Journey 2: The Mysterious Island: Sort of a Sequel
by Andrew E. Lindsay
Journey to the Center of the Earth came out in 2008 and starred Brendan Frasier as Trevor
Anderson, a volcanologist whose 13-year-old nephew, Sean (Josh Hutcherson) is supposed to
spend ten days with him while his mother moves to Canada.
Sean's father, Max (Trevor's brother), had disappeared years before, and because of some notes
Trevor found in a copy of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth that belonged to
Max, the pair set off for Iceland.
Along the way, they meet Hannah (who has some connection to the scientific institution whose
tower has been transmitting data that Trevor and Sean are following). The three of them end up
in a cave and then fall into a very deep pit that plops them out in a strange world where Max
apparently lived (and died).
The rest of the movie involves the trio trying to get out of the center of the Earth, but first they
have to survive a lot of strange creatures, geysers, a T-Rex, and an inordinate number of life-threatening 3-D obstacles.
No big surprise, they all make it out alive, Trevor and Hannah having fallen in love in the
process. Sean returns to Mom, having bonded with his uncle while having been able to put his
father's memory to rest.
The movie ends with a not-too-subtle suggestion that Sean and Trevor had a sequel in store after
Trevor gives Sean another book, The Lost City of Atlantis.
Fast-forward to 2012. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island appeared to be a sequel to something,
but it wasn't immediately apparent to what. What was apparent was that this movie starred not
Brendan Frasier, but Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) as Sean's stepfather, Hank. So there's no
"Trevor" to give us a clue, and it's hard to recognize Josh Hutcherson as Sean because he has
grown up a lot since the first film and now looks like a young man instead of a kid.
We have no idea what happened to Uncle Trevor, or when Mom got remarried, but this is
definitely intended to be the sequel to the other Jules Verne-inspired film. The other clue that
helped me realize this was the sequel was the gratuitous use of 3-D effects.
When the first movie came out, I attempted to watch it in 3-D because everybody was raving
about how much better the new 3-D stuff was than the old 3-D stuff. Those goofy red/blue paper
glasses were now replaced with goofy Buddy Holly glasses with fuzzy lenses, coupled with
supposedly superior cameras and projectors and software, and well, this was like the greatest
thing since the Renaissance or the Industrial Revolution or something.
So I watched it in 3-D. And I watched Avatar, and a couple of other movies, as well. And the
one thing they all had in common (besides the goofy glasses) is that they all gave me a headache.
For starters, I already wear glasses. Not for aesthetic reasons, but because I need them to see.
And since I've just got the one nose, well, there's not a lot of room for a second pair of
spectacles. Well, they fit, of course, but looking through two windows at the same time is
annoying and uncomfortable and quickly becomes a distraction to watching the film. Almost as
big a distraction as the 3-D effects themselves.
I know there are some really big directors and producers in Hollywood who are betting the farm
on the future of 3-D, and you may be a fan yourself of the startling realism of stuff flying off the
screen and whizzing past your head. It is kind of funny to watch a theater full of people ducking
and dodging in unison to avoid being clobbered by a cannonball or a rocket ship or a butterfly,
but if I'm being amused by that then I'm probably not watching the movie, which was the
original reason I coughed up the ten bucks.
To me, the story is sacrosanct. Character development is essential. Cinematography can
powerfully motivate a story and breathe life into the characters. Good sound is imperative. A
skilled editor can weave all the pieces of this visual tapestry into a thing of beauty that moves me
to tears, to laughter, to surprise, to deep thought.
There are so many layers of intricate balance in this art form, and it is remarkably difficult to
pull it all off successfully. I stand in awe of every well-made film I see, appreciative of the
thousands of hours and the collective talents and skill-sets of hundreds of people to make this
sensory ensemble take shape. And for the same reason, I am baffled at what all the fuss is about
This film, for example, apparently decided that whatever success the first film had was not due
at all to the plot, however thin it may have been, but was achieved primarily because of its
dazzling 3-D special effects. Ergo, we should skip the plot entirely on the next go-round and
double up on the 3-D. Perfect.
I decided to forego the 3-D-ness, and just watch the plain ol' 2-D version. Unfortunately, the
intended 3-D bits were so obvious that even while watching the regular version I was constantly
reminded that I was watching a 3-D movie. The effects were so blatant and so gratuitous that my
suspension of disbelief was constantly jerked out from under me, reminding me that this was a
movie and that I clearly should have brought my Buddy Hollys along to really enjoy it.
3-D distractions aside, there were also plot holes big enough to park a Buick in. Dwayne Johnson
is a decent actor with a knack for comedy and action, and this film should have provided plenty
of opportunities for both, if only the writers had remembered to include a plot of some sort to
hold the gags and death-defying deeds together in some way we could care about.
Also wasted were the talents of Michael Caine, whose resume is so long and impressive it would
take another column just to get started. I doubt, however, that when Michael Caine is reflecting
on the body of his life's work that this film will even cross his mind, at least not in a positive
Josh Hutcherson turned in an adequate performance, but I liked him much better in The Hunger
The storyline, such as it is, starts with Sean inexplicably being chased by the police on his
motorcycle, which he crashes rather unceremoniously in a neighbor's swimming pool. Stepdad
Hank is buddies with the cops, who perform the double duty of calling Hank and convincing the
neighbors not to press charges, thus avoiding embarrassing headlines.
Returning home, Sean is rude to his stepfather and dismissive of his mother, both of whom want
some sort of explanation for his behavior. Hank follows Sean to his room, and, in an attempt to
make some kind of connection with his stepson, helps him decipher a coded message sent by
Sean's grandfather Alexander (Caine), and the next thing you know they're off to some far
corner of the world, where they charter a helicopter to fly to a mysterious island that doesn't
appear to exist to find Grandpa.
The helicopter pilot is played with his usual moronic charm by Luis Guzmán, and his attractive
daughter who just happens to be about Sean's age is played adequately by Vanessa Hudgens.
The copter crashes with the four of them in a hurricane on a remote beach, they wander through
a cave and then pop out on the other side in a magical world with bulldog-sized elephants and
bumblebees the size of Clydesdales.
Alexander has somehow built a Swiss Family Robinson-type treehouse with all sorts of pseudo-conveniences, including a radio that only transmits every three weeks or something, whenever a
particular satellite is in a particular orbit. He seems to know everything about this strange world,
including how it disappears beneath the ocean every 140 years or so and then pops back up in the
tradition of Brigadoon.
No explanation as to how any of the plant or animal life survive that extended submersion, but
that's a moot point since Hank figures out in a matter of minutes that Alexander's calculations
are off by weeks, and the whole island is going to sink in a matter of hours. This prompts a hasty
cross-island trek to find Captain Nemo's submarine, the Nautilus, which is conveniently parked
in a cave on the other side of the island.
Oh, and there's a volcano that is erupting and the ash is made of gold, which means the mountain
must be made of gold, too, so the pilot becomes very distracted from the fact that they're all
going to die and he heads off to grab some nuggets so he'll have enough money to send his
daughter to college.
We also learn, at a critical moment, how to jump-start a submarine battery using a giant electric
If it seems like I didn't enjoy this movie, it's only because I didn't. But that doesn't mean you
won't or that your kids won't. It's pretty family-friendly, unless you're really fond of plots.
If, on the other hand, you can live on eye-candy alone, eat up. There's plenty of silliness and
excitement and stuff flying off the screen, so you may be pleasantly distracted long enough to
not realize the emperor has no clothes.
At the end of the movie after wrapping everything up in a very pretty (but empty) box, the
creators of Journey 2 even had the audacity to position themselves for yet another sequel, and
they're probably just stupid enough to make it.
Andy Lindsay can frequently be overheard engaged in conversations that consist entirely of repeating lines of dialogue from movies, a genetic disorder he has passed on to his four children and one which his wife tolerates but rarely understands. When Andy's not watching a movie he's probably talking about a movie or thinking about a movie.
Or, because his family likes to eat on a somewhat regular basis, he just might be working on producing a TV commercial or a documentary or a corporate video or a short film. His production company is Barking Shark Creative, and you can check out his work here www.barkingshark.com.
Andy grew up in Frederick, Maryland, but migrated south to North Carolina where he met his wife, Deborah, who wasn't his wife then but later agreed to take the job. Their children were all born and raised in Greensboro, but are in various stages of growing up and running away.
Andy (or Anziano Lindsay, as he was known then) served a full-time mission for the Church in Italy, and today he teaches Sunday School, works with the Scouts, and is the Stake Video Historian.