August 3, 2005

The Island

Michael Bay (Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and Bad Boys II) doesn't deserve his success as a big-popcorn movie director. I quite enjoy action movies with big explosions, chases, and fistfights. You Constant Browsers out there can find many examples in this diary. Michael Bay, however, directs action movies with the subtlety of a wrench to the face, the grace of a nail gun through the palm of your hand, and the needless violence of a meathook in the back. All three of these acts occur in The Island, directed without flair, intelligence, or accomplishment.
The concept is an unremarkable mishmash (melange is too sophisticated for Bay) of Logan's Run, Blade Runner, and 1984. The clones are kept docile, content, but ignorant, in a giant brutalist-designed colony (it looks like a giant mall parking lot without the flair). They're cloned duplicates, kept in stock as spare parts for their owners in the real world. When their "sponsor" needs some new skin, organs, or a surrogate mother, the "insurance policy" (clone) is used and what's leftover is disposed of. The clones' complete ignorance of sex, crime, and sin in general makes them as innocent and curious as 12-year-olds, and that's what inspires Ewan McGregor to escape, and bring Scarlett Johansson with him. McGregor's clone doesn't know what sex is, but his subconscious knows a bodacious babe when he sees one. There could have been a metaphor for Adam and Eve if Bay could find time for it amongst all the helicopters and bone saws. McGregor and Johansson, both talented actors, spend a few minutes acting and the rest running and getting brutalized by fight sequences and crashes.
Bay employs slow motion without any purpose- it seemed like half the movie was shot in slow motion? I also don't understand the product placement blanketing the sets. I have no problem with the use of product placement in the scenes on the streets of Los Angeles- brand names exist in the real world, after all. I did find it kind of weird that half the vehicles were conspicuously branded (Cadillac, Mack truck) while all the Dodge police cars had their grille logos removed. I found it distinctly odd that all the consumer items within the clone colony were paid placements- Puma sneakers, Aquafina water, XBox video games? Why would these clones, who are complete drones of the company, who have no concept of money, who will never see the outside world, merit brand-name anything? Why everyone would get brand name sneakers and bottled water is beyond me.
I think Bay is a successful movie director because he can helm giant-scale movie productions, which people will buy tickets for, if the studio spends enough money promoting them. The actual movies Bay directs are not as important as the presentation of the idea of the movie to the public. If you can sell the idea to moviegoers, and then deafen them with explosions and blind them with kinetic energy, they'll tell their friends how "good" the movie was. A combination of no big-name stars + less than astronomical promotion kept this movie from recouping its certainly astronomical budget. (Loews Boston Common, with my friend Laura)