The Barenaked Archives: The Island

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

The Island poster People like action films. That’s no secret. If you explode stuff, shoot stuff, crash stuff, break stuff, or race stuff, we’ll flock in droves and pay ridiculous amounts of money to see it.

The problem is, there are only so many ways to explode stuff, shoot stuff, crash stuff, break stuff, and race stuff before you start to get the feeling that you’ve seen it all before. This is when it helps to have a solid story underneath, some substance to tide you over between the style.

Sadly, Hollywood has yet to grasp this concept. And in a year where summer ticket prices have consistently been lower than last year’s, they are searching desperately and futilely for the next big hit, the one that will put them back in the black. Naturally, they’re looking at the big tentpoles, the huge summer action films, to do this.

Sorry to say, gang, but The Island isn’t going to break the box office slide.

In The Island, a futuristic society inhabits a carefully controlled environment, after the rest of Earth has been contaminated. Residents live with the hope that they will be chosen by the lottery to go to the Island, the last safe, uncontaminated zone on the planet.

Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) has doubts about the authenticity of the Island, and when he discovers what really happens to the lottery winners, he grabs fellow resident Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson) in a desperate bid to escape with their lives.

The potential in this movie is staggering. Stem cell research and cloning are both extremely newsworthy topics, and a movie like this could really open up doors for discussion on both topics. How far should we go when trying to cure disease, and at what point are we just playing God? What are the consequences of messing with the human germ line?

The cast is also solid. Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Sean Bean, Djimon Hounsou, and Steve Buscemi may not be big names, but they’re all very talented, very good actors. You would think that, with a timely concept and a great cast, Michael Bay would be able to hand us an interesting, thought-provoking, and possibly unsettling science fiction film.

Oh wait…we’re talking about Michael “Bad Boys” Bay. What starts out with so much promise careens off the road and runs into an oncoming train, getting smashed into spectacular flaming pieces.

Instead of giving us something different, Bay just hands us another by-the-numbers action film that’s so mind-numbingly predictable people were walking out of the theater before the credits rolled.

The one-liners that were supposed to be funny and quotable drew crickets from the audience. The action scenes that were supposed to make us gasp and applaud garnered nothing but a few chuckles. Plot threads that could’ve been picked up and given us something new (a great moral dilemma, for example) were simply brushed aside or never followed at all.

The camera shots during chase sequences were so shaky and edited so quickly that it was nigh impossible to discern what was happening. A car chase shouldn’t bore you, but even the one in Mr. & Mrs. Smith provided more entertainment than this.

What’s more aggravating than anything is how The Island, on paper, sounds great. It sounds ground-breaking, even. But the execution is so pedestrian that it almost makes you lose faith in the medium. Do yourself a favor and go see one of the other three action movies still playing in theaters.

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