WBRi Movie Review - Journey 2: The Mysterious Land (2012)

Film Poster - Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)Calcutta, Feb 4, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) Action-adventure has always been a favourite genre among Hollywood filmmakers. While movies like ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Lord Of The Rings (trilogy)’ were path-breaking action-adventure flicks from the ‘90s and the early 2000s, directors went on (successfully!) churning out immensely entertaining and high-quality movies of this genre during the latter half of the last decade too (think ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘Inception’). The advent of 3D technology enhanced the popularity of this genre of movies further, with directors now being able to add that extra bit of realism and glitz in their films. Not all such action-adventure flicks were uniformly good, however. The Eric Brevig-directed 2008 flick, ‘Journey To The Center Of The Earth’ is a prime example of a rather disappointing movie that belongs to this genre. Brad Peyton (of ‘Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore’ fame) now returns with ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Land’, a sequel to the rather ho-hum earlier movie. While Peyton manages to show off his directorial skills quite effectively in this film, ‘Journey 2’, on the whole, is a relatively drab affair.

The movie opens with young ‘Sean Anderson’ (Josh Hutcherson) trying to escape from the police after a botched up attempt at accessing a remote signal from a satellite research center. ‘Sean’, however, does not manage to avoid the authorities and is duly handed over to his step-father ‘Hank Parsons’ (Dwayne Johnson). However, ‘Sean’s troubles had not entirely gone to waste. He had managed to get hold of a satellite transmission code, which sounds like a mix-and-match of several disjointed and incomprehensible words. In a bid to bond with ‘Sean’, ‘Hank’ (whose relations with his stepson had always been rather strained) solves the code, which seemingly gives the directions to a certain strange island (from ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, ‘Treasure Island’ and Jules Verne’s ‘The Mysterious Island’ novels). ‘Sean’ is convinced that it is his long-lost grandfather, ‘Alexander Anderson’ (Michael Caine), who is sending out the signals, in an attempt to let his family know that the so-called ‘Mysterious Island’ has finally been discovered.

Trailer: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (English, 2012) Film

As soon as the meaning of the satellite signal becomes clear (at least to ‘Sean’!), the young man makes up his mind to follow the code to find the Mysterious Island and reunite with his grandfather. ‘Sean’s feeling of conviction is, however, not shared by his mother ‘Liz’ (Kristin Davis) or ‘Hank’. In spite of their doubts, the couple decide to accompany ‘Sean’ in the latter’s mission to find out the island where his grandfather (probably) is now living. On their way, they meet ‘Gabato’ (Luiz Guzman), a travel guide and his daughter, ‘Kailani’ (Vanessa Hudgens). The team of five moves faces, and overcomes, a series of adverse situations and adventures to finally reach the Mysterious Island, where they indeed come across ‘Alexander’ (thereby vindicating Sean’s belief!). End of a brief, but thrilling, journey? Not quite!

‘Hank’ comes across sufficient evidence to prove that the Mysterious Island is gradually sinking, due to the shifting of underwater tectonic plates. Contrary to ‘Alexander’s calculations (which erroneously showed that it would be years before the island would start to sink), it is discovered that the plates were already moving and in a matter of few days, the island would totally go under water. Our protagonists can survive only if they are able to find the mythical submarine, ‘The Nautilus’, and manage to make their escape from the island while there is still time. The rest of the movie unravels in a series of action-packed incidents, adventures, thrilling combats (one of them with an electronic eel!) and unpredictable plot twists, as the lead characters desperately try to find their way to safety. Do they manage to overcome the enormous odds that seem to be stacked against them? Readers can get the answer on the big screen!

‘Journey 2:The Mysterious Island’ offers nothing new in the way of storyline or plot treatment, that could have made it stand out in the assembly-line of action-adventure movies that Hollywood currently churns out with alarming regularity. In fact, the film bears remarkable similarity with its predecessor, with ‘the center of the earth’ being replaced by a ‘mysterious island’ in this movie. While the movie has a relatively small running time (90 minutes) and has a fairly racy screenplay (which is an absolute must in any adventure/thriller flick!), the narrative is not strong enough to keep the viewers hooked throughout the entire length of the film. While the film does boast of fantastic CGI special effects, the audience can easily get bored during the relatively lengthy expository sequences in the movie.

The movie stands on solid ground as far as performances from the members of its cast are concerned, though. Josh Hutcherson, as ‘Sean’ (the only character in the film who had also been present in ‘Journey To The Center Of The Earth’) does a good job of portraying the character of a feisty and somewhat insubordinate teenager onscreen. The reason behind his sudden, unflinching determination to access satellite codes and (after he had done so) the strong urge to meet his grandfather at some godforsaken, remote island are, however, never explained in the movie. While the acting talent that Hutcherson possesses is evident in the film, the actor suffers from a somewhat half-hearted characterization. Kristin Davis, as ‘Sean’s mother, does not have much to do (apart from, of course, alternately looking frightened and determined, as most characters in adventure movies generally do!). Luiz Guzman, as ‘Gabato’ is decent in his role of a travel guide who tries his best to overcome his inherent cowardice and ensure a secure future for himself and his daughter. The character of ‘Gabato’ provides some much-needed moments of comic relief in this heavy-duty movie. Vanessa Hudgens, as ‘Kailani’, the young lady who catches the fancy of ‘Sean’, is believable as the brave and aggressive daughter of ‘Gabato’. In the film, Hudgens looks supremely sensuous too (although few would manage to look otherwise if dressed in tank tops and khaki shorts for an entire movie!).

The performances of Michael Caine, as ‘Alexander’ and Dwayne Johnson, as ‘Hank’, are, however, the standout features of ‘Journey 2:The Mysterious Island’. Caine proves once again that he has lost nothing of his grand screen presence with the passage of time. The veteran actor is provided with a meaty role (a relative rarity in razzle-dazzle adventure film!) and Caine enacts his part in the movie with evident relish. One of the best special effect sequences of the movie features Caine on top of a giant-sized bee (now, that’s something!). The presence of Michael Caine (in fine fettle too!) provides a much-needed boost to the film.

Dwayne Johnson, as ‘Hank’, also comes up with a stellar performance in ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’. Like any good actor, Johnson manages to rise above the distinctly mediocre and unoriginal script to lend some self-deprecatory charm and humour to his character. The brilliant manner in which Johnson portrays the character of a fun-loving man who is trying to reach out to his stepson is indeed worth a special mention. It is also endearing to see the beefy actor merrily singing along while playing a ukulele. Johnson is one of the very few contemporary actors who have been successfully working in hardcore action flicks (‘Faster’, ‘Fast Five’) and syrupy, honey-coated films (‘Hannah Montana’, ‘You Again’) and his act in ‘Journey 2’ is sure to win over quite a large number of new fans. Hats off to Dwayne Johnson for yet another grand performance!

‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ is technically superb. The opening chase sequence in the film, where ‘Sean’ is trying to escape from the police, is brilliantly shot and appears realistic onscreen. The film owes its visually opulent look to the stunning camerawork of David Tattersall. The background score of the movie is, however, jarring in most parts.

The technical gloss and finesse of ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’, however, fails to cover up for the gross inadequacies of the done-to-death script of the movie. The dialogs are predictable and mostly banal and the narrative becomes rather predictable after a certain point in the movie. Indeed, viewers are likely to feel a distinct sense of déjà vu while watching the film (since it offers precious little in addition to what is shown in the popular television series ‘Lost’, or, for that matter, countless other movies of the same genre!). There was considerable room for further (and better!) character development of the lead actors too.

‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ features sincere (read: ‘excellent’ for Michael Caine and Dwayne Johnson) performances from almost all of its cast members, a racy (if somewhat inconsistent!) narrative and fantastic cinematography (the film looks even more spectacular in 3D). However, the clichéd storyline and the lame plot twists of the film never allow it to become anything but a routine (and slightly dumb!) action-adventure fare. The movie has an open ending (surprise!), indicating that a third instalment in the franchise might arrive in future. If the makers indeed go on to make another sequel to this movie, they would be well-advised to pick a strong storyline first!

‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ is marginally more enjoyable than its predecessor, ‘Journey To The Center Of The Earth’. However, given the quality of the latter film, that is not saying much!

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