Ratings: 2 out of 5 stars
“Who’s up for an adventure?” asked a beaming Alexander Anderson (played by Michael Caine who can still run at his age). That question heard in trailers - and asked about three more times throughout the film - set the premise to what is to be an action-packed journey through an island where the only mythical thing about it is that its ecological system is flipped--small animals are huge and vice versa. And as the credits rolled, we caught ourselves asking, “What adventure?” Honestly, without the ingenious idea of changing the ecological system, the film would have been over in 30 minutes.
It’s a challenge not to deal the “Mysterious Island” with a comparative yardstick from its prequel, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” which was one of the first few films that jumped on the 3D bandwagon and succeeded (grossing over a $100 million in the US box office alone). The most masterful 3D effects that its sequel had was a giant eel rushing towards us that got us flinching only because we were reaching for the popcorn. While “Center of the Earth” had a strong storyline; “Mysterious Island” on the other is just one quick dud of a scene after the other.
Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson reprising his role from the prequel) returns, this time as an angst-ridden teenager still hungry for adventure. Lots had happened to him since he journeyed to the centre of the earth; his father is still missing, his uncle (Brandon Fraser from the prequel) is probably out adventuring somewhere else, and his mother (Kristin Davis) has a new boyfriend, Hank Parsons (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) who tries his to get on his potential step-son good books.
While trying to talk some sense into Sean’s reckless behaviour of breaking into a satellite site, Hank found out that the kid intercepted a Morse-coded message believed to be from his grandfather Alexander. Hank who was once a code breaker in the Navy (convenient inclusion of a skillset), helps Sean to figure the message out. Sean explained that his family lineage is that of the Vernians, a small group who believe the works of science fiction author, Jules Verne. Understanding this, Hank realized that the coded message actually points to three books: Robert Louis Stevenson's “Treasure Island”, Jonathan Swift's “Gulliver's Travels” and Verne's own “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. Hank tears the maps from each book in a swift Rock-like action and layer it on top each other, producing a map of the mysterious island. No sweat.
Hank is efficient and reliable throughout the film, which is cheaply given credibility with the writers letting him say things like, “I was once from the Navy”, “I was the best code-breaker then”, “I have a construction business” or simply, “I know what to do.” And he does, with the latter two quotes eloquently providing him the knowledge that the mysterious island will sink in a day or less, and of course, to jumpstart and eventually drive an ancient submarine. Don’t know how to make an oxygen mask out of nothing? Ask Hank. He even sings and plays the ukulele.
Everything about the film, from character development to storyline is offered without any form of build-up and at times, painfully woeful. Tour-guide Gabato (Luis Guzman) urges his daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) to permit him to fly both Sean and Hank to the island that everyone else is too frightened to go. Why? So he can save up to put her through college. The college-card was played again when a scene-extension was needed giving Gaboto a reason to ignore the fact that the island was going to sink and instead head towards the gold-spewing volcano. Why and how does the volcano spew gold? Who cares? Certainly not the writers. Oh, let’s just say that it’s ‘mysterious’.
However, kids between the age of 2 and 10 would definitely love the film. Elephants small enough to be lifted off the ground, riding on bees, dinosaur-sized lizards chasing the characters around, lush and colourful botany and impressive scenic landscapes -all kid-friendly stuff. The saving grace for adults to enjoy this film can be found in the rare but effective humour delivered by Hank, particularly in his advice for Sean on how to win a girl’s heart that involves jiggling those pectoral muscles; a role that Dwayne seemed to be most comfortable in other than actually acting.
“Mysterious Island” is a quick antidote if you’re craving for a feel-good film. Other than seeing the children partake in a little make-believe 3D action-adventure journey through the film, the pain might come with you having to sit through it.