Journey 2: The Mysterious Island in 3D Review
The human race is collectively stupider for each child that watches this film.
I am in all ways a man of my word. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped at the Warhammer tournament and as I promised in punishment went last night and saw the Mysterious Island. This movie is actually one of the hardest for me to review, as from a cinema point of view it is the movie equivalent of blunt trauma to the head: painful and potentially brain damaging. However, as I scan a few other reviewers I respect the phrase “good for what it is” keeps cropping up like a returning herpes sore and I have to admit, taken in the context of “moronic entertainment for kids with a story that won’t have parents wanting to kill themselves” it definitely qualifies.
I did not see the first one but honestly, I don’t think I missed much. I have read a lot of Jules Verne and watched a lot of Scooby Doo, which seems to be the basis for this movie. The problem is of course how to review it? If I treat it like a kids movie I won’t have a lot to say. If I treat it like an adult movie (and based on how much the camera lingers over Venessa Hudgens (Sucker Punch, High School Musical) very skimpy outfit outfit an argument could be made that it is an adult film) I will be dumping all over it but be revealing to the world what a bitter and horrible soul I am at heart.
I think the answer is, like most bad comprises, to jump both ways. I will review it like a childs film but raise a lot of the points I would have raised if it were an adult film, thus creating more work for me but in truth probably writing something a little more entertaining. I will try to keep my complaints about the really, really, horrifically bad science to a minimum. Sufficed to say science and technology will have been set back 10 years when the generation of kids watching this film grows up to become scientists and have the items in this film rolling around in their subconscious (anyone else remember Idiocracy? Brawndo shirt image courtesy of the Movie T Shirt category).
So the story. Sean (Josh Hutcherson-American Splendor, the Kids are All Right, Journey to the Center of the Earth) hates his stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson (NOT the Rock)-Fast Five, the Rundown, the Scorpion King) and wants to decode a secret message in Jules Verne code from his missing grandfather Alexander (Micheal Caine-Batman Begins, the Dark Knight, The Prestige, Children of Men). Turns out Hank is a construction worker who also is an expert code breaker and he and Sean solve the complex code in about 14 seconds. It is a map and coordinates of a mysterious island of some kind out in the Pacific near the island of Palau, a small country who’s official language is happily English. In an attempt to bond with his stepson Hank agrees to take Sean out there to find this island. Once they land they find that the only person crazy enough to take them to “the most dangerous part of the oceon” is the incredibly goofy Gabato (Luis Guzman-Boogie Nights, Anger Management, Carlito’s Way) and his incredibly hot daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens). They board the most decrepit helicopter in the history of aviation and in the 7th worst decision in the history of the world (after the decision to air the Star Trek episode Spock’s Brain but before M&M’s decision to not let their candy be featured in E.T., passing it over to Reeces Peices) opt to fly into the mother of all storms.
They crash, of course, and wash up on the beach of some mysterious seeming island completely uninjured. At that point the adventure begins and they travel the island, coming across many wonderfully stupid and impossible creatures (I know I said I would avoid bitching too much about the scientific impossibilities of the things in this film, but there is a phenomenon known as scaling and strength of materials that tells us why giant ants and tiny elephants couldn’t exist. For the most part they wouldn’t be able to breath). They find Alexander in about 2 minutes and it turns out they are all experts of one type or another in tectonic plate activity, biology, archeology, and jungle survival. They find out the island is sinking (and does so ever 140 years. Sorry to be a pill but do they really think an entire complex ecosystem can develop that quickly?) and have to get out. The only way to leave is to find the hidden Nautiless, the submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea left hidden on the island 140 years ago (again, sorry about this, but the fact is my dad once left a car on a driveway for two years and when he wanted to move it had to replace the battery, tires, and about half the hoses. I don’t think a 140 year old abandoned sub would really be seaworthy).
Anyway, from a child’s point of view this movie is fun, with cool giant creatures running around on and some funny, dopey dialog. Visually impressive, and will probably make a ton of money both here and overseas. I think what I object to in this and a lot of other children’s movies is the missed opportunity to enhance rather than degrade a young persons education. Would it have been so hard to write in a few actual scientific facts that were based on reality, thus making this film slightly more less worthless than the giant sodas sold at the concession stands? I understand that Jules Verne took a liberal hand when it came to science, but still. A movie for children should, in my opinion, have something other than empty calories. That being said the kids in the audience seemed to be loving it, and I can’t argue with that.
However, if I were to treat this as an adult film I would give the film the following stars and black holes:
Stars: Vanessa Hudgens is super hot, and the movie apparently had a limited wardrobe budget when it came time to buy her shorts as there wasn’t a lot of material in them. One star. Some entertaining moments between the characters, especially the dislike and needling that Hank and Alexander had at first for each other. One star. I am a big fan of Michael Caine. One star. The CGI and camera work, while not really state of the art, worked well together and delivered some pretty impressive images. Also this is one of the few movies I have seen wherein the 3D actually enhanced the film and didn’t just leave me with a headache (actually I was headache free from this. Weird). One star. Total: four stars.
The black holes. For the most part the characters were all pretty flat and two dimensional. One black hole. As a fan of science and technology I found concepts offered here to be really offensive, and hate to imagine teachers dealing with kids thinking that you can ride a giant bee in school for the next few weeks. Three black holes. I don’t know if I can call what I perceived as plot holes plot holes, as they all seemed to derive from the concept of “we are here to make really bad decisions” (for example: Alexander is trapped on the island and makes a radio out of coconuts or something. He can only transmit every two weeks and so when he has the chance he sends out his message in a code that only one human on the planet, assuming he is even listening, will understand. Why not just send out a regular SOS and get rescued? The castaways on Gilligan’s Island would have taken him out back and beaten him with a 2×4), but the plot holes were annoying the crap out of me. One black hole. For the most part the characters were all in a secret contest to see who could be the most annoying movie character of 2012 (Luis Guzman won IMO, although Dwayne Johnson was a close second). One black hole. At one point we are forced to listen to Dwayne Johnson sing while accompanied on a ukelele. One black hole. Total: seven black holes.
So a grand total of three black holes, which is shockingly less that I thought I would give walking into the movie, assuming I were treating it like an adult movie. Should you go see it? As an adult absolutely not. If you have kids they will probably enjoy the hell out of it, but understand that you are opening their brains to all kinds of oddball future theories, such as aliens, Bigfoot, the government orchestrated 9-11, flat tax is good for everyone, or creationism. Odds are pretty good you will want to own a copy as it will keep your rugrats out of your hair for 94 minutes.
Thanks for reading one of my most disjointed reviews. Not a lot of new stuff right now, but next weekend is looking really good. In particular I am looking forward to Acts of Valor and dreading Wanderlust. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu and feel free to post a comment here. If you don’t tweet and want to ask me something or make a suggestion privately email me firstname.lastname@example.org (email me in particular if you are in any way associated with an upcoming movie and want to invite me to an advanced screening in the Bay Area. I would like to get these out before they are released if possible. I promise I will buy popcorn and not text). Talk to you soon.