Spoilage ahead fair readers, be warned.
Director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer used to go together like beans and cornbread. Every film Bay has ever directed, whether it was “Bad Boys” or the unbearable “Pearl Harbor,” Bruckheimer was the man behind the man behind the camera. He was like the George character in “Of Mice and Men,” constantly looking out for his pal Lennie. It must have been time for George to let Lennie go; “The Island” marks Bay’s first directorial outing without him and “The Island” ends up being a poor man’s attempt at futuristic sci-fi smarts along the lines of “Logan’s Run” or “THX-1138”
From a literary standpoint, it’s obvious that “The Island” was influenced by the utopian works of Orwell and Huxley, only this film briefly touches on the deep moral issues these authors’ novels covered so well. It’s hard to talk too much about the plot points without ruining your entire visit to “The Island,” so I will keep it short and to the point.
The first act of the movie focuses on a society living strictly indoors in a high tech facility, where emotions are allowed only on a limited basis and thoughts not relating to your daily life are strictly prohibited. According to the Big Brothers, there is only one pure place left on Earth that hasn’t been contaminated by a plague that destroyed the rest of the outside world, and that place is “The Island.” Your only ticket to escape to this sacred paradise is to be one of the lucky winners chosen at random during a daily lottery drawing.
This act is where most of the good qualities of the film are found. The simplistic set design, incorporating white and grey tones, fits the bleak world they are trying to illuminate perfectly. Sadly, the product placement is so out of touch here. Outside of the movie (from a studio business angle), it’s understandable why it’s there. Inside the film, it’s so unnecessary. You understand more why it’s there as the plot progresses but it would have worked a slight touch better if you didn’t see everyone drinking an Aquafina or wearing Pumas.
Perhaps the producers needed some help since Bruckheimer sat the bench.
Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor) is one of the few trying to break the thought barrier. Most nights he is plagued by a nightmare where he is traveling on a boat to the island with Jordan Two Delta (Johansson), only before they make it, he is pulled overboard and drowns. After a talk with the society’s chief doctor (Bean), he stumbles behind the scenes of this brave new world and discovers what actually happens to the lottery winners, and it isn’t a trip to the island that they so happily advertise. When Six Echo emerges back from the underground, he discovers that Jordan Two Delta is the next lottery winner. The two make a daring escape and emerge above ground to discover that everything they’ve been lead to believe couldn’t have been further from the truth.
And here is where Michael Bay comes in, bringing with him what feels like the longest second act in quite some time. Every Bay cliché, from 360 degree aerial camera angles to fast cutting during action sequences to overly emotional facial expressions, everything “Bad Boys II” had and then some. One of the action pieces is actually taken straight from that film too but instead of Jamaicans throwing cars off a semi in the middle of a Miami freeway, McGregor throws heavier artillery at the cars following them. Instead of being surprised or excited, you find yourself wondering what other films you saw this same kind of action.
With the exception of “Pearl Harbor” (where nothing was enjoyable), the one quality you can always look forward to in a Bay movie is the ridiculously long and explosive car chase sequence. The chases in “The Island” aren’t only taken from the Michael Bay Textbook; they’re taken from most other new age action movies too.
Calling a Michael Bay movie disappointing may be a little trite but what makes this movie so inadequate is that there are some moments in it that could have been really worth watching. There are some really good ideas that aren’t focused on enough because something has to explode. Not everything on screen has to blow up Mr. Bay. If only some of that product placement coin was spent on working on a few more drafts of the screenplay, “The Island” could have been a much better film.