“What was that?”
“It’s a scary noise in a dark cave. Keep moving.”
The question you’re probably wondering is, Why is there a “2” in the title? Is it a sequel? Well, not exactly. It’s more of a, sort of a, kind of a…continuation. Not that Hollywood hasn’t made other movie versions of “The Mysterious Island”; this just isn’t really one of them. No, the filmmakers called 2012’s “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” number “2” because it features the same young character, Sean Anderson, we met in 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” Sean now off on another adventure; and because Jules Verne wrote both stories. OK, the “2” is a stretch. I think it may have confused potential moviegoers more than enlightened them. Not that the movie itself doesn’t do that all by itself; it makes little sense in any case.
What the folks at New Line appear to have wanted in the new movie was to duplicate everything audiences liked about the previous film, which from my perspective was precious little. It means they loaded the new movie with lots of CGI, exotic scenery, and action, action, action. What they forgot was a coherent story line or halfway believable characters. And, of course, they made the film in 3-D again, so watch for the gimmicky shots meant solely to show off the 3-D process. Thank goodness the Blu-ray disc I watched is in regular 2-D, or I’d have to have endured the dim picture quality so beloved of 3-D fans.
Warner/New Line obviously intended “Journey 2” as a family picture, but the emphasis is heavily on younger members of the family. Indeed, the film may be downright insulting to most thinking adults, and since I’m an adult, that’s the way I had to view it. I can only guess at what children might think of it, although I have no doubt many of them would like it for its picturesque locales and colorful escapades.
Still, as an adult, I found the picture a typical DAM: a dumb adventure movie, where even suspending one’s disbelief entirely doesn’t help because the events are so harebrained. Don’t expect a serious family adventure here like “Jurassic Park.” This one is more like a “Jurassic Lark.”
The returning character, Sean (Josh Hutcherson), is now a few years older, in his late teens, and being a dedicated Vernian, he’s ready for another Jules Verne adventure. The big difference this time out is that Brendan Fraser, who played Sean’s uncle in the first movie, is nowhere around. Apparently, he’d seen that first film and declined any offer of returning. Replacing him we find Dwayne Johnson, playing Sean’s hunky stepfather, Hank. But Sean resents his step dad and rejects any attempt by Hank to be his friend. Needless to say, the adventure they go on together helps them bond and become a real family.
OK, so Sean is just hanging out, moody and dejected, when he gets a coded message from his uncle Alexander (Michael Caine), another dedicated Vernian, about the location of Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island.” So off go Sean and Hank (in the middle of the school year) on an expedition to the faraway isle, a place filled with majestic scenery and gigantic reptiles, spiders, and bugs.
But you can’t have just two people on an adventure; you have to have the requisite comedy relief and the requisite beautiful girl. Accordingly, Sean and Hank pick up a guide, Gabato (Luis Guzman), and his sexy daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens). The daughter just happens to be about Sean’s age; nice coincidence.
You can guess the rest. The movie sets the tone in the opening sequence where we see Sean on a motorcycle chased by two police cars as he zooms in and out of backyards and winds up in a swimming pool. Maybe the film is not so much dumb as it is stupid. Keep remembering it’s for kids.
Anyway, the movie has more than its quotient of jump-the-shark, what-are-the-odds moments: For instance, the “Mysterious Island” rises out of the sea and then returns every 140 years, and the heroes arrive just hours before it’s ready to sink. The heroes outrun a giant lizard. The heroes get around the island by flying on the backs of enormous bees. The girl falls about 10,000 feet, and Sean safely catches her. Sean and Hank devise makeshift scuba tanks on the spot to breathe underwater. An electric eel powers a submarine’s batteries. And so on.
The movie also contains any number of all-out silly moments: For example, in a homage to the famous 3-D paddleball scene in “The House of Wax,” Johnson bounces berries off his pecs and directly at the camera. A little later, perhaps in a homage to the original “Journey to the Center of the Earth” with Pat Boone, Johnson plays the ukelele and warbles a song. Then, there are those CGI critters and landscapes that look glorious but are about as realistic as a Pixar animation.
The fact is, the group of people at the center of the story are the least-appealing folks you’d ever want to be stuck with on a deserted island. Sean is a sullen, spoiled, pushy, childish character; Hank is a Superman; the grandfather (with Caine in full Richard Attenborough mode) is a dotty old know-it-all; the girl is something of a standoffish snob; and the guide is a fool. The group bicker and argue endlessly, rather lessening our enjoyment of the adventure.
Director Brad Peyton’s only big-screen movie before “Journey 2” was “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” if that gives you any idea about this newer effort. Yes, you can take some comfort in the beauty of the Hawaiian panoramas standing in for the “Mysterious Island” or in the sight of the lost city of Atlantis. Yet these are temporary diversions; the rest of the movie is pretty weak.
Warner/New Line have transferred the movie to Blu-ray disc in its native aspect ratio, 1.85:1, using a dual-layer BD50 and an MPEG-4/AVC codec. The colors range from slightly pink-purplish on occasion to bright and vivid most of the time, which is a welcome change from the colors on the earlier “Journey” movie. However, because this was originally a 3-D production, the filmmakers shot it digitally, and the PQ looks soft and mostly flat. The image has a cartoonish appearance, which I suppose suits the movie perfectly.
The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is the best part of the show. As we would expect from a modern action-adventure movie, the soundtrack displays a wide frequency response, a strong impact, and a good use of the surrounds. The midrange is fairly natural sounding, too, and bass lovers will appreciate the deep low end.
The primary bonus item is an interactive, informational map “Are You Strong Enough to Survive Mysterious Island?,” which takes you to various parts of the island and provides background material on the filming and such. There are two levels, “Interactive” and “Junior Explorer.” Next is a very brief (one minute) gag reel, followed by five deleted scenes totaling about six minutes.
The extras conclude with a meager ten scene selections; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages; French and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
Then, because this is a Combo pack, you not only get the movie on Blu-ray but on DVD and UltraViolet digital copy as well (the latter offer expiring June 5, 2014). The two discs come housed in a flimsy double Eco-case, further enclosed in a light-cardboard slipcover.
Although, as I’ve said, Warner/New Line intended “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” as a family adventure, they aimed it squarely at children, not adults. For kids, it’s fine; they’ll probably enjoy all the color, action, and preposterous goings-on. However, for adults it’s a pretty tedious affair, on the intellectual level of an old-time “Flash Gordon” serial or Donald Duck cartoon. While it’s harmless enough, be forewarned.
“It had to be a lizard. Why couldn’t it be snakes?”