HOLLYWOOD – The movie The Island , of Hollywood, California, died Thursday at the multiplex, of natural causes. It was four weeks old. It is survived by director Michael Bay and actors Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. Viewing is every two hours between now and Thursday. After that, you’ll have to pay your respects on DVD.
The summer blockbuster The Island cost $120 million to make, and returned only $30 million. That puts it on the list of the top ten biggest disasters in Hollywood history. But it’s far from the champion. That would be The Adventures of Pluto Nash , which cost $100 million and made $4.
Poor Bay and company are also being sued by Robert Fiveson, who directed an obscure 1979 movie called Parts: The Clonus Horror . Cloning has been a science fiction staple since A.E. Van Vogt’s 1945 novel "The World of Null-A". But The Island’s similarity to Parts is no coincidence. Both are about people who don’t know they’re clones, grown for spare parts. They are pacified by the lie that they will soon go to a land where everyone is happy. The hero finds out about life on the outside by a butterfly in Parts , a moth in The Island . He goes on the run with a female clone. An evil doctor sends hit men after him to destroy the evidence. Oops.
The irony is that The Island is Michael Bay’s best movie. Those who think he’s the Antichrist will argue: that’s not saying much. Bay is a commercial director with no sense of kinetic poetry, except for freeway demolition. But his brutalist montage has a certain disoriented, rhythmic punch.
The Island is rife with missed opportunities for real science fiction. In fifteen years, LA will be lucky to pay its water bill, let alone build monorails – never a good idea with earthquakes around. But at 136 minutes, The Island is long and satisfying, with a good-looking, poured-concrete-and-glass production design out of The Sharper Image catalog.
Ewan McGregor’s Lincoln Six Echo fills out his tailored jumpsuit; he’s as sleek as a seal. Scarlett Johansson is Jordan Two Delta, a moon-faced, perky-breasted, Swedish sundae. His sincerity, and her youth, are well chosen. Lincoln is really only eight years old, Jordan is nine, but in adult bodies with surging hormones. You want to see them kiss, because they’ll be inventing it.
What is the lesson of The Island ? The heads that aren’t rolling are being scratched. Husband and wife mega-producing team Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald blame the title, the marketing, and lack of star power. But screenwriter William Goldman famously said that it doesn’t matter what a movie’s called, what it’s about, or who’s in it. There is only one law: Nobody knows anything. Caprice sank The Island , simple as that.
The Island has been playing at Showplace East, but you should check the listings to see if it’s still there. This and other theater and music reviews are available online at wfiu.indiana.edu. Reviewing movies for WFIU, this is Peter Noble-Kuchera.