THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND"
Journey to the Center of the Earth, released in 2008, was the first movie I saw projected in the modern digital 3D format, and it blew me away. While by no means a brilliant work of art, I found it to be a fun adventure with some enjoyable, effective uses of the extra-dimensional format. Now there is a sequel, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which will be released on Blu-Ray combo pack, DVD, and for download on June 5. It is every bit as goofy-fun as its predecessor, even if seen in 2D (which is precisely how I saw it).
Josh Hutcherson returns as Jules Verne-obsessed teen Sean Anderson. After receiving some strange messages over his ham radio, Sean becomes convinced that his grandfather has found the island Verne referred to in one of his famous novels. In an attempt at bonding, Sean's stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson) agrees to accompany him to Palau, where they will rent a boat and locate the coordinates sent in the message. The boat idea falls through, so they hire a shady helicopter pilot named Gabato (Luis Guzman) with a daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), to whom Sean takes an immediate shine. While searching for the location, they are all sucked into a tornado and dropped right in the middle of an incredible island, complete with giant bumblebees, tiny elephants, and Sean's explorer grandpa, Alexander (Michael Caine). While the island is indeed a paradise, Hank determines that it is also sinking quickly. The group must find a way to get back to civilization before it's too late.
You have to give Journey 2 some credit: its biggest flaw is also its most admirable trait. Everyone in this movie is a de facto scientist. They all know more than the average person when it comes to matters such as plate tectonics, the eating preferences of rare birds, and the hunting techniques of lizards. Whenever a problem presents itself, someone in the gang knows the answer, as though possessing a doctorate in the subject. But I get it...the movie wants kids to know that science is cool and useful. And that's kind of excellent.
The characters are not totally believable, and there are a heck of a lot of predictable elements (i.e. a dull Sean/Kailani romance, a standard subplot about Sean learning to accept Hank as his stepfather, etc.). Still, those things don't really matter because Journey 2 has some inventive ideas that compensate for the weaknesses. There's a giant lizard attack, a chase scene with all the characters riding on bees, and a finale that involves a massive electric eel and one of Verne's most iconic creations. Such moments are self-knowingly grand, designed to give you an over-the-top thrill. The island itself has been stunningly created, too. The filmmakers have made it a suitably dreamlike place. I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. Journey 2 tapped into the young boy inside of me, the one who dreamed of exciting experiences in magical places, with thrilling discoveries waiting to be found at every turn.
Both Journey pictures have existed to tap into their young target audience's sense of wonder. I find it difficult to be too cynical about them. The cast is appealing (especially Luis Guzman, who gets some funny one-liners) and the whole movie has such an air of giddy adventure that I had a good time with it. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is charming, in spite of its imperfections.
( out of four)
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is available on Blu-Ray combo pack, DVD, and for download on June 5.
The bonus material begins with “Are You Strong Enough to Survive Mysterious Island?” which is an interactive map feature hosted by Josh Hutcherson. By navigating through the various areas, you can access short behind-the-scenes segments that show how the visual effects were achieved. Experts also appear to explain some of the science related to the story's events. As a reward for successful navigation, you get a brief gag reel.
A second 2-minute gag reel is also accessible through the main menu (it's not very funny), and there are a few short deleted scenes. Nothing exceptional here, save for a scene that explains original Journey star Brendan Fraser's absence from the sequel.
The picture quality on the Blu-Ray is magnificent. The images are so bright and clear that, quite frankly, it didn't even matter that I was watching the film in 2D; the effects often felt almost 3D anyway.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is rated PG for some adventure action and brief mild language. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.
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