The Family Film of the week is Journey to Mysterious Island 2) which I watched in 3D at home. I was interested in seeing the film because Journey to the Centre of the earth was the first 3D film I ever experienced back in 2008 on a visit to London at the Millennium Dome’. There are key aspects of this first film which helps to understand the casting of Josh Hutchinson in the same role four years later as Sean Anderson, as well as the hostile, resentful and insubordinate relationship with his mother and step father. At the age of 3 Josh’s father disappeared, a Vernian, that is someone who knows everything there is to know about the writing of Jules Verne and a believer in the concepts created by the writer.
His mother deposits Josh with her husbands brother, a volcanologist for ten days who then takes John with him to investigate a development reported in Alaska. Josh who is already a rebellious uncompressing teenager takes an interest in his uncle in order to learn more about his father and is fascinated by a copy of Jules Verne’s book Journey to the Centre of the earth and his fathers obsession with the writer’s works. The two go to find another Vernian who worked with the missing brother and find that he has died but his daughter is familiar with his work and activities and shows them the radar station at the top of the top of the volcano which has suddenly given off a special signal, only for a collapse of the cave into mine working after taking shelter because of a storm This results in them falling into a tube down to the centre of the earth and into a lake where they discover a world within a world. After coming ashore they find evidence of a character mentioned in the original book and then the remains of Josh’s father who they then bury. They find the journal of his father which reveals how much he cared for his son and regretted being unable to get back to the surface to be with him.
The uncle works out that if they cross the underground ocean they could be able to reach the surface again using a geyser before it evaporates which gives them only 48 hours and during this perilous journey in a makeshift raft with sail they encounter prehistoric creatures and John becomes separated from the adults. The adults encounter carnivorous plants and the Uncle has to rescue the young woman, After this he leaves her to search for his nephew while she prepares to escape on her own if the other two do not return.
There is a further adventure invoving a dinosaur before they are able to escape asrising from a set of extraordinary events which stretch any remaining credulity and which shoots them up through Mount Vesuvius where they manage to destroy a vineyard and use one of the diamonds they have brought back to compensate the vineyard owner. Later Josh visits the now couple who have married, establ;ished a laboratory after the brother and a new home from the other diaomnds brought back and Josh notes the book Atlantic The Antediluvian World by Ignatious L Donnelly, signalling the subject for the next adventure and which surprisingly took three more years to complete.
Before explaining the links and problems created by attempting continuity with the second work in the series I will break one of golden rules about not making reference to situations involving real people where publication could lead to an identification which has not been agreed in advance and where one or more of the individual involved could still be alive. However when it comes to credulity the mention of Vesuvius reminds me of an event which still 50 years later I find difficult to believe happened as just as it was amazing at the time.
Fifty years ago I undertook a round Europe adventure with a work colleague by car visiting Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France and on our way to visit the ruins of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius from our hillside campsite near Sorrento overlooking the Isle of Capri and we gave a lift to two hitching Wrens going to Brindisi and Malta where they where stationed having failed to meet up with the parents of one in Sorrento. Pompeii is now a huge tourist centre which thousands of visitors each day whereas then we had the site to ourselves. My companion found out from a local that it was possible to reach the top of the volcano by a back road which avoided paying tolls and while again we found ourselves eventually at the top on our own we had encountered one vehicle on the back road travelling in the oppsoite direction, ,a Jaguar car, compared to my Mini traveller and by amazing coincidence the car was being driven by the parents of one of the Wrens. I turned the car round, chased and caught up with the Jaguar, no mean feat and with flashing lights persuaded it to stop where the girls were greeted with delight and amazement and my companion and I were invited to have lunch at their hotel the following day.
We had found our campsite from by two Enlish roses, the boot of whose car we had mended at a campsite in Rome. Although they and come from the site to spend a week in Rome, they said they would return if we took them to see Capri which they had not manage visit. Both girls were engaged one to married on her their return.
By coincidence they returned after the Wrens left and during the Sorrento Film festival with the gable evening to be held on the Saturday evening and my friend impressed me and them by announcing that he had obtained four tickets. The girls then amazed us by appearing with full make up looking glamorous in evening dresses while I had at last a jacket and tie which my friend did not. On arrival the official from whom he have blagged four free tickets claiming to be President of the Oxford Film Society/Festival was horrified by his appearance, and to less extent my own because everyone else was in dinner jackets and I suspect it was only appearance of our “wives” who looked starlets got us our seats in the front row of the circle, although I did break into a cold sweat when in the interval before the main feature Von Ryan Express dubbed in German with Italian Sub titles the principal guests including from the Venice and Cannes film festival were called to take a bow and say a few word on stage.
A couple of days later he had to be loaned a jacket and tie when staying with a college friend of mine in Geneva who boss took us out for drink where a round used up most of my spare cash and hen drove us across the border to a casino in France ( we had been warned to bring our passports with us) and where I watched an Asian man win and lose £4000 pounds at roulette with minutes giving away £100 tips to the croupier and to his “daughter” which I reckon would be worth at least ten times as much today and this all happened within ten days of our thirty. The rest for another time.
For me stories and acting have to be credible giving the amazing reality of my real experiences throughout life. This is where Journey to the Mysterious Island fails. The problem is with the acting especially the decision to bring in a known personality, the former professional Wrestler, The Rock, as the legal step father of Sean Anderson who is played by the same actor who played the original 13 year old now meant to be a student I would guess seventeen eighteen years of age about to or already at university college
Emotionally he plays the part of a child brought up without his biological father who he had buried at the centre of the earth and resentful of his step father despite being provided with a large wealthy middle class home, unlimited technology and books, including first/library editions and whatever else he wants.
The Rock is wooden as a character actor, and as unlikely a pairing with the young widow as any I have seen in all my film going, The other problem is that although Joseph Hutchinson did well playing an adolescent teenager in the first film he looks out of his depths in the second episode of what appears to be at least a trilogy with a Voyage to the Moon promised as next.
Having said this I thought there was an excellent use of 3D giving depth with a good and clever use of coming out of the screen moments were which timely and not always expected, While the film is based on the Jules Verne book and features Jules Verne fanaticism, the film argues that Maps provides by Verne, Gulliver’s Travels by Swift ( and which is still on my list of books to reread having seen the awful film adaptation, also in 3D), and the perennial Treasure when combined by overlaying locate the real Mysterious Island. The Volcano on the Island vents not ash but gold to be become the Treasure of Treasure Island, and in a homage to Shangri-la when the adventurers get of the cold, storm laden rocky beach they find a beautiful inner world although the golden city which the uncle takes them to visit turns out to be a derelict Atlantis
In terms of the acting the film is rescued to a degree by Michael Caine as the Grandfather and an attractive young female lead played convincingly by Venessa Hudgens as the daughter of a Palauian who own a dilapidated helicopter for flying tourists between the two hundred and fifty islands which makes up this previously unknown to me real Pacific community with a population smaller than Gibraltar. Her father is played by Luis Guzmán the Puerto Rican actor as the funny side kick devoted to the welfare of his daughter but not as convincing as she as a Palauian, although admittedly the locals are a polyglot people from bordering Asian countries.
Sean gets a feint coded radio message which he assumes is from his adventuring grandfather who has not been heard of for over two years. The film opens as the boy is running away from the authorities after breaking into a local Satellite reach centre in order to try and boost the signal of the coded message. Fortunately among the various talents of the step father is code breaking which he recognises as Morse code and it is also the step father who works out from the translated message that combining the three maps will reveal the shape and the coordinates of the location of the island with the nearest habitation the Palau Islands. Faced with the boy taking off on his own he persuades his wife to let him take the boy and to bring him back. His wife is clearly as irresponsible as everyone else for having lost her first husband, and placing the boy in the care of the brother and with father in law who is just as mad and irresponsible, she agrees.
On the capital of Palau they cannot find anyone willing to take them by ship to the location because it is notorious for weather and loss of ships (Bermuda triangle properties) despite the offer of a thousand dollars and it is this fact which the helicopter owner hears that prompts him to accept despite the opposition of the daughter and getting the fee doubled and then trebled. He wants the money to enable her to go college although he does not insist that she remain behind on what is known to be a dangerous journey.
It is his desire to enable the daughter to go to college that leads them to drive into the eye of a hurricane which appears to destroy the helicopter in mid air although somehow they managed to land on the beach rather than the sea and survive. The contribution of Swift’s book to the film is that what is big in reality becomes small and vice versa commencing with a good joke moment as the loud trumpeting of what appears to be a normal size elephant turns out to be a tiny creatures the size of a small dog.
The party then quickly find themselves walking on top of the huge eggs of a lizard who they wake and who gives chase and are rescued by the Grandfather who amazingly is on hand and has available a number of swinging pieces of wood to disable such a creature. He has been on the island for two years having been ship wrecked and taken three months to create the radio which connects to the Satellite every two weeks although he does not explain why it has taken so long to try and communicate with his grand son except one can only assume he wanted the boy to grow up a little more and because he works out the island is due to sink below the waves.
The Grand Father lives in a tree house and takes them to see Atlantis which he argues was pushed to the surface in a Volcanic explosion in century and half cycles which he calculates will again occur shortly and was the precipitating cause of wanting his grandson to see the place before it disappeared again. rather than send out a general emergency signal, or contact his other son, who one can assume the actor was unwilling to participate in this second commercial venture, The first film made close to £180 million and the second close to £250 million.
The problem is that the step father explains that shortly becomes a matter of days as surface water has become salty. The only way for them to escape is to locate the Nautilus which the grandfather hopes is mentioned in the Journal of Captain Nemo Twenty Thousand Leagues below the sea whose Tomb is nearby but where he cannot get through the available aperture which fortunately Klani, the daughter is able to do and to recover the journal. Fortunately also the grandfather can read Hindu as Nemo came from India and also knows the location, a cave on the coast on the other side of Island.
The decision is to go along the coast or the short route across the island avoiding predators and getting across a mountain chain. The way across the mountains is to fly on the backs of large bubble bees which proves a great success until they are attacked by insect eating birds. The grand son plays a crucial part in saving the daughter from certain death and then in getting rid of the last of the birds. The party find a place to sleep only to find that the speed of change to the next phase has dramatically increased and they only have hours. They find another problem in that the girl’s father has gone off to find some gold to provide for the future of his daughter. The grandfather elects to go with the daughter to persuade her father to return while the step and father and his step son to find and make ready the submarine.
Unfortunately they arrive to find that the island has sunk 100 metre with the only solution to use makeshift breathing apparatus for a once only dive, locate the vessel and open an entry hatch while evading the advance of a large electric eel. Unfortunately despite a little juice in the batteries the energy cuts immediately out and the step father hits own the idea of a harpoon with an electric lead to attach to the eel and jump start the batteries,
Meanwhile the island is breaking up including the large piece of cliff rock on which the others are looking out to sea in vain for the submarine. Miraculous the Nautilus gets going at the right time and they are able to rescue the others. There is then a knife edge move to get to free water away from the exploding island and which involves using a torpedo to break up a rock about to crush them.
The films ends six months later on the birthday of Sean with his girl friend and presumably fellow college student with his mother and step father and where the big surprise is the arrival of his grandfather who had sent a postcard from across the globe. Meanwhile back on Palau the girl’s father is successfully and profitably using the Nautilus to take visitors on underwater sea trips. There is reference to a journey to the Moon. I cannot wait!