"I take orders from the Octoboss."

The Island (2005)

tn_theislandTHE ISLAND I guess was Michael Bay’s big failure. He held his head high during his public shaming as the asshole who directed PEARL HARBOR, but this time he hit the type of bump that means more to him: he made a movie that didn’t make very much money. In the U.S. I guess it only made $36 million, which would be enough for his monthly Lamborghini allowance but doesn’t even cover a third of the shooting budget. For comparison, PEARL HARBOR made $75 million on its opening weekend.

Of course I’m coming to it eight years and three TRANSFORMERSes later having heard of its growing reputation as Michael Bay’s Not As Bad Movie. So when I was looking for a dumb summer blockbuster to get me in a summer movie mood it leapt off the video store shelf into my cold, reluctant embrace.

Ewan McGregor plays Lincoln Six Echo, a man in a dystopian future where contamination has forced society underground. They wear all white (with Pumas – should’ve been Nikes like the Heaven’s Gate cult) and live a heavily-controlled existence, sort of a health-conscious THX-1138. When Lincoln wakes up in the morning a screen tells him he slept poorly, makes him an appointment about it, detects too much sodium in his piss. He goes to do weird futuristic manual labor all day but also has a second job or hobby holographically fighting Scarlett Johansson in a public gaming arena sponsored by Xbox. I wonder, did Xbox really feel it was necessary to put a big logo in front of these people? Because they literally have no money.

There’s one hope in this world and that’s “the island,” the last uncontaminated part of the earth. Every I-don’t-know-how-often there’s a lottery and someone gets to go live there instead of this underground lab bullshit. The others dream about it every day, the carrot on the stick. (I guess the lottery is a metaphor for, you know, the lottery.)

mp_theislandBut you just can’t help get the feeling that something’s rotten in Denmark, or as young Obi Wan would say, “I have a baaaaad feeling about this,” or as TRAINSPOTTING would say, “there’s a baby on the ceiling… choose life.” Lincoln has illegally made friends with Steve Buscemi, a worker at the lab, he wears a plain old mechanic’s jumpsuit, not a cool track jacket like the security guys, so he has some of that salt of the earth wisdom, you know, he knows certain things about life, he has a special insight that–

Ah, fuck it, they’re clones. Spoiler. The world is not contaminated, these people are just told that because they’re grown in a lab to harvest replacement organs for the super rich. Lincoln is grown for a famous Scottish-American race car driver or something, Jordan for a model, Michael Clarke Duncan (only in two scenes I believe) for an NFL star. There is no island, it’s the same as that big farm out in the country where your dog moved to when you were little. Not exactly a mindblower, but I like that it’s not a traditional dystopia, just an illegal operation within a more normal near future. Luckily Lincoln discovers the truth right after Jordan wins the lottery, and they bust out right on time. (Freedom in this movie is represented by characters standing out on a hill photographed by a helicopter circling around them repeatedly.)

As they make it to the city – futuristic enough to have hover-motorcycles, trains and monorails, but not full-on BLADE RUNNER – we learn just how sheltered they’ve been. When they see a snake they don’t know what it is, same thing for a car. We hear that all their cartoons and TV shows have been designed to control their aggression or something, so they do have media, but it somehow never shows a car or a snake I guess. Weird.

They go to find working man Buscemi at his pad, and then track down their “clients” and hope to find a way to reveal their existence to the world and blow the lid off the whole operation. The company’s CEO Sean Bean, who would prefer to keep the lid tightly sealed, sends a team of mercenaries led by Djimon Hounsou to get them. Luckily those flying motorcycles are pretty easy to figure out with one try even if you are a weird manchild clone who just saw his first ever car like half an hour ago. So there are high speed chases with massive destruction until eventually Lincoln goes back to the clone factory to try to free everybody. The Great Emancipator.

It’s a nice looking movie with most of the action taking place outside in the sun, which I like. The futuristic-but-not-space-age vehicles are pretty cool, and the action is good by Bay standards. Kinda chaotic but the editing is more reasonable than usual, I could tell what was going on, I think.

And I like that Hounsou gets to change sides at the end. There’s no dimension to him but he’s the most compelling character to me so it’s satisfying for his looks of questioning throughout the movie to have some pay off.

It’s true that Bay keeps his Bayness at bay a little more than usual, but you can’t keep a clone underground and you can’t have Michael Bay make a 100% tasteful movie. As always he veers off into tonally jarring, painfully unfunny comedy bits, including a few of his standards: sassy black lady (Yvette Nicole Brown, later of Community), jive talking black witness of crazy destruction scene, and of course the one where a guy sees two guys doing something that he misunderstands as gay and then he’s uncomfortable and they get all embarrassed because they probly hate gays and would never be gay like a gay.

There are also several weird injections of misogyny: the male clones complaining about women getting to go to the island just to give birth, Buscemi shutting his wife up by saying “Remember that little talk we had about talking?” and later telling Lincoln never to give a credit card to a woman. You can’t tell me Bay didn’t add that last one. Not because it’s sexist, because it’s a hack joke for a shitty ’80s comedian.

To show that the clones are like children they have them “messing with the new guy” by flicking the back of his ears. Stupid new guy. Of the many problems here I think it’s this “adult children” concept that’s the biggest problem for the movie. You can recognize that they’re victims and feel bad for them but they’re by design so dumb and personality-less that you can’t really care about them or think they’re cool. Johansson comes out looking especially bad, because at least McGregor’s character is figuring shit out. She just has to look surprised and confused alot.

And then it really stretches the movie’s credibility. He doesn’t even know what a car is but figures out how to drive it. Just doesn’t know about traffic lights. Ha ha. (Also, his dad or whatever you call the original McGregor he’s cloned from lets him drive his car even though he has arranged for the mercenaries to come get them. Whoops. Car chase. Should’ve thought of that.)

Lincoln can’t talk to anybody without taking everything they say literally (“He’s in the can.” “He’s in a can?” “Yeah, taking a dump.” “Where is he taking it to?”) and yet when the plot requires it he has no trouble at all just taking over the guy’s life, acting cool and wearing sunglasses and fooling everybody. And aside from believability issues I just think it would be more interesting if he did a bad job but got away with it because who would assume a rich guy acting weird meant he was replaced by a clone?

By the way, if you ever think a rich guy is acting weird just hand him a snake. That’s the way to test it.

Seeing McGregor in this made me realize that we don’t see him in movies all that much. But I guess him being in this movie in the first place is probly why. I used to think of him as the guy from TRAINSPOTTING and all those movies he was doing back then. I see him now and I think he’s Obi Wan Kenobi – another life claimed by the star wars. He does what he can with this role, but I think it was a mistake to cast him, because it ignores that reality that this is a Nicolas Cage movie. It’s slick and has a hint of intelligent ideas but is mostly brain dead and it would be funny to see how Cage would play the childlike-guy-who-doesn’t-know-what-a-snake-is angle. He would’ve gone to town with that.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 27th, 2013 at 12:13 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

88 Responses to “The Island (2005)”

  1. Nicholas Cage is… The Island.

    Sometimes remakes are a good idea, Vern. This is one of those times, sir.

  2. It’a already a remake of PARTS: THE CONUS HORROR, albeit an unofficial (one might even say illegal) one. According to Wikipedia: “The big-budget 2005 DreamWorks production The Island, also about a colony that breeds clones to harvest organs for the elite, mirrors Clonus in a number of ways. The makers of Clonus filed suit, claiming copyright infringement. On August 25, 2006, the court presiding over this case ruled that it could proceed to trial. According to a 2007 interview with Clonus screenwriter Bob Sullivan, DreamWorks and Clonus Associates reached a settlement, the specific terms of which are sealed.”

    I like THE ISLAND. The beginning actually has Bay delving into weird, uncharted territory by exploring things like “pacing” and “atmosphere” and “suspense.” Then he just says fuck it and starts tossing cars around. Bay doesn’t change his style for anyone. Pussies do that.

  3. I don’t understand why people bring up Parts: The Clonus Horror, as people has ever watch it, or would watch it. It got a 3,3 rating on imdb. You could rather talk about that chick how wrote a script in the 80’s, who the Wachowski siblings read, and then they wrote The Matrix, after the film she sued them, and there has been a lawsuit for more then a decade. But it doesn’t only cover the Matrix films, it also is a law suite against The Terminator franchise. It just the ways Hollywood works. Of course with The Matrix and Terminator law suite, it’s all about a billiong dollar, why The Island made so little money, that nobody really cares.

  4. I’ve seen PARTS: THE CLONUS HORROR. Twice, actually. Once by itself and twice in its MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 form. I saw it before I saw THE ISLAND, and it’s true that the similarities are impossible to dismiss. It’s extremely unlikely that it was just a coincidence. The entire premise and plot structure of the movie was replicated. You might even say it was cloned.

    Also, it’s not really a bad movie at all, despite its reputation. It sets up its world reasonably well and has a fairly chilling ending. I’d say its low IMDB rating comes from most people having only seen the MST3K version.

  5. Ah THE ISLAND, when a dumb guy tries and sorta fails at making a “smart” sci-fi thriller. PAIN & GAIN was more suited to his, umm, skillset to be honest and actually somewhat successful.

    Vern – Bay always it seems like have a homophobia streak to his work. I know Majestyk tried to somewhat defend that scene in PAIN & GAIN when The Rock beat up that gay guy for hitting on him. (Even if Majestyk did share my disgust with that moment.) What was the point of it, to make Rock look like a villain?

    Ghost – Because MST3K reviewed PARTS, and I seem to remember that episode being hilarious. And to be fair to the PARTS producers who brought up that lawsuit, they had enough of a good case when you read the details to force a rich settlement from Dreamworks. (For one point, Katzenberg many years before was presented with PARTS which he turned down. Who helps run Dreamworks when THE ISLAND was produced? Katzenberg. Opps.)

    Also I remember when one of THE ISLAND producers (Walter F. Parkes**, I believe) blamed the movie’s domestic failure on McGregor and ScarJo not being big enough stars. Which of course is hilarious because if that’s the case, WHY DID YOU HIRE THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE THEN?

    I get it sometimes with duds you want to cover your ass with sometimes trivial defenses, but sometimes they make you look worse than the fact that you bankrolled a movie with a (usually) successful director and he tripped this time.

    *=I liked that Universal exec last year who blamed BATTLESHIP’s failure on not being released in 3-D.

    **=Mostly known for co-scripting WARGAMES but he also co-wrote the awesome SNEAKERS. You need to review that sometime Vern. A fun, intelligently written popcorn thriller (that was ahead of its time politically) that should fix your urge for “dumb” summer movies.

  6. Vern, I think it’s the other way round when it comes to Ewan. It’s movies like THE ISLAND he should be doing. The Danny Boyle movies and Star Wars are great, but he doesn’t seem to want to do things like that nowadays, and if he make one more of those “erotic thrillers” he will lose even those of us who really like him (and my wife REALLY like him).

  7. PARTS is a fun movie and it would make a good follow up review to this one

  8. Random Fact: Scarlett Johansson was going to do a topless scene for this, but the studio nixed it because they wanted to make it a PG-13 instead. I…don’t know how to feel about that.

  9. Ghost, you’re not saying you believe the lady who claims that THE MATRIX and THE TERMINATOR were stolen from her spiritual sci-fi comic book, are you? If you do believe it you must not have heard any interviews with her or read anything about the case. The whole idea is ludicrous on its face and then she goes off on tangents about Harry Potter being real witchcraft and shit like that.

    By the way, The Terminator was added onto the lawsuit because when she was explaining to an FBI agent (!) what her story was about he said it sounded more like The Terminator than The Matrix. I think I wrote about it in a column or review somewhere but I can’t remember which one.

  10. Got any links to those interviews? It sounds ridiculous, but in a fascinating way.

  11. Hey, I enjoyed CLONUS too in its proper form. I’ve seen that and haven’t seen THE ISLAND. And I can’t imagine I’m alone.

  12. Didn’t Bay lazily rip off his own big dumbbells on a truck chase sequence from this one in one of the TRANSFORMERS sequels?

    I wouldn’t know cause I never bothered with the sequels but I remember seeing that somewhere.

  13. pegsman – Funnily enough he recently said that he’s open to returning as Obi-Wan in any future SW entry. Expect to see old make up wearing force ghost Ewan some day down the road.

  14. I gave this a second chance and still hated it. Also blame Orci and Kurtzman for the script that starts with morally ambiguous ideas and has no balls to play them. I kept expecting Scarlett to sacrifice herself for her original because she saw she had a daughter and her life was worth saving. But no, that would require some dimension beyond “cloning is bad.”

    Bay wants the clones to be holocaust Jews and when they’re freed it’s like the exodus. Sorry, clones are not the holocaust. They’re just macguffins. I’m not even sure I agree with freeing them. I mean, they are individual sentient beings for sure, but they’re hardly equipped to exist in the modern world, let alone the future. What if one of their originals was a good person instead of the one dimensional evil Ewan? Wouldn’t that make an interesting movie?

    Broddie, I think it’s actually some great movie magic, the power of cinema, that he could reuse footage in another movie and it doesn’t break any continuity. The problem in both cases is that the action scenes have no build. It’s just a serious of destruction, things breaking and falling. That’s not inherently exciting.

  15. Uh, Fred. A good person would not hire someone to make and raise an entire living being to be cut up just for parts. But I get what you’re saying about the sacrifice for the child. You’re not going to get those kinda of discussions in a Bay movie, though.

    The whole pregnant clones thing always bothered me with this movie. It seemed like such a waste of money and a clone body to use it for carrying a child, only to have the clone killed for no reason that seemed intelligent enough for me. Again, if this wasn’t a Bay movie that might be handled somehow as a commentary about the wastefulness of the uber-rich.

    Otherwise, this is a decent movie if you’re bored on a Sunday and nothing else is on TV.

  16. The only Micheal Bay picture I consider halfway decent. I sorta like it. It’s not good, but it’s not as gratingly awful as the rest of his filmography.

    I know some people who worked on THE ISLAND (and others who worked on ARMAGEDDON) and oh, lord, have they got stories. I have been advised multiple times to not work for Micheal Bay. He is just NO fun. Not for the crew, not for the actors, not for the studio, not for nobody.

  17. In defense of the rich guys in this movie, I believe they were told the parts were grown and were not sentient.

    I forgot to get into the morality of it. It does seem to want you to forget that Jordan’s freedom means a kid without a mother. But I guess they get some credit for bringing it up in the first place.

  18. ok, time for some trivia that only I probably care about but damn it….I just can’t help myself

    actress Siobhan Flynn, who has a small role in this movie, also voiced a character in the anime R.O.D The TV, in the commentary track for the last dvd volume of the series she says “I’m in The Island!” in this funny, sarcastic way, as if she was embarrassed by it

  19. Damn, JD, I know you can’t tell probably, but…I want stories…

  20. I do too

    I wonder how much piss coffee Bay has drank over the years?

  21. Enough bodily fluids have entered Bay’s mouth over the years to fill a bathtub. And that’s just from tainted coffee, I bet!

  22. Broddie, good to hear. I guess some of my wife’s disappointment in Ewan’s movies has rubbed off on me. But he did HAYWIRE and JACK THE GIANT SLAYER so I guess he’s starting to realize that he’s better off doing the lighter stuff.

  23. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 28th, 2013 at 1:03 am

    Broddie – Bay used a shot of a crashing car from The Island in Transformers 3 and added a Transformer and a slightly different color scheme. Apparently there was a reason for it though so I guess it wasn’t just laziness. From IGN:

    “The shot from ‘The Island’ was inserted after an accident that occurred during filming of that particular chase scene in ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’. A tow-cable snapped, hitting film extra Gabriella Cedillo and resulting in a serious head injury, leaving her paralysed.”

  24. Shoot: I can’t remember where I heard the interview where she said the thing about Harry Potter, but just do a google search on her name (Sophia Stewart) to fall down a rabbit hole of crazy bullshit. She has multiple websights and fake fan sights for her supposed manuscript “The Third Eye,” which she claims both the Matrix and The Terminator are stolen from. All of them are weird gibberish and mysterious statements and outlandish claims, like that she won $150 million in her lawsuit (which actually was dismissed years ago) and she says she will eventually post a document that proves it but for now she will email it to you individually if you ask for it and she asks you to spread it around. Also will you buy her ebook and webinar even though she’s a millionaire.

    She also says that the reason her story doesn’t sound very similar to the Matrix is because they cut a half hour out of the movie for the DVD to hide the truth.

    I’m pretty fascinated by her because she’s such a nut but every time I come across someone who believes her I just get sad. I don’t want to be mean, but you just gotta be stupid to have read anything she wrote or heard an interview with her and think it’s a true story. There is no part of the story that sounds even remotely believable even if she wasn’t talking about magic and third eyes and the fall of Rome and shit.

    Here’s a pretty thorough L.A. Times piece about the persistence of the urban legend that she won the lawsuit:


    It would be cool if THE ISLAND was also based on The Third Eye.

  25. Yeah Vern I agree about those helicopter shots. Made the whole movie feel like a pre-Olympics Nike commercial or something. Man o man this this movie suck. I’d go so far as to say the only one I couldn’t even finish, which is seriously saying something…

  26. I remember when The Island and Stealth both flopped in the summer of 2005, some people were wondering if that was a sign that blockbusters were going to get a bit smarter, or at the very least if that meant people were just sick of Michael Bay

    oh how wrong they were

  27. One of the biggest complaints about the movie when it came out, wasn’t even about the movie, but the trailer, which gave away the plot twist about what “The Island” is. I’m sure spoilerific trailers existed already before, but if you ask me, that was the time when the spoiling really started.

  28. This, like all Michael Bay movies, has beautiful colors. How does he do it? All the other intellectually/morally questionable elements aside, you can always tell it’s a Michael Bay movie within 2 seconds, even before the first frenetic cut, because no one else can get their films to look like this. It’s the color, man.

    Any idiot can film helicopters in formation at sunset, but only Bay makes the image sing. Just compare BATTLESHIP — desperate to be a Bay movie, and in many respects successful, but nothing close to the look. Is there a lens for this effect?

  29. Good point, DocZ. I watch a lot of spectacle cinema, and very little of it makes me feel like I’m watching something spectacular. However much of a monster Bay is on-set (I find his persona endlessly entertaining but I’d never want to work for him) he makes it work. His images really pop in a way that very few filmmakers in any genre can manage. Pity he so rarely lets you get a good look at them, but in a way, it only adds to their beauty because they’re so fleeting. They’re like endangered tropical birds flitting by just at the edge of your vision.

    Griff: Are you kidding? Bay’s not gonna fall for some fratboy shit like that. You know he’s gonna make whoever fetches the coffee taste it first.

  30. I dunno, don’t the Transformer films suffer from that “orange and teal” disease? at least the second one does

  31. so I’m not sure about his movies having amazing color, at least not the recent ones

  32. I wonder how much THE ISLAND was knee-capped by the terrible marketing. All the big money shots of course happen in the “real world”, so they put them in the trailers. Unfortunately, that made the mystery in the entire first third of the movie completely dead weight. But I did appreciate Bay doing something different than pure action. And I do like the film even though it does fails to gel together and realize its heady sci-fi ambitions.

    As for that weird THE MATRIX lawsuit lady, I knew it being complete bullshit right from the start. I distinctly remember her providing evidence for the court she had the original idea. Evidence that was straight up copied from one of The Matrix graphic novels.

  33. I think you are being homophobicphobic in this review as the man who walks in on Mr Pink in the toilet acts no more embarrassed than is reasonable if walking in on any two people of any gender going at it. Furthermore, he politely apologises and leaves them to continue which is a notably unhomophobic thing to do. So I would suggest you tone down your value judgements here lest you present as some sort of bigot, first oppressing minorities such as the downtrodden homophobic, and then unfairly lumping Mr Bay in that crowd when he was only trying to show how normal homosexuality is that even in a redneck dirt-town bar it is acceptable and not subject to hate or fear-mongering. A lesson you could learn from Mr Bay.

  34. Anybody here seen “People Like Us”? After the nightmare that was Star Trek into Darkness’ script, I decided that movie must be next on my to-do list, since I’m now incredibly curious how the Orci/Kurtzman machine could possibly make a family drama. As in, does it have giant plot holes, stupid twists for the sake of twists, murky character motivations, and general incoherence? I know the Transformer and ST films they write make money, but does ANYONE actually like the scripts for them?

    Which brings me to The Island – I thought it was bad enough that these two writers kept getting work after a stream of awful scripts, but I totally forgot that they were sued for plagiarism and lost! It’s good to know stuff like that apparently doesn’t hurt your career and gets you put in charge of rebooting a beloved property like Star Trek. Shit, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were hired to work on some of the next Star Wars sequels.

  35. neal is right, and what neal says is making me depressed.
    How do these script-scribbling dipshits Orci & Kurtzman keep failing upwards? It ain’t right. We oughta Occupy Hollywood until there’s justice, until we get better blockbusters.

    Anyway, yeah, Vern’s right, this is Michael Bay’s Not As Bad Movie. Obi Wan’s character is kind of a rich prick, which I remember enjoying, but yeah it’s pretty dumb that his clone just “intuits” how to drive, as though it’s genetically natural for him to be behind the wheel. We get it, movie — you need to justify the car chases, whatever.

    Wish THE ISLAND had been more exploitative & tasteless. A world with not one but *2* Scarlett Johanssons, possibly more than 2. Multiple ScarJoes, onscreen & in my dreams. Jeezus. Imagine the possibilities.

  36. Jareth Cutestory

    May 28th, 2013 at 7:09 am

    I’ve seen enough tone-deaf performances from McGregor that his presence in a film should deter me from seeing it, but I’m actually kind of intrigued by the subtle variations of weak or grating acting that he’s managed to give. His performance in HAYWIRE, for example, had a kind of goofiness that grated on my nerves and drained valuable villainy from the film; yet in MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS he had no discernible character traits whatsoever, a sentient hanger for the clothes he was wearing. BIG FISH saw him striving to achieve something like endearing, which almost suited the homespun feel of the film; yet his mugging in DOWN WITH LOVE was as smarmy as the worst Tom Cruise vehicle.

    His performance in TRAINSPOTTING, of course, was exceptional, and I liked him without reservations in THE IMPOSSIBLE (though I think the script to that film was one of the worst of last year).

    So in short, I have no idea how to crack the code of getting a good performance out of McGregor, except to hire Fassbender instead.

  37. I’m a fan of THE ISLAND. It’s not my favorite Bay film, but I applaud it’s ridiculousness especially when it becomes BAD BOYS 2 in the second half.

    A few nits on the write-up: Ewan McGregor’s “owner” is a designer, he’s behind advancements in transportation, particularly cars and boats. His innate skills seem to have been transferred to the clone as demonstrated in one of the “sessions” with Sean Bean which leads to some of the interesting bits between Bean and the unnamed scientists when discussing the need for “live” organ sacks as opposed to the literal organ sacks the clients think they’ve signed up for. This is meant to explain the clone’s proficiency with vehicles despite not recognizing them in the “real” world. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but it gets a pass for the muscle memory genetics that are part of the story/process. What’s more of an oddity is client McGregor’s almost muted reaction to finding out his policy produced a clone rather than meatsicle he thought he bought. They also track Buscemi to his bar through an obvious clue (and the fact that there are only so many places they’d stumble upon close to where they broke out) and only later go to his place to get disguises before heading to the train.

    I also really like the “new client” scene that wasn’t mentioned. There’s a lot of layer stacking going on with the break-out going on while the company shills try lining up new customers. No matter the hilarious action, there are a lot of decent comments on science and society no matter how tired some may be. Whether any of the things leave you with questions or lead to discussions on the topics doesn’t detract from the thing as a whole because the spectacle is entertaining enough. I can see Vern lumping THE ISLAND in with his dumbening of the summer blockbuster theory, but only if you’re the kind of person that demands scenes of characters sitting around discussing the moral implications. Why does that need to happen? Issues are raised, multiple viewpoints come in, the system may fall by the end but that doesn’t erase the opportunity to discuss them afterward.

    The real joy is the ridiculous action set pieces, particularly the scaffolding collapse. Add in the hoverbikes, a variety of bloodless shootouts with the occasional twist and you get some quality thrills.

    Oh, and neal2zod, Orci/Kurtzman have actually done what they think is family drama on more than one occasion, though their most sincere attempt is in the reboot of HAWAII FIVE-0 so it is still shaded by action. As to their role in any story theft, how much of it was them versus the credited “story by” dude?

  38. Jareth Cutestory

    May 28th, 2013 at 7:18 am

    I haven’t seen THE ISLAND, but, based on Vern’s review, wouldn’t it have made sense to set up Clone Ewan’s driving prowess by having the video game that he plays be one of the countless driving games that are available? Or does x-box not make that kind of game?

  39. Also I should mention that I think Michael Bay on the commentary mentioned he was driving behind a truck carrying those big train wheels, and decided they looked so cool he needed to put them in his next movie. Nevermind he basically did the same gag with the car carrier in Bad Boys 2. And also nevermind The Island establishes about 30 minutes prior that trains now run on some light-rail/magnetic hovering mechanism now, so the entire appearance of the train wheels makes no sense, but that’s basically Bay in a nutshell.

    I actually didn’t think The Island was that bad (or that good) but it was definitely in a tricky position – a summer blockbuster that’s not a sequel with no big stars and not based on a comic book/other popular property. In fact, the only brand name it really had to “sell” it is Michael Bay himself. The only other recent movie I can think of like that is Inception except it had Dicaprio, and Christopher Nolan doesn’t have a reputation for making terrible movies.

    Oh and I don’t want to open a whole can of worms, but I actually thought Hounsou’s turn into a good guy at the end was obvious before the movie ever started. I can’t really go into how often this whole plot device happens without spoiling ALOT of movies, but I think it’s an unwritten rule that if a black villain is doing the dirty work of a rich white CEO villain, he’s going to become good at the end.

  40. Neal, PEOPLE LIKE US has more exposition than even their sci-fi scripts. Unbelievable.

  41. Jareth, together with my wife I have done some research on Ewan McGregor, and if you look at the reality shows he’s done for TV (THE LONG WAY ROUND and THE LONG WAY DOWN) it’s pretty clear that he has the kind of light, humorous personality that’s best suited for adventure stuff like PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, to name one gig he didn’t get. His best movie will of course always be TRAINSPOTTING. But those kind of stories don’t come around too often, and you might just end up in CASSANDRA’S DREAM if you stray too far from what you’re good at.

  42. I thought McGregor was great in I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS. He plays wide-eyed innocence and sweetness to hilarious effect.

  43. neal2zod – The train wheels on the truck were scrap metal. They were being hauled away precisely because trains were running on maglev.

    There are plenty of plot weirdness in that film (like why do the clones need XBox and Aquafina product placement?), but the train wheels weren’t one.

    Won’t dispute that Bay recycled the scene from BAD BOYS 2. And used it once again in TRANSFORMERS 3. Hell, in TF3, he even re-uses the same footage.

  44. HT – yeah as I was typing that plot hole i figured you could rationale the train wheels were on the truck precisely because they weren’t on the train, i guess that makes sense.

    Fred – Even MORE exposition than their sci-fi flicks? It’s going to the top of my Netflix queue now.

  45. Jose Hernandez

    May 28th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    I just realized the similarity between this and Never let me go.

  46. Jose – yeah, they’re very similar concepts done in wildly different ways, and would make a fascinating double feature. Also, I got super-high one night and finally had a breakthrough and enjoyed Blade Runner, after 20+ years of not liking it, and realized you could argue The Island is practically Blade Runner from the perspective of Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah (with Honsou as Harrison Ford).

  47. the reason hacks like Orci & Kurtzman keep getting work is because Hollywood doesn’t give a flying fuck about scripts or writing anymore, it’s not what sells movies these days

    I think that’s the fundamental flaw, the reason why so many movies are bad these days, it’s not because of too much CGI or whatever it’s simply because screenwriters have gotten extremely incompetent/lazy and no longer follow the golden rules of screenwriting that they used to, hence sloppy scripts

  48. Ewan McGregor said he took the part because he wanted to play the Scottish rich asshole character that Lincoln was cloned from. Watching it you can see how much fun he’s having when he’s playing that guy and not the more simple minded hero.

  49. Orci and kurtzman aren’t hacks. They are skilled technicians. The reason that most of the movies they write suck is because they write (and produce!) blockbusters.

    Blockbusters are made in a scale that requires the studio to call dibs on a release date two-to-three years in advance. As a result, they are announced before they are written. They reverse engineer the films based on release date, back to the end of postproduction, to the start of shooting.

    If you don’t start shooting by x date, you cannot make y release date. If you do not release by y date, your likelihood of profitability is halved. in addition to meeting y date, you need need to cast an actor or director of z class in order to secure foreign financing. But you cannot secure said talent until fairly close to the start of production. And, as a function of securing an actor or director of z quality, you will have to have the script rewritten to his/her (let’s be honest; his) specifications. But, just because actor or director of a quality approves of a draft, does not mean it is finished or appropriate for production. The confluence of all these factors means that you almost always start production with an incomplete draft and work it and rework it as you go.

    The writer always gets the mud when a movie turns out poorly and the director and actor always get the credit when it turns out well.

    Do I think orci and kurtzman are great writers? No. But when you consider that their two biggest hits came in the form of movies that had to be done NOW (because of the writer’s strike), they’ve done alright.

    It’s a rare skill to be able to rewrite a scene without changing the pace, props, characters, locations or basic lighting set ups and keep it within the logical constraints of various other scenes, both previous and future, on the day of the shoot while 300+ people and 200+ million dollars rest on your shoulders.

  50. Also, movies are made for an entirely different audience today than they were even 20 years ago. Massive markets are opening up and they want big American films. But many of the people seeing these movies will only have a rudimentary education in terms of awareness of American culture and social cues. Correspondingly, the market has begun to favor films with more advanced visual storytelling and fewer lines of dialogue. Visuals translate across boarders much better than do quips and innuendos.

    It’s neither better nor worse, just different. Entirely different.

  51. I would say it’s worse, way worse

    let me give you an example, I literally just got through watching the movie Casper, recently I’ve been on a kick re-watching movies I haven’t seen since I was a kid and Casper, while not a great movie, is a reasonably good one, better than I was expecting even

    now compare Casper to a modern movie based on an old cartoon, like The Smurfs or Alvin and the Chipmunks and consider all the stuff in Casper like the cool sets of the haunted mansion (all real sets too), ya know, stuff with actual imagination and effort, and the difference between said movies is ridiculous, just thinking about The Smurfs or Alvin and the Chipmunks is enough to make my skin crawl

    it’s like man, remember when Hollywood used to put some actual EFFORT into movies instead of just slapping them together? that’s the difference I think, not every movie from the 90’s was a winner but it still seems like the people in the business gave more of a shit than they do now, even for movies being sold on name recognition

    (and man do I miss the 90’s trend of cool sets)

  52. So why did you throw writers under the bus when you meant that you miss cool practical sets? And say what you will of Alvin or smurfs but they almost certainly have more coherent narratives than Casper which is all over the place and sometimes barely coherent. Also, I don’t know that Casper is a fair comparison point because cartoon adaptation is a genre the same way that novel adaptation is a genre. Why don’t we compare the shawls bank redemption to paycheck. They’re both based on short stories!

  53. I see little evidence that the Orci/Kurtzman machine has the skill to “rewrite a scene without changing the pace, props, characters, locations or basic lighting set ups and keep it within the logical constraints of various other scenes.”

    Have you *seen* their blockbusters? Incoherence & discontinuity doesn’t bother these assholes any more than lack of cleverness or lack of originality.

  54. No one’s to blame except the people who keep making their movies huge hits. But LEGEND OF ZORRO is so stupid at least they’ve improved since then.

  55. Tawdry, I don’t really have a dog in this fight, but what you just described in detail there was them being hacks. If indeed their job is merely to fulfill the scheduling and business shit you just explained there then yes, it sounds like a hard job but who gives a shit other than whatever agent and executive type people you talk to that fill your head with all that stuff. It’s a good story to tell the wife after a hard day at work but not an excuse we should care about if we think the results are garbage.

    Furthermore, as we have discussed here for years, and as you know very well, some of our favorite movies have been made under those type of conditions, including recent ones. You’re using an industry insider version of “it’s not supposed to be Shakespeare, it’s just supposed to have explosions” now updated to “it’s not supposed to be good, it’s just supposed to be finished on time.”

    Yeah, I always figured the TRANSFORMERSes weren’t their fault. But also they’re adults who knowingly took the money. I don’t think their daughters were kidnapped or anything. They can face the music.

    And what does your point about “advanced visual storytelling and few lines of dialogue” have to do with Kurtzman and Orci? Isn’t one of the reasons people hate them their liberal use of expository dialogue?

    I don’t hate the guys, but since this came up I looked at their filmography and it’s true, there is not alot on there to explain how they keep getting so much work. I think M:I 3 is good though.

    p.s. I can’t back Griff up on CASPER.

  56. awwww, you don’t like Casper Vern? like I said it’s not a great movie by any means but it’s certainly a hell of a better than any modern kid’s movies based on old cartoons (The Smurfs, Yogi Bear, Alvin, Marmaduke, Garfield etc etc)

    but I agree with you that if writers write bad scripts, then the excuses don’t matter, the final movie does, in truth I find the whole “blame the studio” thing a little too simple, Lord knows plenty of movies have been ruined by studio meddling but that makes it sound like writers and directors have no influence over how a movie turns out, which I don’t think is the case

  57. Griff, since you are no longer a kid, are you really in a proper position to judge the movies that kids of today grow up with? They will probably say the same thing you say about Casper but applying it to whatever they are watching now. It´s part of their childhood,part of their history. It has no less meaning than Casper has to you.

  58. Shoot McKay – I’m just calling it as I see it, I can’t speak for kids these days, though I feel fucking sorry for anybody that has The Smurf movie be a part of their childhood

  59. Griff, isn’t a little bit unfair to compare CASPER and THE SMURF MOVIE. I think movies like THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE or G-FORCE will be bigger movies from my kid’s childhood than THE SMURFS. I watch a lot of films with my youngest kid, and I can safely say that children’s movies of today are a lot more entertaining than the moralistic-parents-knows-best-Little House-on-the-Prairie-shite I grew up with. And the kids are a lot more visually sophisticated than we were too.

  60. Not to mention that previously also stuff like THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE or MAC & ME existed, so the awful kids movie is not exactly a new trend.

  61. In Sweden we had children programs with silhouette puppet shows (shadow plays) and things like that from godknowswhere. Hardly any Disney shows on tv except for christmas with an annual Disney christmas clip show. Man you were so thankful for that day of the year.

  62. I Donno. I see a beauty in being a script doctor and rubix cubing a narrative out of disparate elements. I kinda subscribe to the Matthew blarney approach that art is defined by constraints.

    …I’m the only person to ever link blarney and orci and kurtzman and I know it sounds dumb, but I think there is something thrilling about the idea of being given 15 Pre-viz action scenes and being told to write a script around them (aka transformers 2). But then, I generally don’t think that screenwriting is an art, so my opinion is crazy.

    I’d also wager that Star Trek is a legitimately great popcorn flick up until old Spock shows up.

  63. Knox Harrington

    May 29th, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Orci and Kurtzman remind me of David S. Goyer, in that they’re only as good as the director that’s leading them.

    I still don’t consider Goyer to be a very good writer and get worried whenever he’s attached to a movie I think I might like (Man of Steel, for instance). Blade 1 and 2 were great because of Norrington and Del Toro (and Snipes, obviously). The Batmans were great because of Nolan. But whenever Goyer is left on his own, or in the hands of a mediocre director, the results are pretty disastrous.

    So far Abrams is the only one to get anything worthwhile out of those guys. I liked MI:3 and Star Trek, and hopefully Into Darkness will be decent (haven’t seen it or read any reviews yet), but Orci and Kurtzman seem like nothing more than user-friendly tools for blockbuster filmmakers.

  64. Okay, Griff, I’ll admit to liking the Casper movie, too, although it is not without its failings. I also always thought about how weird it was going to be for Ricci’s character that she would spend her teens with the first guy she’d ever kissed living in her house, except he would always be in a form that resembled the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s floaty kid and have the ability to invisibly spy on you when you bring your boyfriend home for a different kind of first time.

    And I didn’t mind the Smurfs movie so much, but I was expecting much worse. The makers of Marmaduke, however, deserve to spend a few centuries in hell for that piece of shit.

  65. Nostalgia Critic when he reviewed Casper summed up my thoughts on that one, though NC did point out how goddamn creepy that 3rd act is that somehow I never realized.

    Not a terrible movie of its kind, but that’s about it.

    (Hey it has a Clint cameo. Vern YOU MUST REVIEW FOR ST. CLINT COMMANDS YOU!!!!!!!)

  66. the Mel Gibson cameo is also funny for totally different reasons these days

  67. I like Casper, for the record. It’s just not a very good example of coherent storytelling. A million things in that movie make no sense. But it’s real pretty.

  68. A little after my childhood, but I feel confident in saying that CASPER is no MOUSEHUNT, let alone something like RETURN TO OZ or THE DARK CRYSTAL.

  69. Oh, Dude! Fucking mouse hunt!

  70. Mouse Hunt is a clever (and beautifully-filmed) way to make a long, drawn-out joke about string cheese.

    I need to read Nostalgia Critic’s take on Casper to see if he was disturbed in the same ways I was about the movie.

  71. Knox Harrington

    May 30th, 2013 at 1:30 am

    This conversation is disturbing me. I’d rather talk about Spawn than the goddamn Smurfs. Less scary.

  72. MOUSEHUNT was very good.

  73. ya know what? I saw MOUSEHUNT as a kid but for some reason I don’t remember much about it, guess I should re-watch it

  74. since everybody is on a Kurtzman and Oroci hate pile, let me just bring up another reason to hate on Michal Bay for this film particular.

    Scarlett Johansson objected to doing a sex scene partially clothed (ne: a PG-13 sex scene) for this film, wanted to go the full monty, but Micheal Bay wouldn’t let her because that would have obviously negated efforts for the PG-13 cut he was going for(as this film bombed anyway, its not like that would have made a difference).

    I hate to be the guy who’s about ogling pretty ladies, but that seems like an extremely unfortunate omission to what was otherwise a pretty unexceptional film. It wouldn’t have made The Island that much better, but at least it would have made it less pandering and bullshitty. A PG-13 action movie can be satisfying, but a PG-13 sex scene might as well not even exist.

  75. Knox Harrington

    May 30th, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    The world will never fully comprehend the magnitude of what we have lost due to that terribly misguided decision…

  76. Max – I keep hearing that rumor (someone mentioned it above too) but I really have a hard time believing it. I mean, Johansson didn’t go naked in more art-house Oscar Bait-y films, i can’t believe she’d go naked in a big budget summer movie. Considering she didn’t go naked for Woody Allen in several movies (including Match Point, which was R Rated and STILL had her in a clothed sex scene), and she didn’t go naked for Brian DePalma in Black Dahlia (another R-rated vaguely sexy thriller) I think we can assume this sadly isn’t going to happen for a while.

  77. neal2zod – I’m skeptical of the rumor for the same reason, if ScarJo was ok with nudity for The Island then why has she never done any since?

  78. I was at the press conference where ScarJo said this herself, but it might have also been the safety of it didn’t happen so she could joke about it. Then there was the story that Fincher rejected her for Dragon Tattoo because ScarJo nudity would be the headline. Also wrong body type, but come on, it’s an adaptation.

    It’s interesting in that sex is such a hang up in this country that it has to be an issue. I don’t know if that makes me a hypocrite.

  79. ScarJo is much bigger star now than when she did THE ISLAND, and she could have changed her stance on nudity as her career progressed. Also, if you are going to get naked for a sex scene in a film it might be more respectable to do it for a Woody Allen picture, but Bay is going to make you look better. I don’t like Bay as a director but his movies always look great and I believe he shot video for Playboy early in his career.

  80. Bullshit. Woody Allen’s cAmera didn’t make love to scarjo, it bent her over the table and had its way with her.

    Also, the fully clothed sex scene in match point was far more erotic and real than the full on nude version. Also, it fit thematically.

    And I say this as a dude who literally could not follow the plot of iron man 2 any time scarjo was on screen. To put it in the parlance of our times, “dat ass!”

  81. Knox Harrington

    May 31st, 2013 at 4:36 am

    Woody Allen isn’t really big on nudity to begin with. He generates cinematic eroticism in other ways.

  82. The Original... Paul

    May 31st, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Oooooooh, “The Island”. I’ve been looking forward to a Vern review of this one for a long time. Was hoping for a bloodier evisceration, though. It’s a very PG-13 review. Disappointing that Vern didn’t have as strong a reaction to this one as I did – or at least give it the same kind of treatment as he gave “Transformers” / “Armageddon”. Two movies that are somehow better than this one.

    …What? You want some justification? I don’t have to explain why “Armageddon”, which at least is kinda awesome in its stupidity and actually kinda endearing during the first half hour or so, is better than “The Island”, do I? Do I? Oh go on then…

    …Well for one thing, “Armageddon” at least TRIES to demonstrate some of the nobility of the human spirit. Admittedly it mostly fails miserably, collapsing under the sheer weight of its own stupidity; but, y’know, I can respect the intention. Good luck finding anything as honest or as likeable as the idea of Billy-Bob Thornton’s character from “Armageddon” in “The Island”.

    And as for “Transformers”, well, it’s only dumb, ill-conceived, disrespectful to its source material, disrespectful to its audience, disrespectful to anybody who cares about loved ones fighting in the middle-east, badly cast, horribly edited, artistically pointless, morally shameless (and not because it’s trying to make a point, rather because it’s too moronic to recognise the ethical problems that it creates), an embarassment to its creators and a blight on the intelligence of its viewers. You have NO RIGHT to accuse it of anything more than this! Compared to “The Island”, this is practically “Citizen Kane”.

    I mean, I’m old enough to remember when “The Rock” was the Michael Bay film it was “ok” to like in an un-ironical way. How the fuck did this shit take over that mantle? Anybody?

    If you’re looking for big-concept sci-fi in an action movie then I can recommend several Arnie vehicles, some of which also have clones or doubles in them. “The Terminator” or “Predator” or “T2” or “Total Recall” or even “The Sixth Day” or “The Running Man”. Love ’em or not, in every single one of these movies there was an obvious effort to set up a believable world in which the conflicts between the characters could take place. If anybody can provide to me any convincing evidence of this being the case in “The Island” then I will happily recant a large part of my criticism of this film.

    What I can’t recant, however, is just how mean-spirited and calculating an enterprise this is. I don’t know who’s more culpable: the producers, for allowing so much of this film to be turned into an advertisement, it pretty much killed any immersion there might have been stone dead; or Microsoft, for not pulling out of this deal when they realised just what a huge turd they’d gotten themselves tied to.

    And the dialogue! Dear lord, the dialogue. I don’t think I could go five minutes in this film without hearing something casually sexist / homophobic / just plain stereotypical “redneck” that makes me want to take a shower. Especially the last one. (Pure Steve Buscemi.) It’s so bad, it ruins even the scenes that SHOULD have emotional resonance. I mean, seriously, watch the scene where the two McGregors meet for the first time. What a potentially emotionally-charged setup… and what a complete letdown it turns out to be. This scene is so bad, it should be shown to film students as an example of how not to generate audience sympathy for, or empathy with, onscreen characters.

    In the interests of fairness, I should say three positive things about this film, so here goes:

    1) Some of the cinematography is fairly striking, especially when they leave the compound for the “real world”.
    2) Some of the scoring is pretty nice as well.
    3) It’s still not as bad as that OTHER Michael Bay movie that I won’t mention here because I use it as a go-to comparison way too much already.

    But still… on the whole… I wouldn’t recommend “The Island” to anybody.

  83. This is by far Michael Bay’s smartest and best movie, and it’s still incredibly stupid and pretty terrible.

    Also, this movie is a shameless remake of a very cheaply made late 70s SF movie called PARTS: THE CLONUS HORROR. Sadly for the makers of THE ISLAND, PARTS was imortalized in one of the most famous and most belved episodes of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 tv show. The makers of THE ISLAND completly neglected to even bother to ask permition for the makers of PARTS to adapt, so when the laters discovered this movie and found the immense similiarities both have, they sued and even tried a court order to stop the release of THE ISLAND. That DreamWorks eventually setled down with the makers of PARTS is actually proof enougn that yes, they were atempting to remake an obscure cheap 70s movie and trying to get away with it. But this is the age of the internet and of movie geeks, some of whom made their speciality in enjoying and cathologing obscure cheap Sf of tjhe past. Or them being immortalized in a much beloved geek show like MST3K. Ouch!

  84. The Original... Paul

    June 4th, 2013 at 4:46 pm


    “This is by far Michael Bay’s smartest and best movie…”


    To me it’s ample demonstration of why any movie with themes more complex than “Brave American soldiers make evil Johnny Foreigners go boom in front of bright orange sunset” should be kept as far away from Michael Bay as possible. And that’s coming from a “Pearl Harbor” apologist (a ridiculous misfire of a movie that still manages to be about a hundred times more compelling than “The Island” by virtue of having some characters who aren’t wholly abhorrent.)

  85. Paul – You do realize what Asimov said was a backhanded compliment, right?

    I actually can’t wait for Asimov’s review for PAIN & GAIN, which is Bay’s best and most tolerable movie. Still a mess, but an interesting (and at times entertaining) one at that.

  86. THE ROCK was way smarter, guys. Maybe accidentally but it still is. A bad guy who’s really right, a good guy who doesn’t want to help, a mega actor deconstructing every badass trope of these movies. THE ISLAND starts with a morality play it won’t even consider, because cloning is bad and everyone should just be free, man.

  87. The Original... Paul

    June 6th, 2013 at 11:10 am

    RRA – I do (Asimov’s not exactly been shy of expressing his opinion of Mr Bay), I’m just amazed that of all the Michael Bay movies that Asimov could pay that particular tribute to, it’s this one that gets the honours.

    To me, “The Island”, while not the worst of Bay’s films, is the one where the inherent stupidity of his movies works against him the most. With “Armageddon”, for example, you could make the case (and I do) that it’s just SO silly that it’s actually quite entertaining in parts because of it. But “The Island” is big-concept sci-fi that really needed to be treated with intelligence and craft – at least as much as in those Arnie movies that I mentioned (all of which I really like) – and, to use an understatement, “The Island” doesn’t even come close to working in that way.

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