Nominally a sequel to 2008’s underwhelming Journey to the Center of the Earth, this new spin on Jules Verne’s classic tale is in fact a very silly adventure with only a vague connection to its source material. Josh Hutcherson, as the teen “Vernian” adventurer Sean Anderson, is the only returning cast member; Brendan Fraser is MIA, so in steps Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as Sean’s new stepfather Hank. Sean believes he’s located the island that Verne was writing about in his book, and that his grandfather (Michael Caine) is marooned on it. So Sean and Hank set off for the South Pacific to rescue him, enlisting en route a helicopter tour guide (Luis Guzmán) as comic relief and his daughter (Vanessa Hudgens) as eye candy.
Where Journey 1 (as it wasn’t called) tried and failed to be a tongue-in-cheek adventure yarn in the style of Fraser’s The Mummy, Journey 2 elects to sit firmly in the Camp camp. Big colourful special-effects sequences follow one after another so quickly there’s barely time to laugh at the daftness of it all. You want to complain at what they’ve done to the story and the paint-by-numbers script which makes very little sense at all (apparently Mysterious Island, Treasure Island, Lilliput from Gulliver’s Travels and Atlantis were all one and the same place), but when you’re having fun watching Michael Caine riding a giant bee, why bother?
It’s clear why Johnson signed on: credited as co-producer, it was filmed largely in his native Hawaii and the script gives him plenty of room to show off his sculpted torso, as well as his not-all-that-bad singing voice. Johnson’s always a likeable screen presence and has no problem with sending up his action hero image, which he certainly does here. If you’re a fan of The Rock’s nipples, then this is the film for you.
On a side note, Johnson seems to be the go-to man for propping up ailing franchises at the moment; he injected more muscles in to Fast and Furious 5 in 2011, and later this year will be seen in G.I. Joe 2, after the majority of the first film’s cast were given the boot following its mixed reception. I have no problem with this – any action blockbuster would stand to benefit with Johnson on its team, simply because he has more charisma than a thousand Paul Walkers.