It seems there’s a pervading opinion that children’s entertainment doesn’t have to be good. Any criticism of a work of art intended for the younger members of our society is almost immediately met with cries of “oh come on, it’s just for kids.” It’s a strange form of hypocrisy given that most parents almost always want the best for their kids, except, apparently, when it comes to films. Films seem to get a pass no matter how shitty they may be. But if your kid’s sick and needs a doctor, you want the best possible doctor to treat them. It’s an unfathomable double standard. There should be no shame in demanding better films for youngsters, and, unfortunately, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is not one of those better films.
The film centers on Journey to the Center of the Earth lead Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson), who receives a coded message that he randomly decides must be from his long lost grandfather. Despite his hatred for his mother’s new guy, The Rock, the two team up to break the code, which says that Jules Verne’s writing about a place called The Mysterious Island was fact and not fiction. The island exists and so Sean and The Rock take off for the island of Palau to find the so-called mysterious island. They team up with helicopter pilot for hire Luiz Guzman and his pretty daughter (Vanessa Hudgens), who just happens to be about Sean’s age, crash land on the island and find Sean’s grandfather (Michael Caine), who hates The Rock for no reason at all. But they soon discover that the island is a ticking time bomb and they have to find a way off it before it’s too late.
Journey 2 picks up with virtually no mention of Brendan Fraser, who I’m fairly certain was a big part of the first film. Luckily, the sequel is blessed with the presence of Michael Caine, a fantastic actor with no idea what he’s doing in this film. Caine decides to be a complete asshole to The Rock from the moment they meet. There’s some debate as to the cause of this, though it appeared to me as if Caine was a dick to The Rock because he was Sean’s stepfather. Apparently the film wants kids to know that step-parents aren’t real parents and should be hated and have their authority undermined at every turn. In fact, during one of the more mentally painful scenes of the film, Caine actually says the words “you’re not his real dad” as if biological parents are the only ones who should be obeyed. Way to go, Warner Bros., nice moral values you’re espousing for America’s youth!
The film’s near-constant use of CG is frankly terrible, giving the viewer absolutely no sense that the actors were ever riding giant bees or interacting with the graphically created world in any way. For a film that supposedly cost almost $80m to make, it should have at least halfway decent effects. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. As if the CG wasn’t bad enough, the 3D just makes it worse. 3D already separates elements on to different planes which only serves to enhance the unrealistic effectl there’s no dimensionality and having live and CG elements separated out onto different planes just makes it all the more obvious that the CG stuff isn’t real.
To illustrate how woefully inept and irrational the screenplay is, allow me to describe a scene from late in the second act. The Rock has pulled out his scientific gobbledygook to explain how the island is sinking and will be completely underwater in a few days. As the group travels across the island headed for their only means of escape, they find that the volcano that’s recently started erupting is shooting flakes of pure gold in the air. Obssessed with the idea of bringing home pure gold, Sean demands that the group head towards the volcano. The Rock explains that this detour will take them several days out of their way. Sean takes this to mean that The Rock doesn’t want him to have any fun and Michael Caine joins in arguing that Sean should be able to do what he wants. NO ONE SEEMS TO REMEMBER THAT THE ENTIRE FUCKING ISLAND WILL BE UNDERWATER AND THEY WILL ALL DIE IF THEY TAKE A TWO DAY JOURNEY TO GET GOLD FROM THE DAMN VOLCANO! It’s such a frustrating scene to watch, you just want to yell at the screen, or better yet, at the screenwriter for insulting our intelligence like that. And not just the intelligence of the adults in the audience – this is a pretty basic plot hole that the average decently intelligent 7-year-old could grasp.
This film is a pathetic mess of awful CG, ridiculously illogical plot points, and questionable morals that is frankly insulting to adults and kids alike. It manages to to stay somewhat watchable thanks to The Rock’s charisma and sheer force of will, coupled with Luiz Guzman, whose befuddled one-liners as the good-natured fool provide the only genuine laughs not caused by the amazing control The Rock has over his pectoral muscles. Sean and the girl end up together mainly because the script says they’re supposed to and not because of any character arcs or developments which give reason for them to like each other. There are plenty of films aimed at children that don’t assume the children in question are dumb and it’s not asking too much to expect a film to be good regardless of its intended audience. Journey 2 is a failure on nearly every level.
The Upside: The Rock’s charisma and pec-popping, Luiz Guzman’s goofy playfulness.
The Downside: Everything else, especially the CG and Michael Caine’s poorly constructed character.
On the Side: While Journey 2 is supposedly a sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth, the book entitled The Mysterious Island was actually a sequel to Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.