I would use the word “obscene” to describe Michael Bay’s The Island…
for the way that its story is made up almost entirely of ideas stolen from other, far better science fiction movies;
for the way that it operates in a hysterical, high-speed, senses-battering mode in order to hold your attention and distract you from the astonishingly huge gaps in logic;
for the head-spinning coincidences;
for the way it insults our intelligence by labeling almost every piece of furniture in this futuristic film with LARGE CAPITAL LETTERS so that we know exactly what it is (like “CONTAMINATION DOOR”), and so we know exactly what kind of destruction will take place if someone pushes the wrong button or messes with it (which is pretty much a guarantee that someone WILL mess with it);
for the way the characters speak to each other in a language of the PAINFULLY OBVIOUS so that we don’t for a moment have to think for ourselves;
for the way it wastes the time and talent of so many great actors (Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johannson, Sean Bean, Djimon Hounsou, Steve Buscemi);
for the variety of ways in which it sensationalizes and entertains us with various forms of torture, maiming, injuring, poisoning, and desecrating live human characters;
for its portrayal of authority — ANY authority, from cops to the cafeteria lady — as evil and oppressive and disposable; and for how it identifies the heroes as people who will lie, cheat, and steal in order to rebel against any authority but themselves (thus, it’s a movie aimed to appeal to the sympathies of a six-year old);
and most of all, for the amount of money that must have been spent in order to mount such an outrageously empty, derivative, ridiculous film. (Think of how many smaller, meaningful, worthwhile movies could have been made with just the amount of money the various sponsors contributed in order to have their logos onscreen… logos that have curiously remained EXACTLY THE SAME even though this is supposed to happen in the distant future: MSN, Johnny Rockets, Calvin Klein, Nokia…)
Yes, I would call the film obscene if it weren’t so inadvertently funny.
My friends Danny, Wayne, and I laughed like we haven’t laughed in a long time.
We especially laughed when, to escape the police, Ewan McGregor AND Scarlett Johansson jump on a flying motorcycle (the kind the bad guys use to chase down escapees, but that the cops never seem to have handy–they’re still using present-day BlackHawk helicopters). It’s clear that McGregor has never used this kind of cycle before, but he operates it like a pro, weaving in and out of various levels of airborne traffic, at high speed, dodging bad guy blasts, and then he SMASHES IT THROUGH ONE SIDE OF A SKYSCRAPER, DOWN A CORRIDOR WHERE HE HITS NO ONE, AND THEN OUT THE WINDOW ON THE OTHER SIDE… and somehow Scarlett Johansson doesn’t let go. (Apparently, we’re back to the days when smashing an aircraft through a skyscraper is good old-fashioned fun again instead of a troubling reminder of real terror.) THEN they end up stranded on a giant company logo, at the 70th floor level, on the outside of the tower. The logo is a big letter “R”, so they have a nice space to cower in as the bad guys fly around and SHOOT THE LOGO OFF OF THE BUILDING (it’s fastened there with cables, you see; easily separated from the building). Then the logo FALLS OFF THE BUILDING with them still holding onto it. Fortunately for them, the falling logo HITS THE BLACK HAWK HELICOPTER on the way down, destroying it (and, I can only assume, all of the officers inside), and then falling 70 stories to the ground.
Are they able to go back to their existence without a big media row?
That’s just five minutes of this relentlessly ridiculous film.
To make matters worse, the movie THINKS it has a serious story, and that it’s dealing with serious issues.
These issues have been dealt with far, far better in the movies that The Island has pillaged: A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), Gattaca, Minority Report, A Clockwork Orange, and many more, above all … THX 1138.
In the end, the movie has nothing more to offer than Soylent Green. We discover, early on, that McGregor and Johansson are just clones, “insurance policies” waiting to have their organs harvested for the benefit of their “originals.” The originals believe they’ve invested millions into the development of tissue that is not part of a sentient creature; and thus they see no ethical problem. But the clone-making company learns that the organs just don’t work unless they’re developed within living, breathing human beings, so they create a covert society in the middle of a desert where the clones can obliviously grow these “resources” until the day they’re told they’ve won a lottery, and they’re carried away into the depths of this evil corporate fortress and euthanized so their organs can be extracted. The movie then runs on the impression that we will find this truly horrifying. In truth, you’ll just sit their imagining Charlton Heston running around in a panic, shouting, “Your insurance policies are PEOPLE!!!”
There’s a fleeting bit of fun to be had watching Ewan McGregor meet his “original” and fight himself. But that doesn’t make up for the excruciating pain of watching this abominable waste of Scarlett Johansson, whose natural beauty is lost in these relentless, grotesque, Maxim-style glamour shots served up for the salivating neanderthals in the crowd.
Steve Buscemi and Johansson have worked together before, in a wonderful little movie called Ghost Wo
d. They’ll be more famous now, thanks to this, but they’re sacrificing their integrity in the process.
Oh, did I mention the glass? Whenever anybody in the movie falls or runs or drives at a high speed, you can expect their path to be blocked by all manner of glass objects. One of them falls from a great height in the middle of a train station, and somehow lands behind a bar, crashing through a huge shelf-system made of glass and loaded with bottles of alcohol. So not only do we watch this character shot, but also falling, and then smashing through enough glass to put windows in a skyscraper.
I walked out of the theater feeling as if I’d just paid seven dollars to have someone shove my head through plate glass windows for two hours, except for the fact that I’d been laughing the whole time.
That can’t be healthy.
Expect Michael Bay to be rewarded with a huge box office weekend.