Director Michael Bay knows how to blow things up. Between Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and, now, “The Island,” he has boldly used his camera for visual extravaganzas that are designed to amaze even the jaded summer audience. What he has seldom done until now is to pay a jot of attention to the inter-personal pyrotechnics, and as a result his movies tend to feel like attending a crowded fireworks display — a lot of work for 20 minutes of awe. This time around he (almost) gets it right. For audiences seeking an entertaining get-away, this “Island” might just be your destination.
Lincoln (Ewan McGregor, looking positively in love with life post-Star Wars) lives in a highly sterile, self-enclosed planet of a place, monitored constantly along with the hundreds of others who, like him, wear white track suits and abide by the rules set by black-clad staff. The denizens of this next generation health spa have their dreams, behavior, exercise, interaction, meals and “work” monitored constantly and disruptions in any of their activities or thoughts get them a counseling appointment with Merrick (Sean Bean). They all believe that they are living in a sterile environment to protect them from the contamination outside but that they will each have the chance to one day go to the “island”, the last ecologically viable place where they can live out their days in the natural light.
A questioning mind, Lincoln finds a flying bug that leads him to the truth about the place. The giant compound is “hatching” cloned humans in order to provide organs and other bits and pieces to rich, powerful people outside in the real world. He grabs best friend, Jordan (Scarlett Johansson), and makes a break for it with the reluctant assistance of mechanic, McCord (Steve Buscemi). Needless to say, Merrick has something to say about their escape and the resulting chase scenes, greatly enhanced by the presence of Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou), cause enough explosions to rattle your popcorn and take you to the edge of your seat, if not to the promised island paradise.
Are there scenes here that seem borrowed? Yes, Blade Runner, Freejack, The Matrix, The Tower, even The Blue Lagoon, and others have clearly inspired some of the dialogue, even sections of the plot. However, the beauty of many of the scenes as well as the lead characters keep it from feeling stale and the innocence factor is certainly a welcome touch, as light and original as a first kiss. The commercials in this movie weigh it down more than any awkward plot or dialogue patches and the resulting breaks in momentum make the ride seem bumpy until the next explosion distracts the senses again.
Parents should know that there is significant violence, bloodshed, and death both onscreen and implied in this movie. Characters are killed, in several cases after they have fulfilled their “function” by either giving birth or having body parts removed. There are references to debilitating diseases, injuries, sexually transmitted disease, mass-murder, and acting illegally for gain. There is an implicit sex scene, references to sex and to homosexuality. Characters lie, deceive and kill to cover up their secrets. Frequent peril and lengthy, loud chase scenes will scare younger viewers, as will the sight of the cloning “sacks”, filled with living tissue.
Families that see this movie might like to discuss the relationship between Lincoln and his clone. Lincoln says he has been searching for something that his clone has found, how are their lives contrasted? They might also wish to discuss the frequent references to doctors with “god-complexes” and how the character of Merrick personifies this approach. How does Merrick make his work possible and acceptable?
Families that enjoy this movie might like to watch “Bladerunner”, which picks up on the theme of humanity in androids instead of clones. Themes of justice and rights in the future are also raised in Minority Report.
They might also like to read such books as “Spares” (about clones) or “The Handmaiden’s Tale” (about using people as breeders), both of which have mature content.
Thanks to guest critic AME.