The Rock: Good Medicine?

There I was, though I wasn’t sure why, mostly minding my business, loitering in a new place but with enough quasi-official approval that, even though I didn’t know anyone well, they sort of knew me and blandly accepted that I was fiddling around in some vaguely useful way behind that desk. That’s one thing.

I don’t know why they ran a film, but they’d have probably argued for some linguistic or educational purpose behind the CGI, though I think they were just as bored as I was and equally content to be that way. So there we were. This happened:

I couldn’t stop looking, either. Mysterious!

A Ferris Bueller-esque teen. Looks like a young Michael J. Fox but without the charisma. I look up from work and he and a motorbike are in somebody’s backyard pool. Sassy crackings of wisdom as the police arrive. Then The Rock climbs out of his black muscle car, looking all Rock-ish, and the cops let the kid go. He’s The Man, but the boy resents him. Ah. Step-dad, all reasonable and understanding despite the skin-tight, pec-parading T-shirt.

This kid’s on a mission, but nobody understands him. Step-dad The Rock tries extra hard, but with enough cracking sassywise that we know he’s No Wimp. (Coolest Step-Rock Ever, I believe, is the name of the film.) His name is Hank. The Hank has been in the navy, which helps him break down the resistance of the suddenly-less-sullen teen (whose name is, hmm, Justin? Sean.) and the coded message he has somehow received.

Yes, and Sean’s a Vernian, from a long line of Vernians – people who know that the great Jules V. was not writing fantasy. (Oh, right, and this is actually called Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, a sequel to something else about Vernians. Yes, Google, you’re right. Must’ve been Journey to the Center of the Earth. Didn’t see it.) Verne was a travel writer. I get it, I fear. Wise Vernians are the oddballs who understand that he really went to the centre of the earth, around it in 80 days, 20,000 leagues under, and so on. Down the rabbit hole I go.

Junior Vernian and The Hank break the code. JV is off to the South Pacific. Not Without Your Step-Hank! emotes The Rock/Star. They go. Their transport to the Mysterious Island is a tie-dyed helicopter; the pilot is crazyfunnygoofyweird-but-loveable-and(who knows these days?)-possibly-gay-but-in-a-harmlessly-charming-and-campy-way Gabato, and luckily, he has a swimsuit model for a tank-topped daughter the same age as JV Sean, because duh. Island Girl. (Friend Google says Keilani. I say Island Girl.) They fly directly into a hurricane which looks more like a Kansas tornado. It’s a collage! All the fantasy stories that are fit to shoot (AND cut! And print. And market. And merchandise.) Right thing to do, flying into the eye of the hurritornado, of course, and these people are tough — the helicopter shreds, the humans go bump and land on white sand under blue skies. I’ve done that. Massive amounts of computer-generated imagery ensue.

Island Girl: how to look desirable while falling from a bee.

And I keep watching, fiddling less and less and picking up more of the plot nuances. A 15-minute job takes two hours.

Nuance! There are Jurassic dinos and their icky eggs and a chase. Eewok-weaponry (big logs on vines) slays the mummy-dino as effectively as it did the Imperial Walkers. Wait, that’s no Eewok – that’s Michael Caine! The weird grandfather, JV’s hero, the guy that sent the coded message! Looks like an aging Indiana Jones, but cackles with fairly insane glee and snaps one-liners like a low-rent comedian. (That’s Michael Caine?!) But he buckles his swashes and dismisses The StepHank as a meek, suburban businessman. He calls him “Henry”. Aha. Two lion kings, a pair of alpha males in the in the movie now! The Hank doesn’t like it, not one bit. Calls him “grandma”. (Zing! Don’t mess with The Rickles.) But Grandpa discovered this mysterious island, and he knows things. Crazy place. Tiny elephants. Big insects and birds. Unexpected but strangely familiar things.

Gulliver’s Travels? Bingo! And the 18th century’s best screenwriter, Jonathan Swift, even gets a quick mention. Treasure Island? Right again! This was the place R.L. Stevenson was on about! But don’t get confused, kids, ‘cause it’s mainly about Verne and the Vernians. (No Swiftians or Stevensonians, apparently, which hardly seems fair.) Well, and it’s also the Lost Continent of Atlantis! (Which used to be in the Atlantic! Those tectonic plates are sly buggers. No wonder this island is so mysterious.)

Lost continent of Atlantis. No word yet on how the buildings stay whole when the island crumbles.

But don’t worry about that stuff, because there are giant bees! Grandpa is flying in full cackle on one of ’em. Cool. These things dart and roll and climb like F-15 fighters, but what’s even way-more-cooler is that Grampy Caine and JV and, of course, Top Hank already seems to know how to operate the controls! They were going to fly, maybe past the (ofcoursetheresa) volcano to get to, um, somewhere they needed to be. Did I mention the CGI bees? They could really go!

How can I not dig a guy with a ride like this?

So the island is Atlantis, right? And Grandpa Sir Michael, between dissing the step-Rock’s manliness cred and stumping for his own superior ability to guide the JV because he is an True Adventurous Anderson (though he’s been mainly a mocking rumour in young Sean Anderson’s life) while The Henry is nothing but a bean-counter, also brags that he has calculated exactly when Atlantis will again sink below the sea. Whew. (If you didn’t realize Atlantis was on some great tectonic elevator, the movie almost explains it. But hey, didja see the volcano? And the birds and the bees and stuff?) BUT. The HenryHank is not just a pretty pair of abs and a witty man. He sings! He plays ukulele! He can make his pectorals dance in syncopated rhythm and you can bounce tropical CGI berries off them, too!

He also has sensitive manly advice about the JV’s crush on Island Girl. And his pecs can rumba. AND he knows enough about sinking tropical islands that are about to catastrophically and photogenically blow up  – just like they what happened in 2012 because of those damned Mayans! – to know that Grandpa has a broken slide-rule. The Hank out-perfessers

Wow. Maybe you CAN be my Dad! But are you sure Grandpa Caine isn’t right? He’s got the Indiana Jones hat! And be honest, StepHank, don’t you love it when Island Girl crosses her arms? I know you look!

the Perfesser. (Wait, is that the Gilligan’s Island theme?) Island going boom-boom, bye-bye!

So how are they going to have time to go harvest the volcano? The volcanic ash is flakes of gold, to boot! Holy Schmackanoley! This is also Treasure Island, not just a mysterious one. There’s gold in that thar volcano! And Island Girl is falling for JV, who saves her [spoiler alert!] when she falls off the back of their dual-seater bee, so what’s not to love, but he’s going to America to college, and how can I leave my crackpot helicopter dad anyway and besides we don’t have the money to go to school? Gabby Daddy heroically goes for the gold. His hero-turn, gone guffawingly wrong (spoiler alert: I rolled my eyes), and never mind the mysteriously disintegrating island. He finds a mass of bright yellow love so huge it can’t be dug out. (Too bad there are no rocks lying about that a person could use, say, to chip out a big Harvard-sized nugget!) The island is starting to do 2012 things. Cliché Number 1263 is Island Girl’s: Daddy, we don’t need gold so long as we have each other. She finds him.

(Why couldn’t I have written that?)

What? Island Girl goes down a narrow shaft into a chamber? Why? How?

(Attention flagged for a second there. It might have been just after The Rock finished singing “What a Wonderful World” with some freestyling, plot-summarizing and darned delightfully rib-tickling lyrical riffing on the great Louis Armstrong’s signature song, when he drops the solemn hammer that the father who taught him this song left without a trace when he was 8, which means that StepHank is also a daddy-less dude which means that in addition to having trumped the Professor’s science-fiction knowledge he may also have a leg up in the who’s your Daddy now? race with Grandpa over the burning question of who’s the better role model for the JV. That was all acting, no CGI.)

Island Girl goes down that shaft. Cute bum, too. Adult bonus! The chamber is cobwebby. Sudden ginormous scorpions are dispatched by IG. Her turn to be unhelpless, and yet she can still be sexually desirable! It’s a mysterious chamber that she can mysteriously get into to find the mysterious book that the mysterious Grandpa mysteriously knew was buried in the Mysterious Island. Twenty Thousand Leagues! All the Vernes! Holy underwater escape hatch, it’s Captain Nemo and the Temple of Doom! Didn’t you see it coming? (I almost didn’t.) Nemo stored his submarine here on the Mysterious Lilliputian Treasure Island Atlantis, too! The Vernians can do it ALL. Off goes The StepHank and Sean the Junior Vernian on a CGI adventure to find the Nautilus.Lightning storm. Lashed by rain. Rising sea, sinking

Hmm. How can I use this giant electric eel in my science project?

mysterious island. Giant electric eels. Dead batteries in the sub, but its torpedo mechanism is in perfect shape. Lucky! A trident. (The HankRock is Mr. Fix-it AND Neptune! He’s a five-tool movie player. The RockDad can Do It All, too! Including the Pectoral Polka!) Grandpa and Gabby and Island girl arrive, but it’s too late. Island down! Pretty girl in tank-top flails fetchingly in the drink! So does wide-eyed old swashbuckler and campy helicopter gay-dad! But [spoiler alert!] the Nautilus opens its gaping door-mouth-of-some-kind and swallows ‘em like so much plankton.

So. Appealingly damp, but safe! Still some plunging Mysterious Island debris to dodge or blow up, though! Relax. Breathe. Whew! I think they’re going to make it. I think it’s safe for me to go home now.

I missed the last five minutes, but for much of the previous 90, I’m telling you, I couldn’t take my eyes off that thing. I can honestly say I found it STUNNING. Stunned, I was. Gobsmacked. Agog. Slapped by a cold mackerel right across the kisser. Brain-dead and not entirely unblissful.         

I want to see it with Son Four. He’s 13. When I told him I’d watched Journey 2:The Mysterious Island, he was as stunned as I was. “What? The whole thing? But it was terrible! It’s the stupidest thing ever. It’s, like, one big giant cliché! Seriously? You didn’t!” (I really want to watch it with him. He can be nasty.) I confessed later that evening to Son One, back in Canada, how I’d spent my Thursday evening. And if, as Son the First cryptically tweeted, “the Rock is good medicine”, then what in hairy hell ails me?

Is it a terminal case of too much seriousness? Maybe. Rampant snobbery? Probberly! Is WriterBoy just not getting out enough? Well, when a class-room screening of the wonderfully bad sequel to a pretty lame movie rivets me to my chair, I’d have to say guilty as charged. It’s a ridiculous movie, but it didn’t make me mad. That’s progress of a sort. Healed by The Rock? Now let’s not go too far.

P.S. Journey 2 made nearly $400 million worldwide. What do I know? The next one, which rumour has it will steal baldly from Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, is coming. (Verne wrote dozens. I had no idea. Prediction: The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in South Africa and A Drama of Livonia will not get the Rock-In-A-CGI-Place treatment anytime soon.) Junior Vernian Sean, it is said, will return. But will The Hank? Will Crazy Grandma Michael? These are questions. I don’t need answers.

Comment (1)

  1. Bn

    Yup, cheesy sf adventure, also, broadly, good medicine…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *