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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

U.S.: Brad Peyton, 2012
Fans of the elaborately senseless should have a field day at Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. This movie — which is a sort of a sequel to the 2008 3D hit Journey to the Center of the Earth, and is sort of based on Jules Verne’s 19th century science-fiction classic Mysterious Island — is one of the silliest, goofiest shows I’ve seen in quite a while: an expensive-looking, visually plush but often witless concoction that bears only the most tangential connections to the previous movie, to Jules Verne, to narrative logic, to good storytelling, or to the vacation glories of Hawaii, where part of the movie was shot.
Why? It’s a mystery.
This new 3D show, an all-time champ at straining credulity, starts with a whopper: teen adventurer Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson), the only refugee here from the first Journey, is arrested for breaking into a U.S. satellite-tracking station so that he could decipher the mysterious Help message sent to him (for some reason in code) by his explorer/grandfather Alexander, who has found the Mysterious Island that author Verne only pretended was a fiction, but is actually fact. (According to this movie, Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels and the legend of Atlantis are also non-fiction and are all parts of some pseudo-literary mish-mash.)
One would think that the obnoxious Sean — who apparently learned no lasting life-lessons from previous series star, the now departed Uncle Brendan Fraser at the Center of the Earth — was on his way to the slammer. But he’s rescued by his mom’s (Kristin Davis) amiably hunky new guy, Hank, played by The Artist Formerly Known as The Rock — a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson.
Soon, lippy Sean and the tolerant Hank, clutching Alexander‘s mysterious instructions, are on their way to the Pacific to rescue Alexander from some dire fate on his uncharted and mysterious island, after hiring the most rickety looking helicopter around, with the most unreliable-looking pilot (Luis Guzman as Gabato).
By amazing happenstance, Gabato also just happens to have a fetching and feisty teenaged, tank top-clad daughter named Kailani, just Sean’s type and a perfect part for Vanessa Hudgens.
Together, the strangely confident foursome fly off in Gabato’s copter, which looks like it was put together from old eggbeaters — and are immediately sucked into a hurricane that tears the unfortunate vehicle apart and tosses the quartet right onto the Mysterious Island‘s mysterious beach, where they rise up amazingly perky and ready for more mystery and adventure.
Soon they bump into Alexander, played by Michael Caine, who has decided to celebrate the fifty-first anniversary of his appearance in The Day the Earth Caught Fire by making an utter fool of himself, while earning an ungodly amount of money. (As if to clue us in, Caine plays much of the movie with a sneaky smile.) And they are all merrily on their way to Alexander’s Swiss Family Robinson style tree-house, stopping on the way to engage in comical bickering, to slide over some giant lizards eggs, flee the Mama Lizard, ogle the island’s weird flora and weirder fauna (which includes midget pettable elephants and giant rideable bees), and try to help cast-mate Guzman break the Guinness world record for nonstop mugging.
But, alack, more trouble is aboil. At Alexander’s, after examining maps and using his mysterious home-made radio or maybe just cogitating, our happy wanderers learn that the volcanic island is due to blow up and sink into the ocean the next day — no, make that today, in a few hours. And their only means of escape, is to somehow locate Captain Nemo’s more than century-old submarine The Nautilus, and set sail for Oahu or thereabouts, with Guzman still mugging away. How did this happen? It’s a mystery.


A formidable task, but our heroes and heroine are up to it. (Did you ever doubt it?) Along the way to the credits, The Artist Formerly Known as the Rock treats us to a performance of the Louis Armstrong favorite “What a Wonderful World,” with his own ukulele accompaniment; advises Sean on his love life, smiles constantly, and tops it off by bouncing berries off his popping pectorals, making for an unprecedented 3D experience.

More mysterious problems pop up (like pectorals). Gabato wanders off at almost the last minute to prospect for the Island’s gold in order to pay for his daughter’s college education. And Hank and Sean put on an amazing breath-control act when they find the Nautilus. As Roger Ebert notes, perhaps in awe: with that one breath, they dive underwater, find the ship, unscrew the hatch, swim aboard (still underwater), find the controls, fix them, start up the air, start up the engine and do three choruses, in another underwater locker, of “My Baby Does the Hanky Panky,” while dancing The Swim. (No, just kidding — at least about “Hanky Panky.”) Soon they are all safely sailing off for more mysterious adventure, rejoined by Hudgens in another tank top, by Caine, still sneakily smiling, and by Guzman, who gives up prospecting, and resumes his pursuit of the world record. Go Luis! Can he make it before another island mysteriously blows up? It’s a mystery.


By now, some of you may believe that this review is only an elaborate joke and that no such fiasco was ever committed to celluloid. You’re wrong. It was. (Or something very like it.) Screenwriter-cousins  Mark and Brian Gunn (Bring It On Again) really wrote this script. The actors, a talented and tolerant bunch, really said the lines — and without breaking up into helpless laughter. (Unless there’s a blooper reel.) Brad Peyton, of Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, really directed it. The technicians and effects guys really made bees you can ride on.

And huge audiences are swarming into theaters to see this silly but not unentertaining movie — and, I hope, to cheer on Luis Guzman. What would Jules Verne have thought of it all? Is this what we can expect from the big Hollywood movies of tomorrow? It’s a mystery.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon