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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look42.36%
Average: 15.97%
Pretty Bad: 18.06%
Total Crap: 12.5%

10 reviews, 84 user ratings

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Island, The (2005)
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by Jay Seaver

"Pretty soon, Michael Bay will make a genuinely good movie. But not yet."
2 stars

I'm peculiarly loath to blame Michael Bay for "The Island" not being as good or successful a movie as it could and, perhaps, should have been. I've got no particular fondness for the man, as anyone who ever asked me my opinion of "Armageddon" will attest. But when you get right down to it, even though a great deal of this films many shortcomings can be reduced to "the director didn't do the job he should have"... I mean, come on, shouldn't the producers know better by now?

I mean, they've seen his films. Anyone who pays attention to the director's name should know Bay's strengths and weaknesses by now. The man does a damn good hero shot and has a real talent for composing the individual frames of a motion picture. He trusts his actors, sometimes too much (so Bruce Willis could sleepwalk through Armageddon), but he'll stay out of the way when he's getting a relatively solid performance. But he is absolutely, totally, completely inept at fast action. The Island is structured as a chase movie, and it is being steered by a director who simply does not have the necessary skills to direct a good chase scene. He shakes the camera too much, he jumps too fast, he doesn't let the audience follow the action. He's so bad at it - and always has been - that one wonders why, somewhere along the line, the money people didn't try to steer it toward a different director, or have a specialist brought in for the chase scenes. After all, movies with martial arts action bring Yuen Woo-ping or Sammo Hung in to choreograph and shoot those scenes; why shouldn't Bay have a "chase specialist"?

But he doesn't. And that's too bad, because the headache-inducing chase scenes tend to obscure all the things he and his crew do well. He handles the sci-fi-horror elements well, for instance; as Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) gradually comes to learn that his home is not the safe haven and gateway to paradise he thinks it is, the audience is jolted along with him, even the ones who have read a description of the movie's plot. He works very well with the FX guys and production designers, building a beautifully high-tech future world. And when Lincoln and his friend Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) leave home for the first time, he makes the desert where they emerge beautiful and frightening and alive. There is, I must begrudgingly admit, some actual talent there.

And it's not like he gets a huge amount of help from the writers. Caspian Tredwell-Owen doesn't have many films to his credit, but the other credited writers (Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) have fairly extensive light sci-fi/fantasy credentials from TV (Hercules, Alias, and the like). As one might expect from their previous work, the science-fictional elements seem possible enough on the face, but not terribly likely. The one that bugged me the most was the one that was the most unnecessary; Lincoln could simply have been made naturally curious, but, no, he has to have portentious dreams. One also might wonder about the economics of the facility; without getting too much into what the characters don't initially know, I sort of wondered how they handled repeat business. Lincoln and Jordan also seem to adapt to their new environment rather quickly in the last act, and there's an almost completely unforeshadowed changing of sides toward the end.

As usual, Bay's got a top-notch cast to work with. McGregor and Johansson have to play Lincoln and Jordan as intelligent but completely ignorant of the world outside their habitat, especially when it comes to the whole boy-girl thing. That's harder than it looks; it's very easy to look stupid for simply not knowing things, which is why it's a relief to see them learn and not overplay the obvious babe in the wood angle. McGregor gets to have a little fun in a double role, although the ability for one to mimic the other comes rather quickly. Djimon Hounsou classes up the joint as Albert Laurent, the mercenary brought in to track Lincoln and Jordan down. Steve Buscemi seems to enjoy his turn as a likable schlub, although Sean Bean must be getting tired of his generic villain roles by now. Michael Clark Duncan, I suspect, is just doing a favor for a friend with his small role.

This film has the raw materials for a pretty decent movie, just not the ability to live up to their potential. The basic theme of the movie is good - how people will compromise their sense of right and wrong to protect themselves. It's frequently gorgeous, and the cast holds up their end. Even if the plot weren't sillier than necessary, though, The Island would still be severely handicapped by the unfortunate inability of Bay to direct action. It's almost perverse that his entire filmography consists of action movies, because he's not very good at it; he refuses to simply give us a clear view of what's happening. He's showing signs of improvement, but in the chases - which take up a decent chunk of the movie's runtime - he's just not up to snuff, and it derails any momentum the film has gained just when it should be capitalizing on it.

Maddening. At times, I wish Bay would stop directing and start working as a cinematographer, since that seems to be where his skills lie. At the very least, couldn't his producers start connecting him with projects that would play to his strengths rather than exposing his weaknesses?

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originally posted: 09/06/05 08:28:17
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell decent no more no less 3 stars
12/29/12 Man Out Six Bucks Libertarian Logan's Run vs. a really, really big fan blade 4 stars
12/17/09 Philip It was okay, I agree completely that the first half was awesome.. 4 stars
3/06/09 Elaine My favorite movie!! I love everything about it. Cast is amazing and the story is fantastic! 5 stars
12/02/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 4 stars
7/11/08 Mr. Christian Notable for its viewpoint.Hardcore sci-fi coated in action.Good attention to detail. 4 stars
2/08/08 Anthony Feor Bay delivers his estounding visual effects. If only more time was spent on the script. 3 stars
9/17/07 David Graham probably bays best film yet 5 stars
5/27/07 kitfo plot premiseundeveloped, the chase scene made me laugh, Buscemi phoned it in: a total waste 2 stars
5/26/07 Jim Better than I expected 4 stars
5/20/07 fools♫gold Has too many funny and even clever moments for me to give italowerrating. AT LEAST an 8/10. 4 stars
4/22/07 Jamie Jones I love the movie. The set is amazing and the cars are sweet. 4 stars
4/18/07 David Pollastrini Scarlett Looks hot in this! 3 stars
3/20/07 Stanley Thai Such a great popcorn film. It even has a great mysterious story. 4 stars
2/09/07 The chode Not bad, worth the rental. 4 stars
2/06/07 Matt Okay at times, but overall thoroughly ho-hum. 3 stars
1/05/07 jerg Not bad, but too flawed and familiar, Bay bullshit etc. 3 stars
11/06/06 Anne I enjoyed it. Great if you don't analyse it too much 4 stars
10/16/06 Steve Newman Great plot, not bad acting, film was 20 minutes too long 4 stars
10/03/06 annoymous whoever Lybarger is no offence but you obviously don't see many movies. your a dick!!! 4 stars
8/23/06 Anastasia Beaverhausen Entertaining, if you don't think about it too much 4 stars
8/22/06 Jill Great - not properly marketed as the fun sci-fi it is 4 stars
5/11/06 Yusuf Cassim Great plot with unlimited suspence! 5 stars
5/08/06 Doxiegal Utterly dull, derivative and brainless. 2 stars
4/25/06 Mer Hathaway i enjoyed it 5 stars
4/10/06 Blair Luvs it 5 stars
4/04/06 Mike great,loved it,good action packed film. 5 stars
4/01/06 island it rules 5 stars
4/01/06 Nobody Exciting with great FX (especially truck scene!) 4 stars
3/14/06 Eileen a little bit fun, not great 3 stars
3/09/06 Dk Bay has finely grown up and made a good movie 4 stars
3/08/06 Quigley the action was good, but it was nothing new. what killed it was the mood and the LENGTH! 3 stars
2/27/06 Doug Good, but action sequences were over the top 4 stars
2/27/06 Steven Lewis It's like Equilibrium + THX1138 + 6th Day. 3 stars
2/06/06 Anthony Feor Very good movie 4 stars
1/17/06 Indrid Cold Looks great + some good action + a passable script = above average 4 stars
1/05/06 me nothing great or terrible 4 stars
1/01/06 baba booey das a good movie. 5 stars
12/29/05 tony Done well with extremly styalized action! This ones a keeper! 4 stars
12/28/05 Taylor Fladgate worth a rental...makes you think! 3 stars
12/26/05 zhivago interesting take on future society, LOTS of prod. placement 5 stars
12/17/05 Caiphn A movie that tapers off into something simply awful. 2 stars
12/14/05 Jeff Anderson More entertaining & better than you would expect from Michael Bay! Buscemi STANDS OUT! 5 stars
12/04/05 Zigga Product Placement like a mother fucka!...good lord! 4 stars
11/24/05 noops some unbeleivable scenes... still ok 4 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Acting is weak - w/ exception to Buscemi. Story is all too familiar. Bay sucks! 2 stars
11/16/05 Sam sucks 1 stars
10/27/05 Michael Kondo this movie was not even close to good, my friend found it bearable though 2 stars
10/27/05 deadwiz Fun action, tipical Micheal Bay film. 3 stars
10/23/05 Aksentiy Gula I think this is the greatest movie aver espesialy that scarlet johansson in the movie 5 stars
9/21/05 Eric Fortune This movie was bad. I'm glad I saw it at the cheap theater. 2 stars
9/19/05 Jonathon Holmes please, for the love of God, somebody kill off Micheal Bay!!! 1 stars
9/09/05 Clayton A bit trying at times, but Ewan and Scarlett made it all worth while. 4 stars
9/07/05 y2mckay a mish mash of better sci fi movies, but some good chases. Drags on 30 minutes too long. 3 stars
8/29/05 ES Surprise, this movie had much more thought & detail in it than first assumed = pretty good 4 stars
8/26/05 JamesBorges pretty entertaining, dont know why it did so bad 4 stars
8/23/05 Alyson This movie was great. No idea why it flopped. Two Ewans<3<3<3<3 5 stars
8/20/05 malcolm MC Duncan wasted. not enough space to list movies borrowed from-matrix,coma,blade runner 4 stars
8/16/05 Quigley ewan and scarlett are great. cliqued, but entertaining. scarlett was drop-dead hot, man! 4 stars
8/15/05 Frenzy Realy not bad 4 stars
8/13/05 John Bale With references to 1984, Brazil, and The Matrix. Good chase sequences keep you from boredom 4 stars
8/09/05 Bubba Fish The best action-packed sci-fi thriller since Minority Report 5 stars
8/07/05 Aaron McGraw Not too shabby 4 stars
8/06/05 Greg Ursic I must have seen a different movie as I really enjoyed this one 4 stars
8/06/05 Kurt Birusingh Good idea squandered. 3 stars
8/05/05 carl no brainer fun 5 stars
8/03/05 DARRYL LAMBERT, SR a great movie from start to finish. I will definitely be willing to see this again. 5 stars
8/01/05 Maalstrom Somewhat bland. Failed to excite me at all. 2 stars
7/29/05 Green Gremlin An updated version of "Logan's Run" with elements of "The Truman Show" and "Coma" 4 stars
7/27/05 jcjs so entertaining, fun, fast, a delight..Johansson, too 5 stars
7/26/05 Naka Booo. Great idea, typical shitcan Michael Bay execution. Skip it. 1 stars
7/26/05 Spednik Drlathlan A movie set in 2019 and the hottest cars they have are trickedout Mercedes and Chyslers?? 3 stars
7/25/05 Suke Rehashed plot, pretty uninspired attempt. Sci-Fi is in deep space right now. 3 stars
7/25/05 Mike Madryga An entertaining and, at times, thought-provoking movie. Decent. 4 stars
7/25/05 Balls MacGee Bay should be severely chastized for not letting Scarlet show her boobs. 1 stars
7/25/05 Frank Newhouse It was...ok..too much hype and advertisment for a shallow popcorn movie..tight effects tho. 3 stars
7/25/05 Bill Pryor MTV science fiction. I wasn't expecting much and didn't get much. 2 stars
7/24/05 KingNeutron Damn, I was looking fwd to this; but: SLOPPY STORYTELLING!! Some good parts tho. 3 stars
7/24/05 Josh Loved the first half, enjoyed the second half, gawked at the stitches holding on the ending 4 stars
7/24/05 Bobby The Squid Fun, but way too much product placement. Why are all cars in the future 2005-6 models? 3 stars
7/23/05 Kristina Williams it was ok 4 stars
7/21/05 Emily Damn you Michael Bay!!! I should have known! 1 stars
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  22-Jul-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Dec-2005



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