False Advertising...

More like NO Island…

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I hate Michael Bay. Not as much as Joel Schumacher, mind you, but enough to make me seriously doubt any movie he makes. Pearl Harbor, for example. It had all the makings of a good war flick, what with an important historic event, Oscar-winning actors, and a sense of purpose. It could have been another Saving Private Ryan. I knew, though, that Michael Bay was directing, so I stayed away. When I watched it on DVD, I knew I’d saved myself 8 dollars, even if I couldn’t get the 3 hours back.

You would think I would follow that trend, and just avoid all Bay flicks like the plague. But no, I just had to go see The Island.

Again, another “sounds good on paper” situation. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannsen star, with Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, Djimon Hounsou and Michael Clarke Duncan in supporting roles. Sounds good so far. Add in the fact that it’s a sci-fi thriller, and that Jerry Bruckheimer is NOT producing (a first for Bay), and I was motivated enough to plunk down some hard earned cash for a Michael Bay movie.

Perhaps my optimism was misguided, but I actually had high hopes for The Island. I don’t know why particularly, but the trailers made it look smarter than the average action movie, and I thought that if it was good enough for Obi-Wan, then it good enough for me. Then again, he did make Eye of the Beholder. Oh well.

It’s not that The Island is as bad as Pearl Harbor. Far from it. It’s just not as smart as I expect my sci-fi to be. I found myself wandering through titanic plot holes, and wondering if the writers intentionally structured the script as a device for chase scenes. During one of these chases, pretty much every cliché is utilized. The hero braces a door with a handy broom, and the bad guys are taken out by a swinging pipe AND ball bearings. I expect they were in a crate labeled “ACME” but I wasn’t really paying attention.

Basically, Ewan and Scarlett are clones of “real” people, created as an insurance policy for spare organs, etc. They don’t know this, they think they’re regular folks. So they get pretty freaked, naturally, when they discover they’re just organ farms, and decide to confront their other selves, and urge them to not kill them, if at all possible. Somewhere in there, there’s a lot of explosions, and random dream imagery, and Michael Clarke Duncan.

It is an interesting concept to be sure, and not too farfetched, assuming we elect a President somewhere in the future who doesn’t think cloning and stem cell research are instruments of the devil. But I digress. The Island just comes across as another lunkheaded popcorn flick that lurches from setpiece to setpiece, occasionally stumbling into a good scene.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the insulting product placement in this movie. In a perfect world, the director would have complete creative control, but I understand that isn’t always the case. So if a movie has an occasional product reference, I’m not too bothered, because with Hollywood movies these days, it’s expected. The Island, though, sunk to a new level of advertising. The references weren’t just in passing, in fact they distracted from the action. For example, a character is drinking a beer in a scene, and instead of just positioning the bottle so the label is obvious, they threw in an establishing shot of just the beer, ¾ frame, and then showed the character drinking it. At least he didn’t say “Aaaahh, that’s a smooth beer.” I feel insulted by this type of product placement, as a moviegoer, because I’ve already paid my 9 bucks, plus sat through 5-10 ads before the movie, and then I get blatant advertising in the movie. WTF?

So The Island, both creatively and financially, can be considered a flop. I would recommend it as a rental, since there are some redeeming qualities, but is it one of my least favorite movies of the summer? No doubt. I would normally give it a C, but I’m marking it down a couple grades due to the product placement. Island ends in D.


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