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The Island (2005)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/21/2011

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/19/2011

My daughter wants to be a writer and even at the tender age of 12, she's already dedicated to the craft, spending a lot of time writing and coming up with ideas. As one would expect from someone her age, many of her story concepts are similar to books that she's read. But, every now and then, she'll come up with an idea which falls outside of that realm, and it will inevitably be an idea which seems very original to her. Unfortunately, it becomes my job to tell her that someone has done it before (and, for some reason, that someone is usually Stephen King). For example, she had an idea which was set in the future and had something to do with life being prolonged thanks to organ harvesting. I told her that it had been done before. Now, if one someone had told the makers of The Island the same thing.

The Island is set in the not too distant future and takes place inside of a huge complex. Thanks to the "contamination" which lies outside, everyone is forced to stay indoors. Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean) has created this utopia, where the residents have jobs, exercise, and maintain a happy existence. Every few days, a lottery is held to see who will get to go to "The Island", a place which is free from contamination. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) has been experiencing nightmares and begins to question some of the activities in the complex. He's also visited a construction site outside of the main complex and seen some odd things. He has become friends with a female, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) and he longs to tell her about his suspicions. When she is chosen to go the "The Island", Lincoln persuades her to flee the complex with him. Once outside, they discover that the world isn't what they thought it was going to be and that Dr. Merrick has been lying all along.

Originally released in July, 2005, The Island was a big-budget summer action film from Mr. Big-Budget Action Film himself, Michael Bay. Because of that, the movie should have received attention. Instead, it very quickly got noticed for two other reasons. First of all, the movie was Bay's first (and to date, only) financial flop, as it had a reported budget of $122 million and brought in only $35 million at the U.S. box office. This must have been a slap in the face to a director who was seen a sure money-maker, no matter how bad the movies were. (I'm looking at you, Pearl Harbor.)

The other thing that drew attention to The Island was the fact that the movie seemed to be an unauthorized remake of the 1979 movie Parts: The Clonus Horror. This was an obscure movie which found new life when it was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1997. Because of this, many (like me) knew the movie and couldn't believe how similar the two movies were. Yes, The Island had a budget which was 474 times that of Parts, but that didn't change the face that the movies had basically the same story. They were so similar in fact that the makers of Parts sued Dreamworks and the case was settled out of court for a reported seven-figure sum.

So, all-in-all, The Island has a pretty bad rep. The funny thing is that this is far from being Bay's worst film, as those honors would go to the aforementioned Pearl Harbor and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. If you can view The Island without prejudice, you'll find that it's a fairly standard sci-fi action movie, but it's no disaster. The action sequences are well-done, although Bay seems to be copying himself, as the freeway chase scene looks a lot like a similar scene from Bay Boys. Bay should actually be commended for toning down his usual hyperkinetic style for much of this movie. He actually tries to focus on the story and the characters, as it's very important that we feel for Lincoln and Jordan, and he comes close to succeeding. Perhaps audiences weren't ready for any sort of emotion from a Michael Bay movie. Ewan McGregor is asked to carry the film (playing dual roles at times) and he does a fine job. Lincoln must exhibit bravery while at the same time maintaining a child-like innocence and McGregor lives up to this challenge.

As the Transformers: Dark of the Moon hype machine gets revved up, Michael Bay will be in the spotlight once again, thus the new Blu-ray Disc release of The Island. Again, the movie is no classic, but it's no turkey either, and maybe now, six years removed from all of the negative press, audiences will take a second look at the movie. Yes, it should open with, "This movie was a big rip-off.", but I'd rather watch this again than the second Transformers anytime.

The Island wonders what Shawnee Smith sees in that guy on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. Bay has gone for a color palette which runs from cool to warm, but any bold tones which appear look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture's crispness lends it a very nice depth, both in interior and exterior shots. The level of detail allows us to see textures on objects. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 36 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would hope on a film of this sort, the audio is very good. The surround sound effects are nearly constant, especially during the action sequences. Stereo effects show good detail and separation. The subwoofer gets a great workout during the action scenes. It should be noted that the clarity of this track allows us to hear some sounds which resemble noises made by the various Transformers.

The Island Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Michael Bay. "The Making of The Island" (13 minutes) contains the typical on-set footage and comments from the cast and crew. We hear about the story and the constant action in the film. "The Future in Action" (16 minutes) spends most of its time taking us step-by-step through the freeway chase scene. We see how the stunts and visual effects were combined to create the scene. "Pre-visualization: Forward Thinking" (8 minutes) demonstrates how models, concept art, and low-tech CGI helped the filmmakers to plan out the details of this technically complicated film.

Review by Mike Long.  Copyright 2011.