3D CG creepy crawlies are positively Brandoesque next to the cardboard human characters.
2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth, a theme-park ride that adopted the form of a 3D B-movie, was a high-tempo action-adventure that played almost exclusively to its visceral strengths and easy charm. Again drawing inspiration from Jules Verne (famed author of 'The Mysterious Island' and '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea'), Journey 2 swiftly reveals itself to be too overloaded and too clunky to be worthy of the same faint praise bestowed upon its predecessor.
When Sean (Josh Hutcherson) decodes a distress signal sent by his grandfather (Michael Caine) – the sole inhabitant of the eponymous Island – he sets off in an effort to find him. Assembling a motley crew that includes Sean's step-dad (Dwayne Johnson), a helicopter-pilot and his teenage daughter (Luis Guzman and Vanessa Hudgens), the film initially centers on the search for Sean's grandfather, then on their efforts to escape the island before sinks into the ocean. The island's vegetation and wildlife – much of it sci-fi-huge insects and creatures – must, of course, be negotiated in this humdrum race-against-the-clock adventure.
While the filmmakers have made an ill-advised attempt to give more motivation and back story to what is essentially another bland, 3D roller-coaster ride, they do however succeed in creating an impressive backdrop for the island's CG inhabitants. Alas, bumble bees big enough to carry two humans each and a lizard the size of a bus (fearsome, once awoken) are more convincingly-rendered than their human co-stars.
Journey 2's comic relief (there's lots of it, most of it unsuccessful) is left largely in the hands of a one-note Luis Guzman. Vanessa Hudgens – the only female in the film who's not Sean's mother – fills in Romantic Interest detail, while Dwayne Johnson showcases his unique abilities by demonstrating a series of ever-more-routine party-tricks: his popping pecs of love and ukulele-accompanied rendition of 'What a Wonderful World' are amongst the film's most cringe-inducing moments.
With the threat of yet another Verne-inspired sequel looming large in the film's final moments, one can't help but recall Anna Karina's line in Godard's Pierrot le Fou: "We've played Jules Verne too long..." Yes. We have. Enough already with these uninspiring jaunts – especially if no effort is going to be made to stimulate our curiosity and imagination in a way that would truly honour Verne's enchanting writings.
The sequel to a film which was itself an extended FX test reel? No thanks!
The 3D CG creepy crawlies are positively Brandoesque next to the cardboard human characters.
Roll on part 3?