Sci-fi Twist on Action Film Flops

Columbus Alive | July 25, 2005
In the relatively near future world of The Island, all of your favorite name-brand products will still be around. Puma will make futuristic tennis shoes that prove popular with clones, Cadillac will make futuristic luxury cars, and Michelob Light will come in shiny metal futuristic bottles—and it will be the preferred drink of multimillionaires.

Another popular product for multimillionaires in the future will be clones, from which doctors can harvest extra organs as needed. That’s the set-up for the latest slam-banging action flick from Michael Bay, this one differentiated from his other over-slick and obnoxious action flicks by its sci fi twist (heavy on the Logan’s Run, light on the Matrix and Minority Report).

I’d hate to give anything away that could spoil the movie, but its not like it was very fresh to begin with, and the commercials let the biggest cat out of the bag—stars Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor are clones living in an artificial world of matching white jumpsuits, blissfully unaware that they could be killed whenever their wealthy sponsors need a new kidney.

This is actually a neat idea, at least explaining why the stars and so many of the other clones have Hollywood good looks—they’re clones of celebrities and models—and there’s a lot of neat stuff within the first half hour or so, a character study focusing on McGregor’s character’s existential feeling that something’s wrong in this wonderfully designed world. But once he and Johansson escape into the real world, the movie rapidly devolves into a brainless mess of chases and badly choreographed action movie clichés, all told in Bay’s signature choppy, brutal, throbbing style.

He and his three screenwriters make it impossible to ever suspend disbelief for longer than a five-minute stretch. A truck driver who loses his entire cargo of giant dumbbells when stowaways start raining them down on the bad guys chasing him, destroying a half dozen cars in fiery explosions, never thinks to pull over. Djimon Hounsou’s mercenary character switches sides on a dime. The God-complex scientist running the joint puts down his gun to strangle McGregor with his bare hands. And on and on and on. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that half of McGregor and Johansson’s lines seem to consist of the imperative “Run!” Perhaps they’re not talking to one another, but to the audience.

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