The Island Review
By Shawn McKenzie 07/22/2005
In this year of a zillion remakes, have you noticed that most of these remakes have been new versions of good movies? Here is a novel concept…how about a remake of a bad movie! That is what we have here in The Island.
It takes place in the year 2019. The world has suffered an ecological disaster, and the survivors live in a controlled environment called Centerville, where everyone dresses in white jumpsuits. Even though they are well taken care of and are given everything that they need, the place is boring and restrictive, and they want something better. There’s a place where they can go to though…a place called The Island…that just happens to be the last pathogen-free zone in the world left. There they can roam free and repopulate the world. The only way to get to The Island is through a random lottery. One man named Starkweather (Michael Clarke Duncan), who has only been there for six months, won the lottery quickly, while others, like Gandu Three Alpha (Brian Stepanek), who has been in Centerville for seven years, are jealous. Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) has been there for three years, and he has been questioning everything about why he is there, like why he can’t eat bacon, why they have to wear white jumpsuits, and why he has been having recurring nightmares about falling off a yacht called Renivatio and drowning. He asks these questions to psychiatrist Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean), who tells him that everything is okay (he has ordered some tests on Lincoln to make sure though, via tiny mechanical microsensors put into his eyeball to conduct a brain scan.) Lincoln tells these things to others, like his friend Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson), whom he is not allowed to fool around with; co-worker Jones Three Echo (Ethan Phillips); and friend James McCord (Steve Buscemi), a systems maintenance worker in Sector 5 of Centerville who occasionally gives Lincoln smuggled stuff from the outside world. He has other questions for McCord…like why survivors are still coming in from the outside world, and why a moth from the supposedly contaminated outside world is able to survive there. One day, while being allowed into the maintenance hallway of the facility, Lincoln disguises himself in a lab coat and checks out an unauthorized area where he witnesses Lima One Alpha (Siobhan Flynn), a woman who is pregnant, giving birth to her baby. Right after that, the medical team kills Lima and gives the baby to a couple in another room. Understandably shocked, he wants to get out of there, but before he can, he witnesses Starkweather running down the hall after the doctors had been attempting to harvest his liver. The big, hulking man is killed, and Lincoln goes back to Jordan to warn her, especially since she has recently won the lottery herself and is on her way to The Island. They escape out of Centerville and discover that the “contamination” is just a bunch of hooey. They trek through a desert in Nevada, where they stumble across a bar called Aces & Spades, which Lincoln recognizes from a matchbook that he found earlier. They run into McCord, who takes them home and he tells them the truth. Centerville is actually an abandoned underground military facility, and they aren’t real people…just clones. Merrick is actually the head of a cloning company called Ethercon, where his clients pay him to harvest body parts for them (or give them babies, like in the case of Lima.) The clients are called “sponsors” and the clones, or agnates as they are referred to, are the “products.” The clients are told that the agnates are grown from client’s donated cells to mature adult development in 12 months. From there on, they are implanted with false memories and are kept in a vegetative state, ready for harvesting. The Island is obviously a front, and even though their maturity level is that of a 15-year-old, they aren’t idiots. McCord gives them some money and tells them to find their sponsors…architect Tom Lincoln (McGregor), who suffers from hepatitis, and Calvin Klein model Sarah Jordan (Johansson), who has a son (James Granoff) in the outside world…to tell them the truth about Ethercon. Meanwhile, Merrick hires a security team headed by Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) to find Lincoln and Jordan before they expose the truth to the outside world. The two clones must find their sponsors and clue them in on what is going on back at Ethercon in order to survive.
The movie is a remake of a horribly bad 1979 science fiction movie called Parts: The Clonus Horror…though the studio won’t officially acknowledge that fact (why would they?) Clonus had the same exact plotline…a clone and his girlfriend escape a secret facility to find their real counterparts. I’ve seen the movie myself, but it was on a 1997 episode of the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and Mike and the bots trashed it justifiably. Michael Bay decided to remake this movie and give it a bigger budget with better actors playing the main parts, and I actually applaud him for it. The problem with Clonus was never the story…which was actually interesting. It was the acting, with the cheesy talents of “Mission Impossible” spy Peter Graves and “Bewitched” husband Dick Sargent, and the terrible production values of the movie itself, which made it bad. I had always wondered if anyone would have the guts to try this, and apparently, Bay had those guts.
This movie is the first Bay project not produced by uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Everyone trashes Bay for making mindless popcorn flicks, but I actually enjoy most of them. Both of the Bad Boys movies were fun, and I loved 1996’s The Rock. 1998’s Armageddon and 2001’s Pearl Harbor were probably his worst movies, and even both of them aren’t the most awful flicks I’ve ever seen. I liked the story, written by Caspian Tredwell-Owen (along with screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci), which was interesting…for the first 40 minutes. It then gets into Bay territory, complete with a high-speed car chase on a freeway, a la Bad Boys II, and some harrowing stunts outside of a skyscraper. I guess you couldn’t go without that…otherwise it would make the movie as dull and boring as 1971’s THX 1138 and 1997’s Gattaca (sorry, sci-fi fans…that is my opinion.)
While none of the acting comes close to being as bad as it was in Clonus, it isn’t exactly Oscar-worthy. McGregor is actually better here than he has been in the previous Star Wars prequels. I have not seen Johansson in a movie that I have enjoyed since 2000’s Ghost World, but she and McGregor were able to generate some believable heat (in between her annoying bouts of screaming.) Bean was okay as the “bad guy,” but Hounsou wasn’t, and he appeared uncomfortable with the role. Buscemi is always great in everything he is in, even when the movies themselves aren’t the best. I want to see him get more lead roles.
Probably the most annoying thing about the movie though is the incessant product placements. Apparently in the future, we have to be inundated with Xbox, Aquafina, MSN, Cadillac, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Most of these things might be around in 2019, but I wonder if Xbox will actually be called Xbox7 or something, because the version I saw in the movie looked like the current model.
The Island isn’t a bad movie, and it’s a little brainier than your usual Bay flick. Try to find the “MST3K” version of Clonus somewhere (it hasn’t been released on DVD yet) and do a comparison. I think that you will agree with me that it is actually a good idea to remake a bad movie that is in need of an updating.
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