An old-fashioned adventure romp that wraps newfangled cinematic trickery around a ramshackle plot, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a knockabout sequel to 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, notable at the time for being the first feature film to employ the digital 3D camera rig James Cameron was then developing for Avatar.
That film sent teen Josh Hutcherson and uncle Brendan Fraser on a modern-day adventure loosely based on Jules Verne’s classic tale. For the sequel, Verne is again the inspiration. Hutcherson’s stroppy teen Sean is back too, but with Fraser absent, it’s Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson taking the film’s avuncular role as the boy’s awkward stepdad Hank.
The 3D rig is also present and the filmmakers are clearly so impatient to begin flinging objects at the viewer that when Sean comes upon a coded signal that appears to come from Verne’s Mysterious Island, the cryptic puzzle is solved in about two minutes. Soon enough, bits of debris come whizzing at you when the pair, having journeyed to the South Pacific, fly into the eye of a hurricane in the company of Luis Guzman’s two-bit helicopter pilot Gabato (the film’s comic relief) and his feisty daughter Kailani, a buxom Vanessa Hudgens.
Fetching up, of course, on Verne’s island, the quartet encounter a series of evolutionary freaks – from tiny elephants to giant bees – plus Sean’s missing grandfather Alexander – played by a twinkling Michael Caine. The film itself is as good-humoured as Caine’s performance, with laughs and spills sprinkled throughout. The thrills, though, are very mild – indeed, the scariest thing around isn’t any one of the island’s predatory beasts but the sight of Hank tutoring Sean in the art of wooing by bouncing berries off his prodigious chest, a truly alarming trick he calls the ‘pec pop of love’. Ugh!
On general release from Friday 3rd February 2012.