Ewin McGregor and Scarlet Johansson in DreamWorks Pictures "The Island".
Photo property of Dreamworks Pic
Everyone says there are no good ideas in Hollywood anymore. This is blatantly not true. There are plenty of good ideas in Hollywood, this week's film The Island, being a prime example. No, the problem is not that there are no good ideas, the problem is that all the good ideas are handed over to hacks like Michael Bay to produce.
Part Logan's Run, part Soylent Green, The Island is an exercise in futuristic paranoia, done up as A Brave New World. Everything is perfect for the survivors of "the contamination." With naught but sketchy memories of a world gone by, the residents of our containment facility eagerly carry out their assigned tasks with eagerness and a positive attitude; a new society built on the premise that the job of mankind is to repopulate the Earth from an idyllic hub called "the island," a place where, via a lottery system, individuals are chosen; awarded the chance to retire to paradise. But, as you might imagine, there something rotten in the state of Denmark, and our hero, a citizen named Lincoln Echo Six has begun to ask some inconvenient questions.
Ok, that's the good part of the movie. I'd say, about thirty minutes in or so, which means you've actually been there an hour, what with the commercials and previews, you should be free to leave, blissfully unaware of the trainwreck that you've subjected yourself to. I won't give twist away, a minor surprise considering that the trailers do that job for me, but as you might guess, all is not rosy in paradise. The final hour and half or so of film is one prolonged chase scene that you've been subjected to in a myriad of other movies. Granted, Michael Bay does a mean car chase, but can I please request a moratorium on the "car escaping up the wrong way of the freeway" bit? Not only has the gimmick been done to death, but I have never heard of anything even remotely like that happening. And that's not the only element of the film to test those logic sensors. Everything from the semi-truck carrying giant spools (pulley wheels?) that are secured only by a single NAPA tie-down strap, to a miraculously benign fall from seventy-story building test the boundaries of believability. Of course, Bay and Co. are not particularly concerned with believability. They're concerned more with volume. I read an article recently about Michael Bay where he said that Bad Boys II, an odious movie, by the way, was meant to be a big middle finger to the critics. Well, you sure showed us. You not only proved that you can create and sell crappy entertainment, but that, as evidenced by The Island, you can parlay quality concepts into schlock as well.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, Bay's movies continue to make huge sums of money, which enables him to attract, and subsequently sully the career of, fine actors like Ewan MacGregor and Scarlett Johansson. Each of them, as well as a number of other quality character actors like Michael Clarke Duncan and Steve Buscemi, perform admirably considering the script they have to work with, but it is to no avail. In the end, logic gives way to nonsense, plot gives way to explosions, and character development gives way to an orgy of violence that is present, but muted just enough to receive a PG-13 rating.
Perhaps the most disturbing element of The Island is one that is not readily apparent. Deep down, under all the explosions, sexual awakenings, and random killings, is a pointedly conservative agenda. The film is fervently anti-stem cell and anti-abortion, and creates a horrifying future where the unchecked practice of either produces dystopia beyond imagination. No rationale is ever given, however; no argument ever made. Just like all of Bay's movies, the impact is in the visceral, the images. Deep thought is for nerds and hippies. Michael Bay may have created a money-making machine in his Republican futuristic action-fest, The Island, but the paradise he promises? Far from it. Grade: D
The Island is rated PG-13 for two and half hours of nearly non-stop violence, plus sexual situations, if no nudity. Those silly Europeans would take offense at that, but not us!
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