journey 2 reveals the mysterious allure of islands
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Journey 2 reveals the mysterious allure of islands

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Journey 2 reveals the mysterious allure of islands

London - Arabstoday

Jules Verne's works have much to offer the makers of CGI-prone, 3D-disposed kids' adventure flicks. The 2008 version of Journey to the Centre of the Earth did well enough at the box office, so a sequel was obligatory. We could have had Captain Nemo's submarine odyssey, the exploration of Africa from a balloon or a voyage to the moon by cannon-fired projectile. Instead, we get a trip to an island. Even in Verne's day, this was considered a bit of a let-down. The author's publisher rejected the first version of what was to become The Mysterious Island with the reproach: "Where is the science?" To beef things up a bit, Verne got his adventurers blown off course while escaping from a war zone by balloon. Less thrillingly, the heroes of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island travel instead by downmarket tourist chopper. Still, their destination is an island, and islands enjoy a special place in the human imagination. Those who can, including Marlon Brando, John Wayne and Mel Gibson, have insisted on actually owning one. Tiberius preferred to rule the Roman empire from Capri, while to create Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell felt obliged to maroon himself on Jura. A poet called Kimon Friar lived on 46 different islands; a decorator called Andy Strangeway has slept on 162; a conservationist called Philip Conkling has visited a thousand. The allure prompting such behaviour infected cinema from its beginnings. The first big-screen version of Verne's The Mysterious Island appeared in 1929, though the 1961 stop-motion animation is better remembered and the little-known Soviet version has its admirers. Island settings have sustained films as different as Jaws, South Pacific, The Wicker Man, Dr No and Il Postino, or more recently Mamma Mia!, Shutter Island and Archipelago. Our preoccupation with islands goes back to classical times, while since the middle ages, both paradises and hell-holes have typically been envisaged on islands. This year, the BBC celebrates the 70th anniversary of its longest-running programme, Desert Island Discs, and Danny Boyle presents his Olympian extravaganza, entitled, fittingly enough, Isles of Wonder. The role of islands in the human psyche has been much pondered, but the artefacts that they've inspired offer clues enough. Works such as The Tempest, Utopia, Gulliver's Travels, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island and Lord of the Flies may seem very different, but they utilise the same obvious but distinct features of isolation. Islands are necessarily extrinsic; but, unlike deserts, forests or mountain ranges, they're also peculiarly finite. This makes them theatres in which alternative worlds can readily take the stage. Evolution makes this happen automatically, as Darwin discovered in the Galapagos. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island relies on Foster's rule, which asserts that island life-forms may get larger if cut off from predators or smaller if denied mainland nutrients. That's why Michael Caine is subjected to the indignity of having to ride on a giant bee. However, as in so many island fictions, human character also evolves. Islands provide distance from familiar ways of thinking and invite or require reassessments. Visits to them, real or imaginary, can be as conceptually disruptive as any sojourn in the contrived landscapes of science fiction. They enable us, as one writer has it, "to know ourselves as distinct from those around us, and, in so doing, forge a more articulated relationship with the world". So it is, sort of, in Journey 2. The film's protagonists are peculiarly unappealing. As romantic leads, Josh Hutcherson and Vanessa Hudgens are both vacuous and unpleasant. Luis Guzmán is drearily gross and The Rock seems to have wandered in from another movie. The quartet's adventures are mechanically predictable. When we reach the bog-standard redemptive climax to which they're subjected, we might weep with weariness, but for one thing. It's that island locale. This makes the whole thing somehow work. Journey 2 is based on the idea that Verne, Stevenson and Swift's books were rooted in fact; that they were prompted by rumours of an uncharted island that does actually exist. The film ends up by reminding us that just such an enchanted isle is indeed real enough. It lies, however, not in the wide ocean's stormy embrace, but amid the boundless seas of the human soul.  

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