Thursday, 8 March 2012

I now hate everything: Journey 2: the Mysterious Island

This review can also be found at The Yorker, here.

Good god, I hated this movie. I have never had a piece of cinema just fill me with so much ire, so much frustration, so much... fremdschämen on behalf of the actors. My hate for it permeates every aspect of the film and my own being.

I hate how it's a sequel to a 2008 film that no one cared about. Journey to the Center of the Earthwarranted no sequel, and no one who had seen it would be expecting another one. At the showing I watched, I was accompanied by about ten 8 year olds, none of whom would even remember the existence of the original film. A bit of a waste, considering they're the intended audience.

©warner bros; Image Credit: wikipedia
I hate the cast. Dwayne Johnson may have given up one form of acting for another by entering film after his wrestling career, but I can't wait until he stops being cast for things. Josh Hutcherson being cast as the main character is a given, considering he was also in the original film, but his entire presence feels like he's trying to imitate Shia LeBoeuf (and that's not a good thing). We get treated to a Sean Anderson that's the 'rebel teen' all the kids want to be. He rides a motorcycle! He gets to go on adventures! He hates his mom and step-dad just like me! Groan.

And my loathing for the characters doesn't stop there. Sean's little escapade to the titular island doesn't just feature The Rock, but also an Objectified Female Lead (Vanessa Hudgens) and a Comedic Racist Caricature (Luiz Guzmán)! I just love it when the only woman in an adventure film is decked out in a belly top and short-shorts while everyone else gets to wear clothes that don't expose them to the elements. It gets even better when her father exists to make the kids laugh at 'the silly fat man falling down', coupled with one-liners in a meant-to-be-Polynesia accent (that funnily enough his daughter doesn't have. Don't want the love interest to be too foreign!)

Oh, and I really hate the writing. From the contrived circumstances that get them to the island (rapid solving of obtuse clues that wouldn't look out of place on The Crystal Maze); to the way the script absolutely refuses to show, not tell; to the scene at the end where Objectified Female Lead stops her father from taking a golden boulder back with him by saying "We already have the real treasure... we're together". And the line where The Rock sees a giant lizard and says "Why did it have to be lizards? Why couldn't it be snakes?" as if referencing Indiana Jones would suddenly make this trash comparable.

I hate the graphics of this movie. You know it's on the "In 3D!" bandwagon because there's a scene every 20 minutes where there's a slow motion pan and particle effects fly into the camera. It's so regular you could set your watch by it. What's worse is that none of it looks good - especially if you watch it in regular old 2D like I did. The CG effects are so conspicuous that the rest of the scenery props look defiantly fake. Plastic plants and Styrofoam rocks abound.

It positively boils my blood that people will say "It doesn't matter that this movie isn't good. It's for kids!" Children are impressionable people, and media in all forms - from film to television to games - will have an effect on how they see the world. Journey 2 doesn't have to be a masterpiece, but it doesn't need to be a cynical low-budget action film cashing in on the safe knowledge that parents are entirely willing to feed their kids junk if it will keep them quiet. It's taking locations from the works of Jules Verne! Imagine if a film encouraged children to actually read; it would be glorious.

And what I hate most is that this has already happened before in 2001 with Spy Kids. Everything from the graphics to the writing to the style of casting. I watched that film a bunch of times when I was a kid, and it just makes me want to shake my younger self and say "Dude! There are so many better movies out there!"

On the other hand, the kids in the cinema loved it; in amongst the throwing of popcorn and the shrieking. If you know someone you hate who has a child under 10, recommending them this film would be appropriate torment.

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