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The Island

(2005) ** Pg-13
127 min. DreamWorks. Director: Michael Bay. Cast: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi.

Michael Bay recently told Entertainment Weekly, "I always say, 'Fuck the critics'...I'm going to make it so big and so loud and so over-the-top that the critics will hate it and the audience will come anyway." Take him as you will, but I say Michael Bay is a man of his word. The Island is big, it's loud, and it's over-the-top (he forgot "dumb"). Hate is a strong word for the dimwitted, action-flailing mediocrity of The Island, but I'll tell you what I always say: "Michael Bay is a tool."

In a world sometime after 2019, Ewan McGregor plays Lincoln Six-Echo, and Scarlett Johansson plays Jordan Two-Delta. Their forbidden puppy-love plays out under the watchful eyes of "Big Brother" in a vast, antiseptic apartment complex. The denizens live for the lottery, which promises winners a one-way ticket to the "last remaining pathogen-free zone": an idyllic place referred to as "the island." Of course, something's fishy, so when the lottery tries to evict Jordan, Lincoln springs the two of them into an unfamiliar world outside the walls of the compound (Steve Buscemi plays the complex's jittery comic-relief tech; Sean Bean its fearsome leader).

The Island begins with a logistically improbable premise, but I was sort of enjoying Bay's rip-off of THX-1138 until it became his rip-off of Minority Report. Still, some interesting character complications were almost enough to make me damn the torpedoes—that is, until Bay got to the car chase and the extra-improbable finale (especially the explosive bad-guy-fights-good-guy climax, tacked on after a reshoot). Once you start thinking of the artistic rip-offs, they'll be all you see: The Parallax View, The Matrix, Logan's Run, Soylent Green (The Island is people!).

The Island is undeniably eye-catching, but to a fault. Bay's the director who can't say "no": he's never met a spectacular camera move, quick cut, painful-looking stunt, or obnoxious joke he didn't like, which makes all of his films restless, bloated, and a general test of patience. Yes, Michael, people will undoubtedly go and watch you one-up your last demolition derby, but here's hoping people in the mood for spectacle will go see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory instead.

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