The Anderson family sure have a knack of getting lost in Jules Verne-ian places! After going in search of his missing father in Journey To The Center Of The Earth back in 2008, Sean (Josh Hutcherson) gets a strange encoded message from his grandfather (Michael Caine), which once deciphered says he’s stuck on the Mysterious Island in the South Pacific. Sean gets his new stepdad, Hank (Dwayne Johnson), to agree to take him there, with the man hoping it will be a bonding experience.
It proves difficult to get to the island, as it’s surrounded by massive storms that cause them to crash land on the isle along with their guide, Gaby (Luis Guzman), and his daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens). The Mysterious Island lives up to its name, as it’s full of beasts that are small in normal places but gigantic here, as well as lost cities, a gold spewing volcano and possibly Captain Nemo’s submarine. However their biggest problem is that shortly after they’ve found Sean’s granddad, they discover the island is about to sink beneath the waves and they’ve only got a day or two to escape or they’ll all drown.
When Journey To The Center Of The Earth director Erik Brevig left Journey 2 and was shortly followed by Brendan Fraser, the omens didn’t look good for this sequel. While the hiring of Dwayne Johnson as the new male adult lead was a positive move, getting Brad Peyton in to direct didn’t seem such a great plan – after all, his only previous film was Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, which wasn’t exactly a masterpiece of the cinematic form. It’s a nice surprise then that despite the bad signs, the movie turns out to be a lot of fun. Not good, but fun.
Although it sometimes feels like a theme park ride and there are a few too many moments that were presumably designed to look good in 3D in cinemas but just seems a bit odd when flattened down on TV, it has great forward momentum and a good sense of humour. Every time it threatens to become so dumb you give up, it moves on to something else. By the time it reaches the conclusion it completely throws logic to the wind and you just have to go with its whimsical nonsense.
I did kind of wish Sean wouldn’t keep suggesting there was some sort of scientific logic to what’s going on, just in case any children takes it seriously, as not only is Journey 2 unscientific, it doesn’t actually make any sense. Indeed it has a kind of anti-sense, where what it says is true about the island one second is completely contradicted the next – with neither being able to be the whole truth if what we’re seeing it actually happening. However if you don’t think about anything and don’t mind the fact it’s constantly contradicting itself, it is entertaining.
It’s largely due to the cast that it works, as they have the right level of earnestness mixed with a slight edge that they know it’s a bit silly (well, all except Vanessa Hudgens, who seems to be trying to perfect a style of acting that involves no intonation or cadence whatsoever). Without Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine and the sweet toughness of The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson it would be a horrible mess of CGI and people running from giant animals, but they make it fun. You even get The Rock singing a song. What more could you want?
The film does try to make a small apology from its dicking around with science as well as the liberties it takes with the various Jules Verne novels it borrows from, by including a ‘Can You Survive Mysterious Island’ Interactive Adventure in the special features. This mixes behind-the-scenes footage with teachers and Verne fans talking about the ideas in the film and trying to right some of the liberties it takes. There’s also a gag reel and some deleted scenes.
On Blu-ray it looks extremely good, with bright, vibrant colours, sharp edges and great contrast. It’s certainly the best way to view this hyper-coloured world and the audio is strong too.
Overall Verdict: Silly, utterly nonsensical and constantly contradictory, Journey 2 is nevertheless entertaining family fun, which is definitely aimed at the kids more than the adults.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac