It’s interesting to see how the animus for Michael Bay has dried up. He went from being referred to as the devil to being the “blow stuff up guy” – perhaps the parodies of him led to him accept his role in American cinema. Arguably his sensibilities have matured (the man now makes movies based on a toy line); he’s settled into what he does best. And when his career runs its course, there will be the films we look at and see where he went off course. The two of his films that received the most mixed reaction are Pearl Harbor and The Island. The former was his attempt to combine Steven Spielberg and James Cameron to make an Oscar winning important film. He failed miserably. The Island stars Ewan McGregor and Scarlet Johansson as people in a secret post-apocalyptic world where lucky contestants get to go to the island, supposedly a paradise. But there’s a secret to it… Our review of The Island on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
McGregor is Lincoln Six Echo, and Johansson is Jordan Two Delta, and both live in a secret, post-apocalyptic home made for the survivors. The two have chemistry together, but there doesn’t appear to be much sex on the island. Their life is made up of fitness and menial tasks, and most everyone seems a little slow in the head. There’s also product placement out the a-hole. People are chosen to leave, and those who aren’t picked are constantly waiting for their time to go. Lincoln is considered curious and possibly a troublemaker, constantly talking to the engineer James (Steve Buscemi), and bothering Dr. Bernard Merrick (Sean Bean) about all the things that make up the world.
And then the reveal happens. The island doesn’t exist, and all the people are clones – raised to help rich people with whatever diseases they have. Lincoln escapes with Jordan, and the two try to figure out how to get away, how to live while being tracked by Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) – who may figure out that they are similar to slaves or something.
Though the premise recalls a number of previous sci-fi films (Logan’s Run is the first to come to mind, there’s also The Clonus Horror among others), it’s interesting to consider the film in the light of 2010’s Never Let Me Go. That film sees the clones and donors as doomed to an inescapable fate, while Bay goes the exact opposite way. But that decision raises even more questions.
Bay does some good set pieces, and there’s a good chase in the middle, but the moral implications of the film seem an afterthought. This isn’t a heady film, and though the mixture of smart with summer is a good idea, Michael Bay seemingly has no interest in the moral qualms beyond a quick “yeah, that’s interesting isn’t it?” If he had a script that brought that out, it might be something (one of the best parts of early Bay was that The Rock undercuts the rah-rah elements of the narrative by having unconventional leads), but the script – which must have been completely rewritten by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci – just doesn’t click as thoughtful.
You do get the actors, and McGregor is at least committed, and gets to have fun playing against himself in the third act when he meets the person who ordered him. Johansson is an actress that is very easy on the eyes, but has never proved herself after her great early work in films like Ghost Town. At this point, I don’t know if she’s done much over the last decade that’s called for stretching, but she’s still hot as sin, so there’s that.
The years don’t do the film any favors – the film came out in 2005, and it still feels half-baked. Bay can still stage the hell out of an action sequence, but the biggest problem with Bay is that his films are bloated. The man needs structure and good writing. Here, it’s interesting but the man doesn’t do subtext.
Paramount presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. The transfer is excellent. The film comes with the original commentary by director Michael Bay, and he’s always a fun listen, a Making of (13 min.), and featurettes “The Future in Action” (16 min.) and “Pre-Visualization: Forward Thinking” (8 min.). All from the original DVD releases (though some of the supplements here were only available as part of exclusive packaging. Still, the transfer is excellent.