July 28, 2005
By Amy Diaz
Michael Bay gives us
shiny objects, big explosions, pretty people, and the occasional funny
one-liner — in other words, a good cheesy popcorn movie — in the
satisfying bit of junkfood The Island.
Hey, sometimes we all
want an order of the movie theater nachos. Sure, the “cheese” is a
radioactive color, the chips are suspiciously too salty, and the whole
mess congeals in a disturbing fashion if not eaten right away, but every
now and then it really hits the spot.
Ditto a good sausage
and peppers from a street cart. Ditto a Jerry Bruckheimer/ Michael Bay
movie. Frequently the director for Jerry’s more ostentatious outings
(Pearl Harbor, a-hem), Michael Bay, flying sans Bruckheimer here, is the
big falling anvil to Bruckheimer’s slightly more subtle run off the
cliff and fall only after looking down. Both are cartoonish in nature,
but Bay is a little more clangy.
Here’s how I’d go into
this movie: Just accept. As with grief or marriage, acceptance is key to
successfully working your way through a Michael Bay movie. Accept, for
example, that many things will never be explained to you. Accept that
central parts of the plot will contradict each other. Accept that plot
developments will always seem way too convenient. Accept these things
and you will more or less enjoy The Island.
And how could you help
but enjoy the screen presence of one Mr. Ewan McGregor? As an
inquisitive, American-accented lad named Lincoln Six Echo, he lives a
pampered but heavily observed life in an enclosed tower sometime in the
not-so-distant future. He wears white jumpsuits (which, as he points
out, are impossible to keep clean), his pee is tested for salt content
during his morning trip to the bathroom and he works a strange job
putting some sort of nutrient into a tube that goes who knows where. The
other inhabitants of this compound, including the comely Jordan Two
Delta (Scarlett Johansson), don’t seem terribly bothered by this, but
Lincoln is. He wants to know: Why all the white? Why the tofu? And
what’s up with this Island that everybody’s so hot to get to? According
to the compound’s staff of doctors and security people, the Island is
the last unpolluted place on earth and all inhabitants of the compound
are the only survivors of a global contamination disaster. About twice a
day, there is a lottery with the “winners” heading for the Island.
I say “winners”
because, as all of the trailers have already given away, “the Island” is
merely a euphemism for that big unpolluted vacationland in the sky and
there’s a reason that all of the compound’s inhabitants each have one of
12 possible memories of their childhoods.
Lincoln, spurred on by
the announcement that Jordan is heading for the island, is quick to
figure out that he hasn’t been told the truth and escapes the compound
with his gal pal. Once on the outside, he finds a mechanic (Steve
Buscemi) who had befriended him on the inside. The mechanic explains
that Lincoln, Jordan, and all their white-suited friends are clones
(bred for spare parts) of wealthy people out in the world. These people
have been told only that their biologically identical parts are growing
in a non-sentient mass, so Lincoln and Jordan feel certain that once
they meet their “sponsors” the world will demand a halt to the cloning
and killing program.
I know what you’re
thinking — Wow, what a complex movie! The debates it must contain, the
discussion about stem-cell research that probably exist somewhere in
metaphor, the philosophy about the nature of life it must voice! Yes, it
would have all of that if it were in fact a traditional science fiction
movie. But this is a Michael Bay movie and questions are for eggheads
that never get any dates and certainly don’t go to the movies. So, hey,
have another nacho and watch this truck blow up.
The Island is silly,
full of holes and, in spite of itself, highly entertaining. Near the end
of the movie, Lincoln meets Tom Lincoln and seldom have I seen an actor
have more fun than when I watched McGregor act with himself. Yeah it’s
cheap, but like a 7-Eleven donut, it was yummy.