If you walk into the theatre to watch Journey 2: The Mystery Island — the sequel to the Brendan Fraser vehicle Journey to the Centre of the Earth (2008) — expecting anything more than a family-friendly adventure flick, then you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Inspired by the literary adventures crafted by Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Journey 2 borrows the locales and myths from classic novels like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Treasure Island and, of course, The Mysterious Island, but crafts its own modern tale. In the movie, Verne and Stevenson’s books are actually based on a real island, and act as a guide for the characters who find themselves stuck on a beautiful island teeming with unusual animals and harboring a deadly secret that drives the action in Warner Bros.’ latest 3D blockbuster.
Does it deviate away from what you would expect from a formulaic adventure film? Absolutely not, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the film is a bad one. On the contrary, Journey 2 does a lot right — by sticking to the staples of the action-adventure genre.
The five main characters are all straightforward archetypes: Sean (Josh Hutcherson, the lone returning cast member from Centre of the Earth) the restless teen lead who seeks adventure, Hank (Dwayne Johnson) the brawny-but-loving step-father who seeks his step-son’s approval, Sean’s grandfather and intrepid explorer (Michael Caine), Gabato (Luis Guzmán) the bumbling dumdum pilot and his daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), Sean’s sexy love-interest throughout the film. Despite their initial shallowness, they are offered just enough character development for you to become invested enough to care about them.
The plot is predictable, but lively — things move along at a fast enough pace that it doesn’t matter if you figure out the next twist two steps before the characters on screen do. Besides, if there were many lagging moments the audience might have time to question the loose premise behind how they figured the location of the mysterious island, or exactly how an old man could manage to survive on the island for so long, presumably in seclusion, filled with so much peril and danger.
The film looks gorgeous, and just like its groundbreaking predecessor the 3D aspect of the film becomes one of its strongest selling features. The actors all provide adequate performances, and provide plenty of PG comedic relief, but in the end it’s mindless entertainment that doesn’t offer any new lessons or morals that we haven’t already learned in previous entries in the genre.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
WORTH NOTING: “Daffy’s Rhapsody”, the second Warner Bros CGI short that features both Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd in 3D is screened before the feature film. Featuring an original story based on a recording of famed voice actor Mel Blanc from the 1950s, the short was an unexpected treat for myself. It was interesting to see how the violent slapstick comedy from the classic Warner Bros cartoons transitions into 2012. It’s not the smoothest transition, but largely because of the source material it feels like a genuine extension of the original Looney Tunes world into the CGI, 3D world.
Recommended, if you’re looking for a mostly light-hearted popcorn flick that does what an adventure film is supposed to.