Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson does “serious” in this solid drama about a committed father who sets out to catch a group of fearsome drug dealers in the act in order to get his first-time offender son off the hook and out of jail. A clear departure from the more outright action-oriented work the actor has been putting out recently, this was certainly more deliberately paced than expected, but not without its moments. Johnson is helped along the way by a strong supporting cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Michael Williams, Jon Bernthal and Barry Pepper’s scene-stealing goatee.
Following the success of 2008’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Warner Bros delivers a second outing based loosely on 19th century science fiction literature. Originally planned to involve a trip to Atlantis, this was later changed, and we now have teenage hero Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) pairing up with his new stepfather, Hank (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and heading off to the South Pacific in search of Sean’s elusive grandfather, Alex (Michael Caine).
What becomes immediately clear is that the film doesn’t expect its audience to have more than a passing knowledge of Jules Verne or his collective works, despite the fact that characters frequency rattle off references as if it were as universal as the alphabet. The mysterious island of the title apparently influenced not only Verne’s novel of the same name, but also Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. In reality, this simply allows the film to cherry-pick the best elements from all three works to produce an island of monsters, volcanoes, hidden treasures and all manner of weird and wonderful surprises.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson slips easily into the role of Hank, who is conveniently a former naval officer, which conveniently explains his build and proficient map reading skills. However this does nothing to inform his experience as a parent, as he seems only too willing to indulge his troubled step-son in an insanely dangerous, not to mention rather expensive, journey to other side of the world. There they are joined by a comedy sidekick (the always reliable Luis Guzman) and his daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), who is of perfect age not only to interest Sean, but also help him learn something about chivalry and responsibility before it’s time to go home.
Sadly it is Michael Caine who gets lost amongst the tall grass and computer generated beasties. His character of carefree adventurer is a relic in the tech-savvy 21st Century, and while pitching Alex somewhere between Alan Quartermaine and John Hammond from, it never rings true. Known to take roles in the past based purely on their shooting location, one can’t help but wonder whether the tropical climes of Hawaii were again to blame for Caine’s involvement.
Journey 2 is for the most part an inoffensive, if rather disposable, mid-range sequel that nobody was really asking for, brimming with acceptable if unremarkable special effects. Shot in 3D (which is the least offensive way of accommodating the entirely unnecessary format), director Brad Peyton does deliver some engaging set pieces featuring giant CGI lizards and insects, which entertain while never approaching photo realistic quality. That said, the film feels derivative and smacks of unoriginality throughout. Strange criticism for a sequel inspired by a literary classic perhaps, but a pervasive sense of deja vu hangs over the entire production that we have seen all this done bigger and better before.