The Island donates vital story organs for relentless chase sequences. “Just cause people wanna eat the burger doesn’t mean they wanna meet the cow”. What substantiates humanity? Is it conscience? The organic process of three billion years worth of evolution? What if human life could be synthesised, and would moral implications outweigh selfish benefits? The Island raises these questions and is a blockbuster that time has left to ruin. Eclipsed by an array of studio manifestations. Yet, like many dabbles into the merge of entertainment and philosophy, it remains another film that is unable to fully exercise its grandiose concept. A feature more concerned about explosive carnage than ethical dialogue.
With that, Michael Bay’s sci-fi action extravaganza is one of the most frustrating film experiences one can endure. Because at its core, whilst other classics such as ‘Logan’s Run’ may have donated crucial components, it’s bursting with conceptual flavour. In the near future, a structured isolated civilisation remains a “contamination-free” zone where its inhabitants participate in a lottery that could send them off to the paradisiacal retreat simply known as “The Island”. However, one inhabitant starts to question the legitimacy of the world he is residing in, unfolding a series of events that will change his life.
The Island is a feature of two halves. One good, one bad. The first fraction of the plot is a contemplative cerebral sci-fi utopia. Philosophy coinciding with morality. Tredwell-Owen’s generous script may spoon-feed every line of information, including the questioning of God and the omnipotence of creationism, but he does so through expressive world-building. When the truth of the isolated compound hits Lincoln Six Echo in the face, the elaborate planning and thought process that has been injected into the concept shines brighter than Johansson’s smoothly filtered forehead. It’s brilliant! Tantalisingly tangible on the morality compass, directly involving you to answer the philosophical conundrum that powers the narrative. McGregor and Johansson create semi-realistic portrayals, aside from the forced interactions that plagued the artificial chemistry between them, which elevated the ongoing mystery for the first half.
Then, inevitably, the realisation happens. The truth is encountered. Michael Bay slithers out of his crawlspace to seize this opportunity, his moment, to unleash mayhem in his trademark style. Car chases, running chases, hover bike chases, credit card chases. Chase after chase after chase. It. Does. Not. Work! He completely annihilated the initial meticulous storytelling with the first hyper-stylised action sequence. Why? Why spend a decent hour of the film world building and providing insight to existentialism, only to then subsequently provide mundane repetitive action sequences that hold little to no memorability just to quench the thirst of teenage boys begging for explosions? It’s lunacy, it really is. The two tones do not amalgamate as one. Characterisation, dialogue, inclusive storytelling and solid direction were instantly crushed by the magnitude of Bay’s dependency for action. It infuriates me to an incalculable degree (can you tell?)! That’s without mentioning the sheer velocity to which product placements are thrown in your face every other minute.
For what it’s worth, The Island is one of Bay’s better features and I still moderately enjoyed it. I know, I know, that’s not saying much, but still. The concept is sound, almost original and seamlessly utilises a dystopian future to critique the present. Yet it saddens me that Bay believes he has to throw in expendable action sequences to keep us entertained, essentially destroying his own work. So close, yet so far!