So, after a paltry $12 million its opening weekend, it’s looking like Michael Bay’s The Island has turned out to be an outright box-office flop. Which is too bad, really, ’cause I caught it on Saturday and thought it was a solid summer movie actioner, with a soupcon of dystopian sci-fi gravitas. In fact, I’d say it’s probably Bay’s best film (which isn’t saying much, of course, but I’ll take it over The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and the Bad Boys.)
As you’ve probably seen in the previews by now, The Island is a bit schizophrenic — The first half plays like THX-1138 by way of an Estee Lauder or Claritin commercial, the second half is Logan’s Run meets Grand Theft Auto. Unfortunately, the ad campaign — which clearly failed to sell the movie to America — did manage to ruin the building tension of the first forty-five minutes. Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan MacGregor, having more trouble with clones), a skeptical resident of a utopian-quarantine unit of sorts, starts to question the underlying premises of his intensely monitored, Puma-clad existence, such as why his proximity to his friend Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johannson. who doesn’t do much but look pretty and run) is so rigorously monitored. The presiding doctor (Sean Bean, who must be sick of getting sent the same part over and over again) is little help in resolving Lincoln’s existential dilemma, but visits to a kindly mechanic schlub in the sub-sectors (Steve Buscemi) points Six-Echo on the path to self-knowledge.
At which point, the chase begins and, well, you can guess the rest. Lincoln and Jordan spend the second half of the movie rushing frantically from the minions of a resolute and unstoppable bounty hunter (Djimon Hounsou — We know he’s a badass because Bay always shoots him from about knee level.) Higher order brain functions are no longer necessary for the remainder of the film, although there’s a nice stopover at the abode of Lincoln’s “sponsor” (and a rather impressive highway chase involving car-crushing dumbbells.) Still, in the end, The Island is redeemed from normal Bay-dom by a better-than-average script and several solid performances, with special nods to Ewan and Michael Clarke Duncan in an extended cameo. (Voyager‘s Neelix and the guy from the Manhattan Mini-Storage moose ad also live in the complex, which I found a bit distracting.) It’s not a great film by any means – In fact, it’s almost instantly forgettable. But The Island is a nice place to wile away two hours on a hot summer afternoon (and in a perfect world it’d do twice the business of FF.)