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THE ISLAND (PG-13) (2005)

Dreamworks/Warner Brothers

Official Site

Director: Michael Bay

Producers: Michael Bay, Ian Bryce, Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes

Written by: Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Caspian Tredwell-Owen

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johannson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan


Maybe the Team America: World Police soundtrack did get through to a few people.

It seems the approach infamous and prolific filmmaker Michael Bay takes to his flicks is to throw in everything, including the kitchen sink. I don’t understand why people think it would be different for Bay and this movie. It’s business as usual, the same saturated color palette, cinematic clichés, over-shot and over-done action scenes, sex, black helicopters, bad one-liners, throwaway characters, explosions, and the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the crotch. And yes Mr. Bay, we get it: You like cars. You really, really like cars, enough to have hot, raw, sweaty, bondage, athletic, fetishized, kinky sex with them. No wonder The Beard got you to do Transformers.

I guess what I’m not so eloquently trying to say is this: Don’t be fooled by the lack of the initials of one producer, J.B., on the label; this is typical Bay at his finest. That is, if you were apt to say such a word regarding his work.

Our favorite Jedi Knight (McGregor) is now Lincoln 6 Echo, a survivor of some vague Earth-wide catastrophe, where he and other survivors live day to day in their protective institute bubble, under strict rules of control. Lincoln keeps seeing these Michael Bay subliminal images in his head, so he needs to get out. Unfortunately, the only way to get out of the institute is through a random lottery spin, where the winner is sent to The Island, apparently the last remaining oasis on the planet where everyone hopes to go. Since the trailers gave away every single plot twist for the movie, it’s no secret that something is not right at this so-called institute. I mean its run by freaking Sean Bean. The only time Sean Bean is NOT the bad guy is when he gets killed in the first 15 minutes, and it’s no spoiler to say that does not happen here. When Lincoln 6 Echo learns the truth about his would-be home, he grabs his closest female friend, Jordon 2 Delta (Johansson), and they make an action-packed escape. I don’t know why people wanted to go to the Island so badly though. At the institute they watch cartoons, read, have a nice diet and plenty of exercise, and get to play some XBox and party at night.

Alright, so: an endorsement-laden institute, Scarlett and Obi-Wan escape. Enter Steve Buscemi, who worked there and befriended Obi-Wan and tells them the truth. Scarlett and Obi-Wan are actually… CLONES. Now if this was a Marvel comic book, Scarlett and Obi-Wan would be worm food, but since it’s a faux-philosophical Michael Bay picture and they are totally gorgeous, they have a heaping helping of hope. Sean Bean recruits the services of ruthless mercenary, Laurent (Hounsou), to track down the clones, because you see, the clones are grown in order to give their parts to the originals of whomever was copied and paid for them, and Jordon 2 Delta’s “sponsor” is about to die, so she needs her cover-girl figure back ASAP. After the exposition is out of the way, for their patience the audience is rewarded with a pornographic amount of action scenes.

Despite the more tired story elements done better in films such as The Matrix (also “The Prisoner,” Logan’s Run, Dark City, and from what I hear a movie they watched on MST3K called The Clonus Horror), I think there could’ve been a somewhat decent sci-fi movie in there somewhere. It’s just buried among the general Michael Bay-ness of it all, including the weak dialogue and African American characters who punctuate and resolve the big-ass action scenes by saying things like, “Jesus must luuuv you!” The worst had to be when, in the final fight, a down for the count Obi-Wan belts out, “My name... IS LINCOLN!” then makes the big heroic comeback. But hey like I said, everything and the kitchen sink.

As for the philosophy—“Are clones really human?” “Do clones deserve to live just as humans do?”—I don’t think The Island ever seriously tries to address this. An interesting conflict could’ve arisen out of the point when Jordan attempts to contact her sponsor and ends up speaking with her young son, who thinks he’s talking to his mommy, whereupon Jordan realizes that her sponsor will die without the parts of the clone. Whatever drama, anguish, or pathos that could’ve come from that subplot is quickly brushed aside in favor of More Black Helicopters. I swear, after this movie you will want to find every last black helicopter on the planet and horribly maim them with Kamehameha fireball attacks so we never see them in the cinemas ever again.

Giving credit where credit is due, there are some quite striking and disturbing images, such as when Lincoln infiltrates the outside of the institute and finds two of the former people selected to go the island, one a mother birthing her baby, and the other Michael Clarke Duncan on an operating table. The mother births her baby and is promptly euthanized. The nurse then takes the baby right outside the next door to give her to her new parents. Duncan is cut open for his organs, but pops out of his sedated state and tries to get away before he is brutally recaptured and dragged away.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

Mike Doughty

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