Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I can’t remember the last time I actually missed one of these Sci-Fi Channel original movies. True enough we estimate about 5% of these movies to be good with around 94% to be pretty bad, often asking ourselves ‘Why do we do this to ourselves’… but we’re just playing. Even the worst Sci-Fi channel originals find a way to give us some diverse pleasure somewhere along its path. But if you look at the math up there, there’s 1% left. When we ask the question ‘Why do we do this to ourselves’ in regards to this one percent, we aren’t joking. We seriously have to look in the mirror and reevaluate why we watch this stuff. It doesn’t happen often, and in fact I can’t remember the last time it happened… at least before we saw this one, ‘Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island’. As I go over the lengthy list of Sci-Fi Originals I’ve seen, ‘Mysterious Island’ isn’t the worst of the lot, but I do believe it is the one that has brought the least pleasure.

It’s the Civil War and some rebels have captured some Yankees, in particular Captain Cyrus Harding (Lochyn Munro), Private Herbert (Caleb Michaelson) and Captain Nugent (Edrick Browne). Eventually meddlesome Yankee reporter Gideon Spilett (Pruitt Taylor Vince) will be dragged to the party with his rebel captor Sgt. Pencroft (J.D. Evermore). Simple enough. Circumstance temporarily frees our captors, who on the advice of Spilett make a break towards a hot air balloon. Hey man… that’s what they did. So they take off in this hot air balloon with a squadron of rebel soldiers chasing them on foot. Now I’m no war strategist or anything, but you’re in a hot air balloon… I have a gun… see where I’m going with this? Never dawned on those rebels that balloons don’t like bullets.

So our heroes float off, with the addition of the surly rebel Sgt. Pencroft who summarily gets rid of the Yankee reporter. Apparently Pruitt Taylor Vince was doing someone a favor for his extended cameo in this movie. Pencroft probably should’ve been thrown overboard as well, but Capt. Harding didn’t want to be uncivilized or anything like that, besides we’re going to need him to get eaten by something else later on. Suddenly a hole opens up in the sky and the balloon is sucked through.

When our heroes wake up, they are on the Mysterious Island with the Growly Sounds. Jumping ahead a bit, a flying locomotive crashes carrying a couple of hotties in Julia Fogg (Gina Holden) and her bratty spoiled sister Abby (Susie Abromeit). I’m not sure who was flying the plane. Needless to say our civil war participants are a little shocked at seeing an airplane and learning that our ladies are from the year 2012, and I mean only a little shocked. Imagine Capt. Nugent, the former slave, and his joy in learning that the Union won the war and in just 150 years time a Black Man is the president of the United States. Actually he seemed a little happier that in this future he could carry around a half naked white woman without repercussion. Turns out the Bermuda Triangle is responsible for this, and every other strange sea faring phenomena that has ever happened. Say what?

But it’s all about the danger on the island. There are the creatures that look like shrubs and growl a lot… and… well… that’s about it. Eventually Capt. Nemo (William Morgan Sheppard) shows up with his lightning gun to explain why this mysterious island is lost in time and nothing electrically charged works… except his lightning gun… and why these people will die here. Not the most positive cat in town that Capt. Nemo. Capt. Harding, a master engineer, isn’t hearing any of that. With a steam engine and a time machine and his trusty hot air balloon… it’s complicated… he believes they can make it off the Mysterious Island of the shrub people before the volcano blows. Did I mention the Volcano? Or the Octopus that exists only as CGI tendrils?

This movie was directed by one Mark Sheppard, who is a fine actor and actually plays the younger Nemo in flashbacks. His old man plays the current Nemo. That’s great that father and son got to work together and that brings me joy. Unfortunately, the fact that Mark Sheppard and his dad got the opportunity to bond over making this movie is about the only joy I got out of ‘Mysterious Island’.

We will casually ignore Jules Verne and the book he wrote, but will mention that the main problem with this version of ‘Mysterious Island’ is that its slow. I mean it’s so slow that sometimes it feels like it’s moving backwards. The budget was obviously rock bottom low, which is why we didn’t have the usual array of Mysterious Island creatures that we are used to, so that means we were stuck watching our cast members walk in the woods, flinch from growly sounds, or worse… interact with one another. It’s not that our actors are terrible or anything because seen almost all of them in other, better stuff, but given the stilted, forced, banal dialog they had to utter it soon became painful to listen to them. Sometimes they looked pained listening to each other. And we had to listen to them since the budget couldn’t scrape up any monster money. Just shrub people who like to growl. And that damn octopus tentacle.

But my biggest disappointment had to be the end. We know they aren’t going to die on the island, we know somehow they’re going to make it to the magic hole, I just wanted to know where in time the hole was going to put them. Back in 1865? Maybe in the future beyond 2012? That’s all I wanted to know. One lousy scene would’ve done it for me. All I got was credits and advertisements for ‘Being Human’.

I hate to beat up a Sci-Fi original because they are special to me. And like I said earlier, Mark Sheppard is a really good actor, he just doesn’t seem to be a really good low budget B-movie director. I mean it takes a certain amount of skill to squeeze orange juice from a rotten turnip, say like ‘Mega Piranha’, an example of an awful movie that maximized its potential for unlimited joy. ‘Jules Verne: Mysterious Island’ unfortunately gave me little of nothing.

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