An interesting thing happens about an hour into director Michael Bay’s latest film The Island, he remembers that he is Michael Bay. At this point of recognition he reverts to his usual strategies that largely involve wrecking or blowing up anything that moves. It’s a shame, as The Island could have been his best film but it ends up being just another massive waste of time that degenerates into a 90-minute orgy of explosions.
The film starts out promising as Bay is obviously channeling George Lucas’ icy 1971 bleak science fiction film THX 1138 as the look of The Island is a virtual copy—no colors as everything is white or black, the future is a cold place with nothing but concrete, glass, steel and our society is rigidly controlled with few personal freedoms.
Ewan McGregor plays Lincoln Six Echo, a man in this sterile future world who begins to question all around him, including a contest known as "The Lottery", that will decide who gets to go to an island paradise and escape the confines of the city. The dream of winning the lottery to get out of this place and onto the utopian island is the driving force of people’s existence.
The moment Lincoln Six Echo escapes the control of this world, and takes Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) with him, the film becomes a kind of a Logan’s Run dosed up on massive amounts of steroids. It’s at this point to the stops being about an idea and just becomes a silly prolonged chase scene that Bay is infamous for.
Quick history lesson on Bay: he is the man who has given us crimes against cinema such as Bad Boys and The Rock and that embarrassingly bad Pearl Harbor. To think that Bay could make a film about ideas rather than about explosions, I guess I was kidding myself.
Bay just has to be himself. And showing us sweeping helicopter zooms, cheesy slow motions of explosions, cars flipping over again and again, machine-guns and rockets blowing even more stuff up is just Bay letting us see how macho he can be. Bay is as subtle as a jackhammer to the skull and it’s dull, soulless and insulting cinema to anyone who loves movies.
The true star of a Michael Bay film isn’t the actors or script—it’s the person who sets up all the various explosions or destruction that is going to ensue. That person needs a vacation after working on a movie like The Island because they will have pushed the “explode” button so much their finger will be sprained. I’m not kidding. Bay will blow or shoot anything up—cars, buildings, helicopters, more cars, train-stations, streets. Anything. It becomes exhausting at a certain point and not at all thrilling or exciting, as Bay believes it might.
The Island is just further proof that Michael Bay is a hack director. He takes an interesting idea about a utopian future world and ruins it by making it a cliché ridden exercise in excess with him just blowing things up. Any ideas that the movie tries to develop is lost by the end of the film, just one more thing Bay blows to bits.