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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

July 14th, 2012

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3-D Combo Pack

Journey to the Center of the Earth opened in 2008 with positive reviews and was a sizable hit earning just over $100 million domestically and close to $250 million worldwide. It makes sense a sequel was made. However, the star of the original decided to sit this one out, which is a bad sign. However, it still earned just over $100 million domestically and was an even bigger hit worldwide. I won't be surprised if the studio makes a third film, but will I look forward to seeing it? Or has the franchise already worn out its welcome.

The Movie

The movie begins with a voiceover telling us that the works of Jules Verne were not science fiction, but were based on real life facts. These secrets are known to those who call themselves Vernians.

We then catch up to Sean Anderson who is on the run from the cops. His escape on a motorcycle ends with him in a neighborhood pool and his step-father, Hank, having to collect him from the cops. Sean had broken into a satellite facility in the middle of the night for reasons he refuses to explain to his mom, Liz, while he simply refuses to talk to Hank. He isn't acting out because of some troubled home-life, although he is not happy with having to leave his old town behind. He recently got a message from a Vernian (he could tell because the first few words were all characters from Jules Verne's novels), but he couldn't decipher the rest. Hank recognizes the code from his days as a cryptographer in the navy and wanting to bond with his step-son, he agrees to help. The first words are "The Island is real." That's enough to get Sean excited. The rest of the code points to three books written by three different authors about three different islands. Each book has a partial map and when combined, they give the coordinates for The Mysterious Island.

With that, Sean has decided to leave for The Mysterious Island. No amount of arguments from Hank will change Sean's mind, because he's convinced the message came from Alexander Anderson, his grandfather, who has been missing for two years. Sean is going to go no matter what, but Hank convinces Liz that if he goes as well, at least Sean will be better prepared for the inevitable disappointment.

Sean and Hank's journey gets off to a rough start, as the first person they try to hire refuses to go. The coordinates they have don't point to any island, just a stormy sea where many ships have gone down. Fortunately, a braver / more foolish captain, Gabato Laguatan, is more than willing to take them there for $1000. Unfortunately, he's a helicopter pilot and not a boat captain, and his helicopter does not look good. They are about to find another mode of transport when they see Gabato's daughter, Kailani. For Sean it is love at first sight. (On a side note, this scene couldn't have been any cornier if "Dream Weaver" had been playing in the background.) Kailani isn't as desperate for money as Gabato is, but when they agree to $2000, they take off for The Mysterious Island.

The helicopter ride is short, as they come across a massive storm and the helicopter is sucked into a hurricane. But when they recover, they find themselves crashed upon a beach on an island that isn't supposed to be there. It's a desolate place, at least on the outside, but once they find their way to the center of the island, it's paradise. It is also a strange place with giant butterflies and miniature elephants. The only way off the island is to find Alexander and to use his radio to call for help. Their plan to "find Alexander" becomes "get rescued by Alexander" when they accidentally wander into a clutch of lizard eggs.

The reunion between Sean and Alexander is a happy one, but Alexander takes an instant dislike to Hank. They'll be stuck with each other for the next two-weeks, which is how long it will take the communication satellite to move into position for his radio. In the meantime, he will show the group around the island. First stop is Atlantis. The Mysterious Island is Atlantis. As Alexander explains, Atlantis spends half its time above the water, and half its time below. He's calculated it will remain above water for the next fourteen years, but Hank sees evidence, including salt water at the surface and cracks within the stone structures, that Atlantis is going to sink much sooner that that. It will sink long before the satellite comes back into position, so if they don't get off this island now, they will all die. Sean has an idea. Jules Verne wrote about a submarine, the Nautilus. If they can find it, they will be able to get off the island and not be destroyed by the storm surrounding it.

But the journey to the Nautilus might be fatal.

Have you ever been on one of those amusement park rides that are based on a movie? That's what this movie feels like. It doesn't exist to tell a story as much as it does to take the viewers on a fun ride. The plot is an ungainly amalgamation of practically every famous story about an island from antiquity to the time of Jules Verne. There's Atlantis, Treasure Island, Lilliput and Brobdingnag from Gulliver's Travels, and even a comparison to Robinson Crusoe and / or Swiss Family Robinson. And of course, there's Jules Verne's own The Mysterious Island in the mix as well. Because there are so many sources, none of them can be discussed in any great detail. Likewise, the characters don't have a lot of depth either. Gabato Laguatan is little more than comic relief. Kailani is mostly a love interest for Sean, but at least she rises above the "Damsel in Distress" trope, for the most part. Although she is rescued by Sean at one point, which is the catalyst for their romance. The main personality conflict is between Alexander and Hank, as the latter tries to prove he is worthy enough to be part of the family. It is the closest we have to character development. Because the characters are so thinly written, the acting is also not noteworthy. I'm not saying the acting was bad, but the cast didn't have a lot to work with.

On the other hand, the film has a lot of action and it is, at the very least, fun. The world our heroes are dropped into is bright and colorful with plenty of dangers to push them forward. The action can get a little repetitive and a lot of it is geared towards 3-D in the "throw things at the screen" variety, but it works for a family friendly action film. Most adults watching the film will know where it is going, but their kids should be entertained.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD are limited to five short deleted scenes and one minute of outtakes. The Blu-ray includes Are You Strong Enough to Survive Mysterious Island? You can either explore the island and discover all of the video clips, or watch all 21 minutes in the Junior Explorer mode. That's not a lot of extras on either format.

The video on the Blu-ray is excellent with an amazing level of detail, it has some of the best colors I've seen, and blacks are deep without interfering with the details. There are no significant compression issues or digital artifacts. I don't have the 3-D copy to review, but I have read that it looks even better in 3-D than 2-D, which would be high praise indeed. The audio is very strong, but not quite as strong as the video. Occasionally the sound effects overpower dialogue, but that's the only real complaint. There's plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers including ambient sounds, directional effects, pans, and more. The subwoofer is asked to do a lot and performs. Overall the technical presentation is amazing.

Right now on, the DVD is $15, the Blu-ray is $16 and the 3-D Blu-ray is $28. The DVD is worth a rental, while the Blu-ray is worth picking up. $12 more is a bit much to pay, but if you have a 3-D home theater system, there haven't been too many releases that you can use to show off your system, so it might be worth the upgrade.

The Verdict

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a good family action film, which is not quite the same as a good film overall. It's a little muddled and overstuffed, while the characters are underwritten, but the action scenes should entertain kids and maybe even their parents as well. There are not enough extras on the DVD to be worth picking up, but you can't complain about the price of the Blu-ray Combo Pack. And since it was natively shot in 3-D, with the 3-D Combo Pack, you don't have to worry about substandard post-production conversion ruining the movie.

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