Movies/Entertainment,  Off the Shelf

Off the Shelf…'The Island'

From the successful multi-blog event headed up by Fandango Groovers, I have found that one of the participants has a similar quasi-fondness for this film. That said, I figured this was the perfect inspiration to take yet another look at the film and re-evaluate it. Now everyone knows that Michael Bay has been accused of over-the-top action and effects. Further, his films are replete with some stupid dialog/sequences and hot actresses but he just keeps making them. But above all, they’re popcorn films and I actually enjoy a handful of them. To me, no other film on his resume screams “over-the-top” than his futuristic flick The Island (yes even more so than Transformers).

This movie seems like Bay took Logan’s Run, THX 1138, The Matrix, threw them in a blender and created The Island. In this film’s defense, I don’t think this was a bad movie at all. It has a really great premise, it is visually gorgeous and the cast was as diverse as they were talented.  However, it probably wasn’t the best choice to give Ewan McGregor a lead role, especially when he was paired with the sort of unknown Scarlett Johansson. I actually like The Island a lot, but Bay went action overload and the movie went on a bit long in parts so I believe that’s what lost most people, me included.

Now part of me wants to love this movie and the other part of me gets put off by the mounting unbelievability in the action department.  Basically I’m split. I have seen this movie tons of times and here’s what happens: its starts good, gets better (music by Steve Jablonsky was absolutely top-notch) and then there’s this middle ground that I just want to fast forward to get through the bloated action parts – namely the entire city chase scene. From the street “foot” chase to the highway obstacle “axle drop” (an obvious retread of the boat drop in Bad Boys II) to the flying Wasp vehicle, to the totally B.S. “falling corporate logo” from the 200 story skyscraper. That was like 20 minutes of painfully unnecessary B.S….but kida fun if you’ve checked your brain at the door.

Now, don’t get me wrong, you are supposed to have a level of unbelievable action in an “action” film. That’s a rule, and one which the audience accepts and then lets them enjoy the film afterward. Also, that’s what makes these films exciting. It’s because this stuff doesn’t happen in real life, and you are watching a larger than life action star go through it all. But there’s this level of over-saturation that just makes the audience (well me anyway) sick.

The movie was cool enough on it’s own. The sets, the costumes, the lighting, the script (most of it) and finally the idea of the film all work fine. Bay just needs to learn pacing and action control. Bad Boys II was action packed but it was just the right amount. I think he tried for more action in the middle of The Island since he started slow (which he discusses on the Commentary) to get the characters established first. Looking at the progression from Bad Boys II to The Island to Transformers, I think he has tested how much and how often explosions work in a film and what the audience will tolerate. He’s got the formula right, I think. Tranformers was great and the over-the-top action was controlled and dispersed only when necessary. He’s always had style, and he certainly established himself with his own brand of it, and has also created his trademark set lighting.

So while I don’t hate it, I don’t truly love it either, but there’s something about it all that I just can’t explain. Kind of like a moth to a flame scenario best describe my take on The Island. God, this movie is so damned gorgeous. It’s like hypnosis that makes me forgive the faults in the dialog and the ludicrous action scenes…oh and let’s not forget the blatant product placement (that’s another Michal Bay trademark). All in all, I’ll probably re-buy it on Blu Ray (it it’s ever released) as it will no doubt be even more visually jaw dropping…but I’ll buy that one used of course:)

G-S-T Ruling : 3/5

G-S-T Seal of Approval: PENDING


  • Steve

    Thanks for the trackback!

    The Island is the epitome of eye candy from the director who is the epitome of eye candy creation. That’s why it’s okay to not love it, but totally explains why someone might. I actually love Ewan in his role – he’s a fave of mine.

    Question: Do you think the people working at the bar in the clone farm knew what they were really doing? Or the folks at the cafeteria? Always wondered about everybody’s level of complicity in what was going down?

    And was Djimon Housou supposed to be a clone? Is that what the Boukenabi rebellion was supposed to be about?

    The crime is that it isn’t on bluray in North America and that they screwed up the encoding for the DVD and didn’t include a proper 5.1 track on the release. You’d think a movie like this would get the proper spectacle treatment. (I think I might have mentioned that already.)

    • Marc

      Damn Steve, well said with the first statement…mind if I steal it and claim it as my own?:P

      Answer: I’ve always wondered that too. We know the security guards were in on it for sure. However, I’d wager that the waitresses, bartenders and the cafeteria lady may have known what’s going on but not given the whole story. Better to keep people a little in the dark for fear of them slipping. But here’s a question right back at you. What happens when the bars close and the clones go to bed? Do all of those workers get mass transported back to their homes or do they have a separate domicile facility on the island? They are out in the middle of the desert so I think they have secluded quarters…kind of like working an oil rig.

      I don’t think Honsou was a clone. If he was he’d have known a little bit more about the process than he did, however his compassion near the end my have been the tell that he was one…Jury is still out on that.

      But on the day that the proper BRD of this is released I say we have a watch party…but with you all the way in the great white north, we’ll probably have to have a satellite watch party/podcast commentary via skype:P

      • Steve

        A watching party is definitely in order.

        I’m liking your theories on how the facility worked. But I don’t know if they stayed on site like a cruise ship. If they had rules about standing too close to eachother, I’m sure they had lame early curfews. That gets the staff out early, and has them heading home like Steve Buscemi and his way too hot for his buggy eyes girlfriend.

        So what the heck was Djimon being branded all about? There’s something going on there… Something that I don’t care quite enough about to go digging for…

        • Marc

          Hahahaha…”don’t care quite enough about to go digging for…” Awesome!!

          True, his girlfriend was way to hot for him, but 1.) It’s a Michael Bay movie so fantasy situations abound like imps in Narniain and 2.)Not a lot of guys with good futures frequenting that middle of nowhere town…girl’s gotta think “a semi-clean guy guy who has all his teeth is a plus in these parts”

  • Olive

    Really liked this film too. Like you can’t explain why. When I saw it at the cinema, thought it was good, but not great and that the acting was pretty shocking in it.
    But, despite my better judgement, I’ve seen it about 5 times since then…it’s just so entertaining.

    • Marc

      Totally agree…I actually wrote about this another post where I declare it more fun to watch on MUTE…that way you get the beautiful visuals but are saved some of the dialog and plot:)
      Have look if you’re interested:
      G-S-T Quick 5 – Movies Better Enjoyed on Mute

  • mill1924

    Haha, I liked the movies better enjoyed on mute. I agree, its such a great concept for a movie, and visually it is awesome. Just… why does it have to suck so much? Damn you Michael Bay!

    • Marc

      I thought it was a fun exercise. Kind of brings the movie back to being solely a motion picture so to speak, wouldn’t you say?;P

      Bay made a name for himself making music videos and his movies are basically feature length music videos…all style and little substance:)