Monday, November 26, 2012

The Cinema File #42: "Journey 2 - The Mysterious Island" Review



Why do actors I like always insist on being in movies I hate? Damn you Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, damn you and your bouncy pectoral muscles!

I've mentioned my aversion to 3D in the past, so you can imagine my level of distaste for movies like Journey 2, which seem to exist solely for the purposes of wacky in your face 3D action scenes. My biggest problem isn't even the glasses, or the higher priced ticket, or even the overall unnecessary addition of a 3rd dimension to a medium that already has the illusion of depth. My biggest problem is the audacity and short sightedness of creating a movie designed to only be relevant in theaters in the age of home entertainment. Let's face it, 3D television is not becoming ubiquitous, and that's regardless of whether or not the whole 3D fad ultimately passes in the next few years. To make a movie that can only be enjoyed with 3D glasses in a theater, as if the majority of viewings aren't going to be at home on mostly 2D screens, is just dickish. And trust me, while I didn't see this in 3D, that's clearly where all the money went. I don't know if it was worth it, but there's certainly nothing else to enjoy about Journey fucking 2.



Journey 2 - The Mysterious Island is from what I understand a completely unrelated sequel to the Brendan Fraser film Journey to the Center of the Earth, which I did not see. This story follows a young teenage boy obsessed with Jules Verne who discovers a secret coded message via satelite that leads him to a secret map hidden in three classic works of literature, which in turn leads him to Palau, and eventually the titular mysterious island. And this is in like the first fifteen minutes. The uncanny speed with which the location of this long lost island is discovered would be ridiculous in itself if the method were not completely absurd. A list of names of characters from Jules Verne books is syllabically converted into Morse code, spelling out a series of riddles that point to three books, The Mysterious Island, Gulliver's Travels, and Treasure Island. In a miraculous leap of logic, we're told that all of these books were not only based on a real island, but the same real island, and that the maps inside each book, when pieced together, complete the picture and provide the coordinates. The thing is, there's no way this would work unless the publishers of these three specific editions of these three books knew where the island was, in which case, it wouldn't be a fucking secret, now would it? And again, that's the first fifteen minutes, and my head is already hurting.

So the Rock and his plucky young douche bag of a step son charter a flight to the middle of the ocean piloted by Luis Guzman and his daughter Vanessa Hudgens, eventually, by which I mean insanely quickly, stranding them on the island. It is here that we meet the boy's grandfather, an inexplicably British explorer played by Michael Caine. Sorry, I'm jumping ahead a bit. First, the kid's a douche bag. Why? I don't know, but they establish his angsty pouting bullshit from the beginning, and it just gets worse from there. I don't get it. Dude, the Rock is your step dad and you're pissed about it for some reason. I already love the guy more than my own actual father, and I've never met him. And the grandfather is British despite no one else in his family having a British accent. And yes, Luis Guzman and Vanessa Hudgens are as insufferably annoying and terribly wooden respectively as you might imagine, if not more so. As the group travels across the island in search of a means to get home, they bicker and bond at various points, but none of it seems organic to the story. The Rock and Michael Caine have this weird random animosity towards each other from the beginning, and some scenes come out of nowhere, like the one in the trailer with The Rock bouncing berries off of his chest, which just seems weird and I would say tonally off if there was any established tone to cling to.

Once the shallow bullshit set up gives way to the island exploration, Journey 2 ceases to have any semblance to an actual movie, and just becomes a series of scenes strung together that are designed to look really good in 3D with a bunch of shit flying at your face, loosely interspersed between random literary references like Atlantis and Captain Nemo that do not carry any of the weight the movie seems to think they do. Ultimately this only really amounts to two extended chase sequences, one with a giant lizard, and the other riding on bees and running from two birds. And by god do these scenes look chintzy. I don't normally comment on special effects in my reviews, because I tend to watch a lot of low budget stuff and using visual effects as a standard is often unfair, but when that's the only thing your movie has going for it and the only thing you seem to care about, the least you can do is make it look marginally good. I thought Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter's CGI looked bad and reminiscent of a videogame cutscene, but this movie makes that one look like freaking Rise of the  Guardians. I mentioned in that review that Rise almost showed how useless 3D was by being so beautiful in 2D, and this movie is the flipside of that same argument. This is all about the 3D stuff, and its terrible, and I can't imagine it was that much better with the glasses on.

And this may sound like a small thing, but when they aren't being chased by some big fake looking monster, there's no time taken in the film for slow moments of majesty and wonder. I don't believe that these people are actually walking around in an amazing place full of amazing things. I know they aren't, and most of this is green screen and sets, but all it takes is a subtle moment of awe in the faces of the people supposedly experiencing this to sell me on that experience. Instead, things go by so fast, moving from one lame action beat to the next, that none of it is memorable and I buy none of it as real even within this fantasy world, because the characters don't seem to care about any of it. And If they don't care, why should I?

Okay, you probably weren't going to see this movie, or if it seemed interesting to you, you probably already did. But if there are a few of you out there on the margins who were for some reason waiting for this 3D movie to come out in 2D, or if your one of those weirdos who actually owns a 3D television, please, don't bother with this shitty, shitty movie. Go see Rise of the Guardians again, as I assume you've already seen it at least once as I told you to earliar this week.
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