Hearing Michael Bay take credit and place blame for this movie’s performance at the box office is very interesting.
This movie just seems very ill conceived. I don’t know that any kind of release pattern could have saved it.
The Island stars Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson as people living in a “compound” like area who eventually discover they are clones. With their lives at stake, they escape from the compound and find themselves out in a world that is very foreign to them. The movie is soon filled all the classic Michael Bay-type action, as our two heroes risk everything to expose the truth.
I reviewed The Island when I saw it last summer, and I remember liking the movie but really being turned off by one scene in particular. I hesitate to say what scene that was because I don’t want to give anything away about this movie. That however is where my respect for this film ends. It isn’t the worst film I have ever screened. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it awful. Quite simply, The Island just isn’t a very good movie. There really isn’t any way around it. I think some of the performances are good, but for the most part this film really leaves a lot to be desired.
Michael Bay has made some good movies. I know people like to sling arrows at the man but I for one thought Pearl Harbor was a pretty decent film. I have also been a fan of some of his other movies. So, don’t think of this as someone writing a review that has a vendetta against Mr. Bay. Quite the opposite. I think he is a very good filmmaker who just took a drastic misstep here. His films are usually laced with style and freewheeling action. Sometimes that works and can even be called art. Here, the premise and everything else about the clones seems forced and downright confusing.
Maybe in trying to make a more cerebral film, Michael Bay ended up outsmarting himself?
The Future In Action
From a technical standpoint, I found this featurette to be very interesting. If nothing else, it really gives us an insight into how Michael Bay puts his action sequences together. If this filmmaker has proven anything over the years, it’s that at the very least he knows action. In this segment, they talk about the middle ground between how much is live action and how much is CGI, and they also mention that Michael Bay likes to get everything in one take. This makes sense when you see this featurette because even one take has got to be tremendously expensive.
I love how relaxed Michael Bay is on this commentary track. Here he is, making some of the most insane, big budget spectacle, and he’s completely the opposite of how you might expect he’d be. He talks about making the movie, the architecture of the clone compound and essentially breaks down everything that we are seeing on screen. He also discusses how the US press really made this film seem like a bomb, and how with the foreign tallies and this DVD it will make money.
Theatrical Aspect Ratio - 2.40:1 - Enhanced for Widescreen TVs. This movie looks great and on DVD the compression is quite sharp. I have nothing but raves for how this movie was lensed. When you watch a Michael Bay film you know what you are going to be getting. He delivers it here in true, big screen fashion. In fact, the action scenes that I remember really enjoying in the theater translated very well to the DVD format. If nothing else, people should buy this disc just to try and max out their home theater systems.
English Dolby Digital - 5.1 Surround. This film is subtitled in English, Spanish and French. The audio is not just used to underscore what we are seeing on screen. Unlike a lot of Michael Bay movies, it really isn’t overwhelming (which caught myself and maybe moviegoers by surprise). This is very much a big, summer movie, or at least that is how it was intended. The audio is right in line with what you might expect and I sort of have to credit Michael Bay and his team for showing some restraint.
Ewan and Scarlett grace half of this front cover and below them is an action scene. I gotta be honest, looking at this DVD, there is nothing about the images displayed that make this film seem special. If anything, the marketing is confusing. This movie is called The Island. Where is the island? Shouldn’t there be some sort of image of it on the cover? The back features some shots from the movie, most of which showcase the action, a description of the film, a bonus features listing, a cast list and some technical specs. All in all this DVD packaging is alright, but nothing about it feels like a Michael Bay movie. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
The more I think about Michael Bay’s comments in the audio commentary, the more I am starting to wonder about his films. He says that since The Island was released as an “event” overseas, that is why it did better there than it did over here. He said that awareness about the film was really low in the US, and that’s why it failed to perform. So this got me thinking two thoughts...
First of all, aren’t Americans only suppose to be interested in big budget spectacle? Isn’t overseas where all the art films come from? The fact that The Island did really well in Europe, and not so well here might actually turn that whole argument on it’s ear.
Secondly, Bay claims that the low awareness in the US was what hurt the film. Still, this was a Michael Bay film. I had seen countless ads for it in the newspaper and on TV. I knew it was coming out. It had a sneak preview at Comic-Con in San Diego. Maybe A) people just weren’t interested? Or B) a Michael Bay film without all the perceived pizzazz, is really nothing special in the first place?
The Island isn’t a bad film. It’s just one that isn’t very good.
The Island was released July 21, 2005.