuals and a grand imagination helped by wonderful 3D leads to a fun family adventure if nothing more.
The film follows young Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) from the first film who receives a distress call from co-ordinates of an island that does not exist. Piecing it together with his stepfather (Dwayne Johnson), he discovers the existence of a mythical mysterious island described in the works of Jules Verne that may be real. Teaming up with a helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his beautiful daughter (Vanessa Hudgens), they venture onto the mysterious island filled with dangerous creatures and adventures that far exceed anything they had ever imagined.
While the original was a hit, it was actually heralded as a decent fantastical adventure with great visuals to boot. While the strength of a charming Brendan Fraser carried the film through its dull moments, the actor refused to be a part of the sequel and the studio went with the next best alternative ‘action star who does kids movies’ guy – Dwayne Johnson. And while he isn’t as effective as Fraser was, he definitely brings a lot of self-aware fun to the table.
Anyone looking for a sound plot here is bound to be disappointed, but anyone looking for an extremely throwaway one will be surprised too. That’s because the screenplay uses a surprising number of neat tricks to incorporate some famous literary work into its plot including the works of Jules Verne but also Gulliver’s Travels and such. They didn’t need to, but smartly adding them all into a whole plot leads to some fun moments. Does it all make sense? Absolutely not. In fact, in the first 5 minutes we are treated to possibly the most moronic and ridiculously simplified ‘putting pieces of the puzzle together’ sequences that kick start the plot. But does it matter? It doesn’t, because it’s never a movie that prides itself on being completely logical. It’s all in the spectacle.
And one aspect that the film undeniably delivers on is family oriented spectacle and adventure. Holding a surprisingly robust imagination, we are treated to some very colorful and grand set pieces and visuals that serve the story pretty well. The filmmakers definitely wanted to one-up the original in scale, and we get giant lizards and bees, the lost city of Atlantis, erupting volcanoes and even Captain Nemo’s underwater submarine. It’s the one thing the film does surprisingly well which is actually feeling like an epic adventure akin to a summer blockbuster. It’s all over the top and not realistic in the least bit, but teens as well as well as quite a few adults will have fun watching these grandiose set pieces unfold.
That said, the screenplay is pretty hokey at times and has enough dull moments to sometimes kill the momentum. As mentioned already, the film tries to pack in a lot of literary elements into the film but manages to build a cohesive storyline out of them. How the story progresses from one obstacle to the next feels episodic and doesn’t ring true for the most part. The second half has dull spots where nothing much happens other than people sitting around at camp, and that gives away to more of the ham-fisted dialogue that plagues the first half too. There is some melodrama and the romantic angle only hurts the film towards the end. Some people might be irked by the level of broad comedy here, but I actually thought it elevated the film despite a few flat jokes.
While most 3D films nowadays are thoroughly disappointing, ‘Journey 2′ actually has some very effective use of 3D. The first film was praised for its 3D close to two years before ‘Avatar’ was even released, and the sequel one-ups the mantra. The visuals are eye-popping and it’s filled with depth and enough 3D moments that things will be coming right at you quite a lot, sometimes even in a self-aware way as seen in the berry sequence. If you’re going to go see the film, you’ve got to see it in 3D for maximum entertainment and it definitely helps sell some of those big moments in the script.
Dwayne Johnson definitely brings a level of charm to the film with him being completely self-aware that he’s in a childrens adventure, which leads to some hilarious moments like the ‘peck pop of love’ scenes but other times it leads a very hammy performance during serious dialogue scenes. He’s clearly not the best actor and those scenes end up highlighting that, but props to the guy for energising the film which is why he was cast. Josh Hutcherson is a likable hero albeit lacking emotional range, and he does a good job despite looking at times as if he’s wishing he was in the new Spider-man instead (he almost got that role). Luiz Guzman is the comic relief here and though he’s overused at times, he does a great job to lighten up the movie. Vanessa Hudgens is pretty to look at and is pretty much the only reason she’s here, since she lacks screen presence and any motive for her character to be here. The fact that all her shots are medium shots framed from the chest and above should tell you a lot about her casting choice. Michael Caine is having fun here but adds some authenticity to the film.
If you’re looking for a pretty adventure for the whole family, you could do a whole lot worse than this. It’s not nearly close to being a great film but delivers on its promise of spectacle especially in 3D. It’s probably as good as a movie as ridiculously titled ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ can be.