Journey 2: The Mysterious Island rehashes the same basic plot as its predecessor, 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, but manages to modestly improve on it due to a better set of supporting characters and a less annoyingly obvious use of extreme foreground gags designed to exploit the 3D process. It is presented on 2D Blu-ray disc with excellent video and lossless surround audio and some moderately informative behind the scenes extras.
Directed By: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzmán, Kristin Davis
Studio: Warner/New Line
Film Length: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
Release Date: June 4, 2012
The Film ***
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a sequel to the 2008’s family oriented action and effects extravaganza Journey to the Center of the Earth. As with its predecessor, it does not adapt the Jules Verne novel of the same name, but instead tells a new story set in modern times based around the premise that Verne’s fiction was based on fact, and modern day “Vernians” are actively working to crack codes hidden in his and other contemporaneous works that will unlock the secrets to visiting fantastic locales. This sequel begins with Sean Anderson (Hutcherson - the sole cast carryover from the first film) , receiving a coded transmission that he is convinced is coming from his Grandfather Alexander (Caine) stranded on Verne’s “Mysterious Island”. With the help of his stepfather, Hank (Johnson), he makes the connection that Verne’s Island is actually the same island referenced by Robert Louis Stevenson in “Treasure Island” and by Jonathan Swift in “Gulliver’s Travels”. By combining maps from all three books (don’t ask what editions, just roll with it!), they are able to pinpoint the location in the Pacific where the island must be. With the help of helicopter tour guide Gabato (Guzman) and his daughter Kailani (Hudgens) they locate the island, but find themselves stranded, a situation the becomes more critical when they discover that the island is not so slowly sinking into the sea.
As a rule, I take offense at sequels that either barely connect the dots to their predecessor or completely re-hash their predecessor (I’m looking at you, Hangover 2). Journey 2: The Mysterious Island somehow manages to do both, and yet I found it to be overall a more enjoyable experience than Journey to the Center of the Earth. While in the first film, Hutcherson was the tagalong nephew attaching himself to his Uncle’s quest to track down their missing father/brother. This film simply flips the roles with Hutcherson now a dedicated “Vernian” dragging his skeptical stepfather along on the journey. They even shamelessly repeat the device of stranding them with a tour guide and daughter conveniently age appropriate to be a chastely romantic interest for Hutcherson.
The film still falls a long way from greatness, and, in fact, never even reaches for it. As with its predecessor, the filmmakers aspire to do nothing more than strand the characters and the audience in a 3D special effects amusement park ride for 90+ minutes. So what makes this ride more enjoyable than the first? Primarily, upgrades in the supporting cast, and the reduction of the number of eye-poking gimmick 3D gags.
Michael Caine is in full-on hammy scenery chewing mode, and while excerpts from this film will never show up on his career highlight reels, his performance is exactly what the movie calls for. His constant barbs thrown in the direction of Dwayne Johnson’s Hank character are not particularly witty or even dramatically earned in the context of the story, but they are delivered with a great deal of relish by Caine. It does not hurt that Johnson is such a good sport and not afraid to look ridiculous either, but that was also the case with Brendan Fraser in the first film. For whatever reason, there is simply a better comic chemistry between Caine and Johnson that there was between Fraser and some of his nondescript co-stars. Luis Guzman’s mix of comic buffoonery and sentimentality as the tour guide is also more in keeping with the fun and forgettable tone of the film than the more competent tour guide from the first film.
Technically, the film pours on the mid-grade creature and set extension CGI just as heavily as its predecessor, but it does not suffer from the gratuitous gimmicky 3D gags that were a distraction even in the 2D version. While watching this 2D Blu-ray, a viewer can easily recognize how many scenes were staged to take advantage of 3D effects, but Director Brad Peyton steers clear of the temptation to constantly throw things into the camera.
In summary, the film presents a modestly fun, mostly preposterous, and ultimately forgettable action and effects romp that will likely please its target audience of ten year olds. Who knows? It might even trick them into reading a Jules Verne book.
The Video *****
This 1080p AVC-encoding approximates the film’s original aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 frame. Image quality is top notch and near reference quality throughout. The film was shot digitally, which was a sensible decision given the amount of CGI compositing involved, but the filmmakers do a good job of avoiding digital artifacts to create a pleasingly cinematic look despite the absence of any and all film grain and the occasionally garish design of the island on which much of the action is set.
The Audio ****½
The film's sound mix is provided courtesy of a DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 multi-channel encoding. The mix frequently shines with aggressive use of surrounds to create an enveloping effect, but occasionally collapses to a more conventional front oriented soundfield at moments where it does not seem dramatically necessary to do so. Fidelity is solid throughout the whole film, so viewers need not worry that the dulcet tones Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s singing voice during his musical number will be in any way harshened by the audio mastering.
The Extras **½
All extras are presented in 1080p AVC-encoded video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio unless otherwise noted below.
When the disc is first played, the viewer is greeted with the following promos presented in AVC encoded 1080p video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio unless otherwise indicated below:
We Can Be Heroes anti-African hunger PSA (2:12 - 720p video)
a Warner Blu-ray 3D promo (1:50 - Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio)
Proper on-disc extras include the following. All are presented in 1080p AVC-encoded video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio unless otherwise noted below:
Are You Strong Enough to Survive the Mysterious Island (21:07 w/"Junior Explorer" Option) is a series of featurettes that are viewable in either of two selectable modes called “Interactive” and “Junior Explorer”. The “Interactive” mode asks the user to make a selection after each featurette that guides them towards another section of an interactive map that corresponds to another featurette. The “Junior Explorer” mode simply plays all ten featurettes straight through in a predetermined order. Both modes are preceded by a 24 second introduction from Josh Hutcherson (“Sean”). Once all ten featurettes are viewed in either mode, the viewer is treated to a congratulatory message from Hutcherson and a minute and a half of outtakes from the film. The featurettes themselves mix behind the scenes information about various sequences and design elements of the film with related “real life facts” from experts in biology, geology, scuba diving, and Jules Verne. The featurette topics and durations are as follows:
- Giant Lizard (1:56)
- Atlantis (1:51)
- Tree House Set (1:45)
- Giant Flowers (1:50)
- Volcanic Mountain of Gold (1:36)
- Giant Bees (2:15)
- Glowing Mushrooms (1:23)
- Captain Nemo’s Tomb (2:10)
- The Ocean (Water Tank) (2:04)
- The Nautilus Submarine (2:12)
During the featurettes, on-camera comments are provided by Biology Teacher Zovig Minassian, Special effects Supervisor Peter Chesney, Production Designer Bill Boes, Director Brad Peyton, North American Jules Verne Society Member John Goodwin, UC Riverside Professor of Comparative Literature and Jules Verne Expert George Slusser, Geologist Linda Tandy, Dwayne Johnson (“Hank”), Hutcherson, Michael Caine (“Alexander”), Vanessa Hudgens (“Kailani”), Supervising Art Director Bruce Hill, Construction Coordinator Gary Krakoff, Producer Beau Flynn, Visual Effects Supervisor Boyd Shermis, Scuba instructor Katie Rowe, Catalina Adventure Tours President Jeffrey Stickler, and Producer Tripp Vinson.
Gag Reel (1:15) is a mercifully brief assemblage of on-set flubs, falls, and goofing around set to fast paced music.
Deleted Scenes (5:54) is a collection of five scenes that did not make the final cut of the movie. A number of them feature unfinished effects which appear as crude animatics and/or blue screen backgrounds mixed in with the live actors. The individual scenes are not selectable from the disc menu, but they are encoded with chapter stops between them. Scene descriptions follow:
- Discussion by the group of five island adventurers about how animals can survive an unusual recurring event that happens to the island
- Some extra arguing between Sean, his mother, and Hank after Sean’s arrest at the beginning of the film. This scene directly references the events of the previous film.
- Alexander, Kailani, and Gabato face some additional jeopardy from falling pillars
- A fairly long scene from early in the film where Hank seeks parenting tips from one of his employees on a construction site
- Some additional congratulations, teasing, and sentimentality near the end of the film aboard a submarine
SD DVD A copy of the film on SD DVD is also included in this two-disc "Combo Pack". The SD DVD includes DD 5.1 audio tracks and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish, and reproduces the Gag Reel and Deleted Scenes special features from the Blu-ray. When first played, the SD DVD includes a series of promos, some of which are not present on the Blu-ray disc. They are presented in 4:3 letterboxed video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio unless otherwise indicated below:
- WB Insider Rewards Promo (1:18)
- Warner Blu-ray Promo (1:53)
- We Can Be Heroes anti-African hunger PSA (2:13)
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Blu-ray/DVD Trailer (2:27)
- Wrath of the Titans Blu-ray/DVD Trailer (1:58)
- LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes Video Game Trailer (1:22 - 16:9 enhanced video)
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter Promo (1:32)
Ultraviolet Digital Copy The disc also comes packaged with an access code for an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film. This allows users with a Flixster account to access a streaming version of the film on computers and certain tablets and mobile devices. It also allows viewers with Flixster Collections software to download a copy to their computer's hard drive.
The Blu-ray and SD-DVD discs are enclosed in a standard-sized Blu-ray case with hubs on both inside covers to secure them in place. The only insert is a two sided sheet with information on how to redeem an Ultraviolet digital copy on one side and a promo for the Warner Insider Rewards program on the other. The hard case is enclosed in a slipcover that reproduces the same cover art with the addition of some promotional graphics concerning the inclusion of the SD DVD and Ultraviolet Digital Copy.
Note: To read HTF 3D Addict Ron Epstein's review of the 3D Blu-ray release of this title, please click here.