Journey 2: Mysterious Island–The Sequel

“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” takes moviegoers on a fun and fantastic new adventure to parts unknown, a place so remote it has lain hidden for centuries, and when found, is almost impossible to escape.A fan of the first film, “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” which introduced intrepid young explorer Sean Anderson to audiences, director Brad Peyton says, “I wanted to embrace Sean’s story and advance it, with amazing new landscapes and a fresh set of challenges that will take him further than he’s ever been because he’s not a kid anymore. He’s seventeen now and ready to blaze his own trail in the world. This is his chance to prove he’s not just along for the ride; he’s an explorer in his own right.””The first movie engaged peoples’ imaginations and showed us a kid who had a lot of potential but still had a lot to learn,” says Dwayne Johnson, who comes aboard in the debut role of Sean’s stepfather, Hank, and also serves as a co-producer on the film. “The second journey takes us to another exciting place, full of possibilities, and shows audiences who this young man has become.”

Peyton, who recently made the backyard espionage “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” is no stranger to combining action and comedy with a sweep of scale and a dash of the unexpected. Upon seeing the script for “Journey 2,” he says, “I never imagined doing it small. Right away, I knew it had to involve land, sea and air, with creatures, caves, storms, underwater battles and aerial chases, and all of it set against the most incredible, breathtaking terrain. That meant utilizing the latest and best technology, to deliver something special in the 3D realm that ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ helped to establish.”

In 2008, that film broke ground as the first narrative  to employ the Fusion System, a sophisticated digital 3D camera rig developed by James Cameron and cinematographer Vince Pace, and subsequently used on “Avatar.”

Not surprisingly, the “Journey 2” filmmakers returned to the Cameron Pace Group for state-of-the-art strategies and equipment to capture the depth and scope Peyton wanted to achieve in a range of real-world environments.

Dedicated to a location shoot from the start, the director states, “I felt the actors should have dirt under their feet. I wanted a real jungle, not a green-screen jungle. As the setting for so many spectacular images, it needed that literal grounding.”

Producer Tripp Vinson, who re-teams with “Journey to the Center of the Earth” Beau Flynn and Charlotte Huggins, says, “The action is highly intense but family-friendly and I believe the credit goes to Brad for being able to walk that line. He had a very clear point of view on many of these sequences from our first meetings, and a strong vision for how to design and execute them, and he really delivered. He builds up the tension of a scene, then a release, and then twists the action in a way that creates even more tension. I think one of the best things about his direction is his ability to create and sustain that pump of adrenalin.”

At the same time, the filmmakers knew that what made the original story so memorable was more than the daredevil exploits of their central characters. It was their sense of connection to one another that mattered–the bonds that were formed or reinforced in the face of danger and situations that revealed what they were truly made of.

Says producer Beau Flynn, “Audiences responded to these kinds of themes in the first film and we were committed to making them integral to this one, too. There are a number of ideas that we touch upon throughout the action, such as coming to appreciate people for who they are rather than what your first impression might have been, and opening your heart to possibilities. And, from the perspective of a sixteen- or seventeen-year old, maybe understanding a little where your parents are coming from, and vice versa.”

The filmmakers also liked that the characters thrown into this tropical paradise-turned-deathtrap must use their wits as well as their reflexes to survive, especially when they discover that plant and animal life there grows by its own rules.

It’s the Island Rule, in fact, also known as Foster’s Rule. Producer Charlotte Huggins explains, “It’s a genuine biogeographic theory, that, over the course of evolution in an isolated environment, large things can become small and small things become large. So a herd of elephants there might look and act exactly like elephants except that they’re miniatures, while butterflies could look and act exactly as butterflies would, except that they’re enormous.”

The downside of such visual wonders would be great carnivorous birds and lizards, some the length of a football field, who see the explorers as their next meal.

Michael Caine, starring as Anderson patriarch Alexander, who made wanderlust the family business and is the catalyst for this latest excursion, acknowledges, “This is no children’s fairy tale. It’s very fast, and the kids are going to have to be smart to keep up.”

The events that unfold on screen are based partly on the writings of visionary 19th-century author Jules Verne, whose novels The Mysterious Island and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea flavor the storyline and inspire the action throughout–along with some fortuitous cross-references in the form of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Unlike most films based on books, “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” actively references its source material, which becomes part of the story. Richard Outten, who shares story credit with screenwriters Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn, recounts, “The idea began, for me, as a tribute to my grandfather and some of my favorite childhood books. I imagined that rumors of the same strange and fantastical island inspired three authors to independently write their classics; a theory proven by a lifelong adventurer and his grandson.”

After mining clues from Verne and his literary compatriots to pinpoint the island’s uncharted coordinates, Sean then turns to Verne time and again, while on the run, to navigate its topography and evade its greatest perils. “Rather than fight their way out of a situation, they have to rely on their ingenuity and ability to figure things out. There are no ‘bad guys’ to overcome here, just time and the obstacles that stand between them and their way home,” explains Brian Gunn.

Adds Mark, “Verne envisioned submarines and space travel long before those things existed. He was a fiction writer who based his ideas on science, but it was science ahead of its time, and that’s what people find so intriguing about his work.”

The film honors that realistic grounding, whether in the evolutionary anomalies that populate the island or the restless tectonic plates poised to engulf it. “Verne believed the fantastic could be grown from the world we live in, the world beneath our feet, which can be more vast and rich than we imagine, and we took the same approach,” says Peyton. “The more surreal the environment you create, the more the rules of the real world have to be defined and respected. The challenge being: how do we present ordinary things in a way that’s drastically different from how we normally perceive them, making the familiar suddenly bizarre and unpredictable? This isn’t some far-out fantasyland; amazing things exist on the island but they’re recognizable things with wildly altered proportions.

“I can’t claim every bit of science in the movie is accurate,” he adds. “But we were careful that it all began with some basis in reality. After that… we just went for it.”