Look, You're Not Indiana Jones!
Journey to the Center of the Earth was one of the earliest 3D movies in this recent revival of what would already be the very tired 3D gimmick that has been invading our theatres, especially when films take the easy way out to convert to 3D during post production just to milk a few more bucks out of a weary audience. And this weariness now extends to this sequel with only cast member Josh Hutcherson returning as Sean Anderson, in a follow up story that's loosely set in yet another Jules Verne novel called The Mysterious Island.
But the premise also incorporates other novels such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, Jonathan Swift's Gilliver's Travels and Verne's own 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with the former two being a bit of a riddle that Dwayne Johnson's tough guy Hank Parsons, the beefcake needed to fill the void left by Brendan Fraser who played Sean's
Yes, The Rock becomes superman here, well muscled so much so that mating rituals involve jiggling those pectoral muscles. As foster father to Sean, he tries hard enough to fill those shoes left behind by a dad who had taken off (easy way to write off a character from the past and saving him for potential installments), and thought that bringing Sean to an adventure of a lifetime of the latter's choosing may well be the antidote for the teen to open up and accept him. They meet up with tour guide Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) who together with her chopper flying dad Gabato (Luis Guzman), they head of to the coordinates that Sean and Hank possess of the location of Mysterious Island, and soon finds themselves stranded, and chancing upon Sean's long lost grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine), an adventurer who has been residing on the island for the longest time.
So begins an extremely quick and summarized tour of an island that is paradise, except for its ecology turned upside down where large and small animals in our part of the world, become complete opposites there, where elephants fit the palm of your hands, and monitor lizards, centipedes and other creepy crawlies becoming dinosaur like in proportion. After discovering just about every lost world fable and associating them with elements in this story, it's soon decided that the island will eventually submerge in a few days then reduced to hours, if the motley crew does not then decide to abandon island and look for a way out and back to the real world. Cue the all important montage sequences of traversing on top of mountains and the like, with generously short pit stops to admire unnatural landscapes such as a volcano that spews gold.
As an action adventure movie for children, this film served its purpose well, despite flaws that only accompanying adults will find distracting. There's the quintessential chase on foot by enormous beasts, taking to the skies riding on gigantic, friendly bees while being tailed by predator birds, and diving deep into the ocean to do battle with electric eels the size of sea serpents. These may sound like a lot of fun, but somehow director Brad Peyton, whose filmography other than a series of short films is Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, his inexperience in crafting energetic, edge of your seat material (at least like those in the original film which were really effective) was found to be wanting. For all the writers available to craft the story and screenplay, Journey 2 is surprisingly lacking in character development - save for some really lightweight foster father-son bonding - and packs in plenty of plot conveniences that demands you to accept everything on screen that happens at face value, albeit at times resolved quite randomly as well.
In some ways this may prove to be effective for the young ones without the need to grasp complex plotlines, but to the adults you'll just have to make do with being distracted by Vanessa Hudgen's outfit in the show with that really low cut tank top. Michael Caine plays his grandfatherly figure for the umpteenth time, while Luis Guzman is just there to contribute comedy. Dwayne Johnson as the lead in a family friendly film tones down his tough guy persona and flashes those pearly whites all too often, while showcasing that he has an incredible singing voice that will probably delight fans that he can one day star in a musical should age catch up on him and he finds himself no longer welcomed in a future Expandables movie.
The 3D effects weren't really worth the hike in price, and pales in comparison to the earlier installment which had effectively utilized the gimmick to add an extra dimension (pardon the pun) to its set action sequences. Watching it on an IMAX screen provided that little bit of scale and spectacle, however you'd know that the landscapes are all make belief, with the action-adventure portion let down by the lack of inventiveness for the characters to throw themselves in. The spirit of adventure and the excitement found in the first film, were sorely lost in this installment decide having bigger names attached to the cast.