In Hollywood, the trend has gone from hoping for a sequel to a popular film to expecting it. This is the case with 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” — which starred Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson. We now have a follow-up in “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.” With only Hutcherson reprising his role as Sean Anderson, we have an entirely new cast, director and adventure on our hands that will once again take us into the fictional world of a Jules Verne classic story and bring it to life.
A few years after his adventure to the Center of the Earth, we catch up with Sean Anderson, who has grown into a young man vying for adventure. His escapes with his father had led him to seek out and look into every case of a possible Jules Verne novel being based off of true events. This had led him into some trouble with the law and his mother’s (Kristin Davis) new husband Hank (Dwayne Johnson) — who only wants to connect with his new stepson.
When an encoded message is received by Sean, Hank helps him to decode it and they are led on a scavenger hunt through classic novels to learn that the transmission is a message from Sean’s long lost explorer of a grandfather, Alexander (Michael Caine), that give the coordinates for the location of the mysterious island wrote about in Verne’s 1874 book “The Mysterious Island.”
Hank and Sean are off to the island of Palau to charter a boat to the location given in the message — which happens to be out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. When no boat is willing to go, there the duo find a solution in helicopter tour pilot Gabato (Luis Guzmán) and his beautiful young daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), who agree to take them out into some very dangerous areas for adequate compensation. When the helicopter crashes in the midst of a storm the four wash up on a deserted beach where there should be no island at all.
Upon exploring they make their way into the tropical core of the island and Alexander. Just like in the novel, things that are supposed to be big are very tiny and creatures that are normally very small are colossal in size. This leads to danger and adventure as the group set off to explore this magical place and discover its secrets. Danger abounds when they figure-out that the island’s massive volcanic activity is set to sink the island in a matter of hours — not years as Alexander had thought.
While “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was a fun family film that really utilized 3D in film before 2009’s “Avatar” gave this technology its major push. I never would have thought that there would be a sequel five years later, but with only a single actor reprising his role, a new director and a completely different fantasy adventure at hand, “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” has the same basic premise but still feels like its own entity.
Director Brad Peyton has experience with family-friendly films and therefore knows how to treat the genre and the audience to a thrilling time. Filmed in the beautiful Oahu, Hawaii, they used some gorgeous scenery mixed with state-of-the-art visual effects and 3D to let the viewer become immersed in this world.
While “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was a vehicle for Brendan Fraser, the sequel has done that for returning star Josh Hutcherson. Dwayne Johnson is a replacement for the fatherly figure left absent by Fraser not returning, but still takes a back seat to Hutcherson. As usual, Luis Guzmán is full of comic antics throughout the film as he unknowingly puts himself in peril most of the time. Vanessa Hudgens is pretty serious for the majority of the film — the complete opposite of her father — but her character loosens up and has more fun as the film goes on. Michael Caine is great in whatever he does and has many funny quips and lines throughout the film. It was especially fun to see him mock Johnson’s character, constantly arguing with him and calling him by the wrong name repeatedly. The cast as a whole worked pretty well together and made for a dynamic and fun family film.
Not a film to go in thinking logically, it is best enjoyed when you suspend reality and don’t try to justify certain actions or sequences because it will pull you out of the moment. Just have fun and enjoy the great use of 3D and visual effects. While the movie might be a little cheesy for certain adults, there is no denying that kids will be enamored with what they see on screen. With giant lizard chases, air battles on top of enormous bees, underwater exploration and walking through the lost city of Atlantis there is barely anytime for your eyes to get bored.
“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” finds its way into theaters Feb. 10 and will be available in eye-popping 3D as well as 2D and is rated PG for some action adventure and mild language.
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