Hippo Manchester
July 28, 2005

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The Island (PG-13)
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.