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HTF REVIEW: The Island



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#1 of 34 Matt Stone

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Posted December 17 2005 - 10:34 AM

Posted Image
The Island
Directed By: Michael Bay

Studio: Dreamworks
Year: 2005
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 (Anamorphic)
Running Time: 2 Hrs.16 Mins.
Rating: PG-13 (Intense Sequences of Violence and Action, Some Sexuality and Language)
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital (English), 2.0 Dolby Digital (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, and French
MSRP: $29.95
Street Date: 13 December, 2005

Review Date: 17 December, 2005
(Ratings are out of five stars)

Summary
The basic plot structure of The Island is pure sci-fi retread. Ewan McGregor plays Lincoln Six Echo, a member of an underground colony of clones used for spare parts. The members of the colony believe they’ve survived a global contamination disaster and live out their life in a nice, shiny utopia. Their ultimate goal is to win “the lottery” which buys their admission into the Island: the last uncontaminated place on the planet. I won’t spoil the plot, but I’m sure you can already see the similarities to other better sci-fi films like THX 1138, A.I., Logan’s Run, Blade Runner, Minority Report, and The Matrix.

All in all, the film isn’t too bad. If you’ve read any of my Pearl Harbor/Armageddon/Bad Boys posts, you can probably surmise that I’m not president of the Michael Bay fan club. I went into The Island expecting another big budget fizzle, and hoping that the American public finally got one right by not showing up in droves for this one. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Regardless of how over-the-top Bay’s action sequences were, or how predictable the writing was, I had a hell of a time watching this film. A good part of my enjoyment was a result of the good acting. As with the Star Wars prequels, Ewan McGregor is able to breath some actual life into an otherwise stiff environment. Steve Buscemi and Sean Bean also provide solid supporting work. I’m not sure Scarlett Johansson was used as effectively as McGregor, but perhaps that’s just me being biased toward the almighty Kenobi.

One fault that I can’t look past is product placement. Wow. I know a lot of these futuristic sci-fi films have major chains presented throughout (I still can’t watch Demolition Man without a mid-night Taco Bell run), but this one takes the cake. During the first act, you can’t watch 5 minutes without seeing Microsoft, Puma, Xbox, etc. It’s a little inundating. Another detriment is the long running time of 2 hours 16 minutes. The film drags a bit in the final act, but overall the pacing was adequate. It probably could have been shortened, but I didn’t notice myself checking the clock.

Bottom line: If The Island is an example of a brainless summer action movie, I’m a very happy critic. Retread or not, there’s enough actual sci-fi here to be thought provoking and the execution of the action sequences is superb. Combined with the great acting from the leads, Michael Bay has made a good film. Not that it’s saying much, but this is easily the best film that Bay has made since The Rock. It really surprises me that this one flopped at the box office. I guess it’s a case of bad timing and bad marketing, but I hope it finds an audience on DVD.

Film Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Video
Overall the video is pretty average. Considering the increased quality of recent DVD releases, I was expecting something a little better. I noticed some edge enhancement throughout, and some sequences came across looking very video-like. The opening sequence is an example of the latter. I also noticed some strange pixelation during the opening credits, but it was only obvious when viewing it on my PC. On one hand, I feel that this doesn’t exactly live up to the normal Dreamworks standards, but considering how sub-par The Ring 2 looked, The Island could have looked much worse. The color palette changed to suit the environment, with hard whites/grays/blacks during the underground colony sequences, and a more naturalistic look after the escape. The ringing is more significant during the colony sequences, primarily because everyone is in white jumpsuits and the EE is just much more noticeable.

Video Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Audio
Like the video quality, the Dolby Digital track is passable for an action film but nothing revolutionary. It was mastered a little too bassy in my opinion. Compared to Dreamworks recent release of War of the Worlds (which did a better job of subtlety), The Island just sounds too bombastic. Like Bay’s other films, the movie is over-scored with music playing during all of the crucial action sequences. In most cases (the Star Wars movies being the most notable example), over-scoring doesn’t particularly bother me, but it was a little obtrusive during the early chase sequences in The Island. The dialog and effects were presented nicely in the film. Voices sounded crisp and clear, while the rear channels were utilized well for the multitude of action sequences.

Audio Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Extras
The Future in Action (15:31) – This is a typical short behind-the-scenes summary of the film. With a running time this short, information remains pretty vague. It’s worth a watch, but you won’t get the in-depth analysis that may be looking for.

Also featured on this DVD is a commentary with Michael Bay…and that’s it. It’s a pretty bare-bones affair. Pearl Harbor gets multiple releases and umpteen discs, but a far better film flops and gets a 15-minute doc. Oh well.

Extras Rating: Posted Image

In Closing…
I wasn’t looking forward to reviewing this film, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s far from a perfect movie, and the obvious fatal flaw is that there is nothing new added to the sci-fi lexicon . Regardless of this cardinal sin, it’s always entertaining and consistently keeps the audience engaged. Pacing in the final act is a little iffy. They probably could have trimmed a little bit off of the large running time, but that’s just a nit-pick. Keeping my cynicism in check, I had a hell of a time watching this film. Solid acting from the cast and well-executed action sequences (if not over-the-top) elevated the film above other brainless entertainment. If you saw it in the theater and liked it, you will probably be happy purchasing this near-barebones release, but for everyone else I can only recommend it as a rental.

Overall Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Matt Stone
17 December, 2005
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#2 of 34 Chris Atkins

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Posted December 17 2005 - 10:40 AM

Nice review, Matt. This one is near the top of my Netflix queue. Sounds like it's definitely worth a rental but not a purchase.

#3 of 34 Jeff Whitford

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Posted December 17 2005 - 11:05 AM

I rented it and liked it enough to put it on my short, to purchase list. May get it PVD
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#4 of 34 Carlo Medina

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Posted December 17 2005 - 12:43 PM

I'm interested in seeing this as well, but the lack of features, coupled with the fact that it's a Michael Bay film (and boy does he love to do extras) just screams "double dip coming down the line."

I will probably hold off and if after 3-5 months they haven't announced the "ultra" or "deluxe" or "extended" edition I'll pick this one up on a 2 fer $20 deal at Best Buy Posted Image

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#5 of 34 CraigF

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Posted December 17 2005 - 01:33 PM

Thanks for the review.

I guess the main thing I think this is "lacking" and will possibly see is dts. I like it in this type of movie. Coupled with the screw-up in the Canadian release so I won't buy it here, I'll put this on my U.S.-to-buy list...maybe some other release will happen before I purchase.

I suppose people know MB went the massive product placement route so he'd have the budget to finish the film his way. I gotta admit I really hate that too, sometimes almost feel I should be paid to watch the film when it's so blatant. Can sometimes almost seem like an infomercial.

I'm not sure why this film did so poorly at the box office. Before it came out it sure had a lot of bad opinions/press about it. This often happens with films that are way over-budget, and many of them really do stiff. And they're often not bad at all IMO. This kind of happened with Titanic too, people forget how slow its start was but the studio persevered...this is an uncommon example though. I also think The Island was mis-promoted, at least here. The promotion was way dumbed-down I thought. Then again, Armageddon is probably the worst "science"-fiction movie I've ever seen (unless Independence Day counts as SF, then it's the worst), embarassingly stupid. Maybe they expected an MB audience to not want anything the slightest bit beyond explosions etc. This year was an odd one I think for film releases...audiences were very fickle and a lot of good stuff got short shrift. Not saying this movie was particularly good, but much better than I had expected, possibly my favorite MB one.

#6 of 34 Harold Wazzu

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Posted December 17 2005 - 03:55 PM

Will wait for an SE for sure, rent it in the meantime.

I was surprised after reading your review of the audio that you gave that portion of the dvd 4 stars.

Quote:
the Dolby Digital track is passable for an action film but nothing revolutionary


Made me think 3 stars for sure but we'll see when I rent it how it sounds.


#7 of 34 Mark Lucas

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Posted December 17 2005 - 04:20 PM

Quote:
Also featured on this DVD is a commentary with Michael Bay…and that’s it. It’s a pretty bare-bones affair. Pearl Harbor gets multiple releases and umpteen discs, but a far better film flops and gets a 15-minute doc. Oh well.

Umm, no words on if the commentary is good or not? Jeez, no tip.

I'm surprised that the dvd of The Island isn't reference in every way. The 2k DI was very beautiful and the sound in the theater was powerful. I guess not a lot of care went into the transfer as the source is pristine and has none of the problems described here.

#8 of 34 Matt Stone

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Posted December 17 2005 - 04:31 PM

I'm sorry, but I didn't have the chance to rewatch the film with the commentary. Dreamworks got the DVD out to me late, so I tried to get the review out as quick as I could. I'm happy to hear everyone else's thoughts on the commentary.

Quote:
Made me think 3 stars for sure but we'll see when I rent it how it sounds.


We may be splitting hairs on this one. Perhaps I should have changed my description a bit. The film sounds very good, and I rated it thusly. It just didn't floor me as some other releases have (the DTS track on War of the Worlds being a good example).
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#9 of 34 Inspector Hammer!

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Posted December 17 2005 - 11:03 PM

This film sounds interesting to me from all of the reviews i've read, including your's, Matt. I think I might ask someone for it for Christmas who doesn't know what to get me.

As for the commentary, let me guess, it's just Bay saying the F word every other sentence. Posted Image
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#10 of 34 Matt Stone

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Posted December 18 2005 - 10:09 AM

The only Bay commentary I've ever listened to was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. It was fairly informative as I recall, but a little bland. If I get a chance to listen to the commentary this week, I'll be sure to amend my review with additional thoughts.
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#11 of 34 Adam Portrais

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Posted December 18 2005 - 03:26 PM

just screams "double dip coming down the line."


Bingo. And that's why I'll be waiting on this one. Great flick though, a lot of fun. And I will also go on record and say (prepares for the flames) I really love Michael Bay flicks (Pearl Harbor, not included). Are they pure popcorn, flashy, action indulgences? Yeah, but why can't that be fun? Sometimes I don't want to cry, I just want to see shit blow up- I am not an animal.

#12 of 34 TravisR

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Posted December 18 2005 - 03:47 PM

I could be wrong but since this movie was a financial disaster (sure, it made money when figure in its worldwide gross but the idea is to make lots and lots of money not barely squeak into the black), I think the next time this movie gets released will be on HD and they'll probably only port this release's stuff over to it.

#13 of 34 Carlo Medina

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Posted December 18 2005 - 04:08 PM

Travis, a financial disaster is exactly the reason why to release it twice on DVD for a double dip. The few who were fans enough to see it in the theater will buy BOTH DVDs. Those who rent and like the DVD will probably buy the 2nd DVD (if not both as well).

It's not like the early days of DVD producing, they're pretty cheap to mass produce now. They won't lose any more money by double releasing, and will most likely make more money.

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#14 of 34 Brian.L

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Posted December 18 2005 - 09:30 PM

Plus maybe with a double dip they can include that rumored Scarlett Johanssen topless scene that would have certainly helped the movie (and would no doubt help the DVD sales).
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#15 of 34 MarkMel

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Posted December 19 2005 - 02:18 AM

My favorite scene was the chase with the train wheel flatbed. Some really cool stuff in that one.
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#16 of 34 Patrick Sun

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Posted December 19 2005 - 02:21 AM

I was ducking during that scene from all the flying axles.
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#17 of 34 Don Giro

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Posted December 19 2005 - 03:15 AM

I was surprised how much I liked "The Island." I skipped the theater because I figured it was gonna be Michael Bay's version of "Logan's Run" (which was my favorite film when I was 12).

I still think it's largely a remake of "Logan's Run" (down to the names of the protagonists: Lincoln Six-Echo and Jordan Two-Delta standing in for Logan-Five and Jessica-Six), but I mean that in a GOOD way. I had the same creepy feeling of dread for the winners of the "lottery" in "The Island" that I did for the "lastdayers" on Carrousel in "Logan's Run." I'm looking forward to the audio commentary, because I'm hoping they point out the "homage."

My only real complaint about the film is:

most of the villains didn't get the painful,cinematic deaths they deserved, especially the clown who informed Jordan :"They're gonna take your kidneys, your lungs, and your heart. They're gonna hack you up!" I hoped HE would meet that fate, but I don't recall ANYTHING happening to him.


I think my favorite part was



Jordan seeing the perfume ad/commercial featuring the real-life ad campaign Scarlett Johannson was in and realizes her whole life has been a lie.

When she embraces, your heart turns to stone
She comes at night, when you're all alone
And when she whispers, your blood shall run cold
You'd better hide before she finds you...

#18 of 34 Shane Dodson

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Posted December 19 2005 - 05:03 AM

This one is a major disappointment. After an interesting set-up, the film sinks into depths of illogic that it can never quite recover from...pretty car-chases notwithstanding (I did love the freeway chase with the flying axles...vintage Bay).

A fascinating sci-fi premise is boggled down by the completely ludicrous plot holes due to the inexplicable behavior of the film's chief villain.

When the Sean Bean character learns that McGregor's clone host may be implicated in a murder and thus, his nefarious cloning operation revealed, instead of simply killing the original host and sweeping the whole thing under a rug...what does he do? Order the hit squad to eliminate the clone "by any means necessary," which apparently includes being involved in major property damage throughout L.A. and killing police officers!


Sorry, but the actions of the villians in this film seem to exist entirely at the service of the screenplay, which seems--in the second half--more interested in getting to the next action sequence than making any sense.

It's not as though I don't realize this is a 'popcorn' movie...and I normally have no problem with some minor plot holes here and there if the film realizes it's junk and doesn't take itself so seriously. But this was TOO much.

If you have no problem accepting the illogical behavior of the characters in this film, it may be your cup of tea. I just thought the interesting premise was wasted by some lazy screenwriting.

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#19 of 34 MarkMel

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Posted December 19 2005 - 06:30 AM

Who would use a clone to get spare parts from if they knew the donor was a living breathing being?

Not looking for religious answers, going more from the technological angle.

I think I would, my wife said no way. My logic is that I know myself and I would want me to be happy, and these would be feelings my clone would share as well. But in the long run, who's happiness are we talking here, mine or the clone's?
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#20 of 34 Shane Martin

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Posted December 19 2005 - 10:10 AM

Quote:
Who would use a clone to get spare parts from if they knew the donor was a living breathing being?
That's hard to say and why we are discussing those types of issues today.

I liked The Island and the premise but it does have it's issues. I don't forsee a double dip because it flopped and IMHO the prime reason it did was marketing. It was poorly marketed.


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