Friday, July 13, 2007

The Island (2005)

Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson

Now here's a movie that had some promise and could have been a great suspense/mystery into the foundation of self and soul, but they totally went after the Chick, Bang, Boom audience instead by

A) Revealing the truth of their existence in the first 10 minutes of the film and making the rest of the story one huge effects-laden chase scene.


B) Hiring Michael Bay

CloneBoy meets CloneGirl in controlled lab habitat. CloneBoy saves CloneGirl which threatens to expose Evil God-Complex Scientist. Evil God-Complex Scientist hires Mercs to hunt down CloneBoy and CloneGirl with apparent bonus if they can destroy FutureLosAngeles in the process. CloneBoy and CloneGirl escape by hiding in the Speederbike scene from Return of the Jedi. CloneBoy and CloneGirl discover the world, their sexuality, and that people - in general - suck. Evil God-Complex Scientist never learns any lesson. CloneBoy and CloneGirl return to save their CloneFriends with the help of MercLeaderWithAHeartOfGold. Evil God-Complex Scientist has a nasty experience with his Pocket Fisherman and dies. CloneBoy, CloneGirl and their Clone Friends emerge from the ground and signal that there will be 6 more weeks of winter.

Jeez. There are days that I seriously wonder about Hollywood and the people that go see movies and then I remember that the target audience for this fiasco was probably pre-pubescent. I can only pray that Transformers doesn't suffer from the fact that it shares 2 of the 3 screenwriters.

From a purely subjective standpoint, this movie is full of plotholes and omissions. There's a really cool jetbike sequence, but you never see anything like this vehicle anywhere else in the movie. Lincoln Six Echo, the main character, who is so nosy and curious that he's called into the "Principal's office" is freely allowed access to a restricted area and then somehow manages to keep the key, allowing him to learn the truth and escape. The clones are supposed to be kept in a vegetative state according to law, but this causes them to die prematurely so they're implanted with memories and made to live a THX-1138 style reality where everything is monitored and controlled. Considering the staffing requirements, that's a pretty big secret to keep hidden, especially from the Defense Department which is supposedly the big funder of this project. The list goes on. Better to just check your brain at the door and get a new one from your clone on the way out.

Ewan McGregor manages a good accent and I thought it was a nice touch that his "Original" has the full "shite"-laden Scottish accent and that they play into this in a scene you see coming the moment the two meet. My only gripe is that at times the pacing is awkward when the two share the screen. Clone-Ewan speaks, then there's a gap of dead space before Original-Ewan responds. This is especially evident in a scene where they're arguing over who's going to drive a $500K Cadillac. Scarlett Johansson does a good job, though her Original is in a coma and you never see her except for an ad in a storefront so there's no interplay there. Sean Bean as the head scientist plays self-righteously evil to a "t", which I'll admit he's very good at.

Repeat after me:

This... is... a... Michael... Bay... film...

Granted, Bruckheimer isn't producing, but there's still an incredible number of practical and CG effects and as usual they're all over the top and reminiscent of how 5-year-olds play with Matchbox cars. In one scene, featured heavily in the previews and which you'd think would spell certain death for anything larger than an amoeba, the characters are miraculously saved by netting attached to construction scaffolding. The guy who rescues them even says "Jesus must love you". No, just Michael Bay.

And they say Sean Bean's character has a god-complex.

Hard to hear through all the explosions.

Atmosphere and Immersive Details
Although they create a very nice compromise between a utopian future and a dysfunctional one better than Minority Report, there's still not much to really draw you in. Most of the technology is familiar but just evolved enough to feel strange. My earlier gripe with the jetbikes... you'd think these would be all over the LA skyline but there are only 2 in the entire movie. The action sequences are comicbook fantasy with enough speed and debris to turn the main characters into chunky salsa many times over. All the cars (Cops, Mercs, etc) are Dodges (except for a Chevy truck that was nicely aged and gets credit for being well thought out). Even the basics of the story are full of holes. There's almost nothing believable to be had in this film, which is good because I'd hate to believe that an operation like the one depicted would ever exist.

A lot of action, too little story, and too much external inspiration makes this just an "ok" flick. They could have taken it down a slightly different route without getting too cerebral and added a bit more originality (they actually used the speederbike sounds from Return of the Jedi in the Jetbike sequence) and I think it would have been better for it. 2 Stars, Didn't Like It.

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