Most film-goers could identify a Michael Bay film just by the techniques he uses — quick edits, sun drenched color palette, and lots of action. This usually means that Bay is suited more for low-brow action movies as opposed to high-concept films. In Pearl Harbor, Bay proved that he couldn’t handle anything that didn’t explode — resulting in a lopsided film. The first hour was a tedious love story; the last 90 minutes were better — including an excellent recreation of the surprise attack.
The same is true in The Island. Bay can’t wait to make things explode, and once they do — Bay is very much at home. Though while the explosions are very well choreographed, The Island becomes another action movie that would have worked better had the concept been given more thought.
By now, The Island is far from original sci-fi fare. Books and films like 1984, THX-1138, Logan’s Run, and even Equilibrium have already tackled totalitarianism in the future — and better. But The Island does ask some good questions, especially in today’s society where cloning is rapidly becoming more of a reality. It’s just a shame most of those questions are unanswered.
Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) live in quarantined society. The outside world has been contaminated. On the inside, everyone dresses the same and is strictly monitored by Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean). Every once in a while, a lottery winner gets to go to “the island” — the last pathogen-free place on the outside world. Or so we think…
While the initial setup is interesting, it’s nothing mind-blowing, and neither is the action. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. McGregor and Johansson are good actors, and they both do good jobs early on, especially when adjusting to the real world. But once the action begins, they’re reduced to reacting to dots on a green screen.
One thing that struck me as odd is that Lincoln and Jordan’s human sponsors are both relatively famous people. Lincoln’s sponsor is a wealthy engineer and Jordan’s sponsor is a model/actress. If Lincoln and Jordan are clones of these people, wouldn’t they be recognized in the real world? And that leads me to another point; scenes where Lincoln meets his human counterpart are fun. It’s a shame Jordan never meets her ill sponsor. That could have been one of the film’s more powerful scenes.
Overall, The Island is another example of a movie that uses its interesting setup to get to the action. While a film like The Matrix did the same thing, the action in that film always seemed to matter, resulting in a more urgent viewing experience. In The Island, the action is much more pedestrian and mostly seems to exist for the point of making things explode. While The Island may think it’s another 1984, it’s closer to something like Paycheck.
The Island is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of nearly 40 mbps. As with all Michael Bay films, the disc looks great. The Bay color palette is on display, and to good effect. The image is sun-drenched and steely — colors are bright and vibrant. I noticed no malfunctions with the disc, although in one scene I saw what could have been a hair in the lens. The high-definition presentation is a vast improvement over any version you’ve seen to date. It’s a razor-sharp image with wonderful textures and depth.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is just as much of an upgrade. During chases and shootouts, the entire soundstage is used, enveloping the viewer. While in the facility, the surrounds handle lots of futuristic ambience. Finally the subs get the attention they deserve.
Director Commentary — Michael Bay gives a very bland and self-congratulatory commentary where he mostly describes the sets and other technical aspects of the film. He proudly boasts that he was able to get a futuristic boat before Michael Mann used it in his upcoming Miami Vice and also pats himself on the back for using a new hand-held camera. Bay also puts his foot down in response to all the criticism about product placement in the film, and says matter-of-factly that in today’s society product placement is obvious, so in the future it will probably become even more blatant. And while I do agree with that point, I still don’t see the point of having advertising in the quarantined facility. For one, the clones wouldn’t care what Xbox or Aquafina is — and for two, wouldn’t the production facilities for those products need to exist in the outside world? What’s up with that? Another remark Bay makes in his commentary is “You don’t see Ewan McGregor in many action films.” While McGregor may not be the Bruce Willis of action films, he did just come off of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Whatever, Mike.
The Future of Action: (15:42) SD This featurette goes behind the scenes to explore the action scenes and how they were created. While it’s neat to see how they crashed a lot of cars during the highway chase scene, it would have been nice to see a feature devoted to the possibility of something like this happening in the future.
The Making Of The Island: (13:02) SD This is a very high-octane look behind the scenes with the focus squarely on Michael Bay.
Pre-Viz: (8:09) SD A look at some of the concept art and design.
By now you know what to expect from a Michael Bay film. While The Island may lure you in with a decent setup, it’s really just a precursor to the action.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani