Writing about an improved Michael Bay film is kind of like writing about an improved Holocaust. If Bay has learned anything from "Pearl Harbor," he's like the cave man who's learned that round rocks roll and square ones don't. Watching his movies is like living in New Orleans and watching a hurricane cross the Gulf of Mexico. At first the surfing looks good, but once you realize that storm is going to hit land, you put on a good pair of shoes and take off running in the opposite direction.
Although it might appear original, "The Island" is a mass of plagiarized material. Screaming "THX 1138," the film opens in a sterile, indoor environment populated by white-suited simpletons. A paternal figure, Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean), lords over his charges like a disturbed Dr. Phil. Curiously, Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) is the first to ask questions about the mythology of the place -- the uninhabitable environment outside and the lottery that promises each citizen the dream of the perfect life on "the island." There would be no movie, of course, if Lincoln didn't discover everything to be a sham. Despite security that would make the Mossad envious, he escapes and takes the hottest babe in the place, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), with him.
Don't get me wrong: I'm all about ogling Johansson, but there's something disturbing about her that recalls Nicole Kidman in "Bewitched." Jordan may be part of a larger culture of clones who are all naive to some degree, but when filmmakers start sexualizing childlike women it seems like a short step away from watching Dakota Fanning do porn. In Hollywood, such fantasizing is often the rule, not the exception, since Jordan is the idealized woman for Hollywood power males who are a step away from actually living the "The Stepford Wives."
Bay's sins are all ones of excess. He's like a lab animal who has access to an orgasm button. Bay shows some degree of restraint early, but by the end, he's whacking at that damn button like a monk on ecstasy. It's not so much the plot elements that grate, it's the employ of the Bay "style": slow motion, melodrama, and a lingering sensibility that transforms every potential "meaningful" scene into a candidate for self-parody.
In my review of "Bad Boys 2," I called Michael Bay a cancer. Sadly, I must now retract that vicious and unfair statement. "The Island" does show Bay to have an inclination -- however slight -- toward improvement. I believe he's now graduated to "infectious disease."
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