Review: ‘The Island’

Is The Island a thought-provoking drama that still maintains the ethics (and explosions, destruction, etc.) of an evil organization, or just a typical Michael Bay film?

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) is just another survivor of a global catastrophe that ruined the world. Like his fellow child-like survivors, he awaits his chance to leave the secure facility and journey to “The Island,” the last paradise on earth where the world will be repopulated. One has only to win the daily lottery to go, but Lincoln dreams of things he hasn’t seen and places he hasn’t been, even daring to ask the question, “Is there nothing more?” The answer, he discovers, is yes, and even his very existence proves to be nothing but a lie…

There are two ways to watch a Michael Bay film. One is to think smart, logically, and assume some clever reason behind everything you see; these are the people that hate Michael Bay films and evidence enough why someone like Bay should never tackle historical or serious material like Pearl Harbor. The second way is to unbuckle your belt, curl up with your popcorn, and just let it fly; everything on screen is an excuse to cause wanton destruction anyway, so enjoy it!

The main problem with The Island is that it tries to be the thought-provoker Bay should stay away from, but he comes halfway to getting it right before the “evil” Micheal Bay takes over and decides to make a popcorn flick and continuity be damned! Since the trailer gives away the twist (there is no “island”), let’s start with the fact that the deluded clones are co-ed and allowed to interact like free-range chickens. Actually, make that a smart rooster who figures out that stumbles onto a hole in the fence and escapes with his favorite hen only to learn the truth from one of the friendly farm hands: they’re “chickens”. Oh, and it’s a secret chick coop that the taxman doesn’t know about, so no one is supposed to know the chickens are on the loose.

All right, enough with the escaped poultry analogy. To sum up (because there’s too much to explain), the world of the future world will have rocket trains for passengers but a news media so slow they can’t get footage of a downtown skyscraper’s logo falling into a helicopter? Common folk on the street fail to recognize a supermodel walking around downtown gawking at her own pictures plastered everywhere and never swarm her for an autograph or phone number? And clones obviously need to know that their video games are provided by X-box and their mineral water is by Dysani, right? Even the bad guys seem to know what’s really important: that there’s a Hemi engine in their new Dodge Magnums.

The Island is an amalgamation of Logan’s Run and The 6th Day, which can only mean that something driven very fast is certain to meet with a solid object and reach a fiery conclusion (repeat as necessary). Somewhere underneath it all, however, is an interesting science fiction piece about the ethics of cloning and perhaps a social commentary on blue-collar workers carelessly working in a secret facility harvesting innocents for spare parts. Also, no one expects the white-collar head villain to be a hands-on evil genius, but in Bay’s quest for destruction on the highest level of disregard, sure, why not?

The real victims here are the leads: Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. As the heroes of the piece trying to look believable in the face of absurdity, they have the unfortunate task of being the only characters (and perhaps actors) unaware of their place in a Michael Bay film. Both are better than the material, and what credibility they give to their parts is just as quickly underwhelmed by more foolishness. In the end, The Island is fun to watch only if you don’t care why the good guys are running from the bad guys. For the rest of us still hoping for a better offer, we can only hope that a darker, R-rated sci-fi dramatic cut of The Island exists somewhere, probably buried right next to the only copy of the Schwarzenegger-free print of The 6th Day.

(a two skull recommendation out of four)

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