Why The Island Is Michael Bay’s Most Underrated Film
Michael Bay is a director whose filmography is divisive to say the least. On the one hand, his early efforts such as The rock, Armageddonand Bad Boys had a huge success at the box office. His Transformers the films, although still renowned for their box office successes, were criticized. Yet there’s one movie that rarely comes up when talking about Bay’s filmography: the 2005 sci-fi thriller The Island.
The Island seems like your standard post-apocalyptic sci-fi setup. Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) lives with a collective of other humans in an isolated enclosure; he is told that the outside world has been made habitable except for a mysterious island, and each day a member of the collective wins a lottery to travel to the island. However, Lincoln and fellow member Jordan Two-Echo (Scarlett Johansson) discover a horrible secret: there is no island. They are clones of the wealthy elite, and the “lottery” sees the clones soaring to be organ donors for their duplicates. Lincoln and Jordan go on the run, forcing the precinct’s director, Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean) to send bounty hunter Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) after them.
The Island has one of the strongest sets Bay has ever worked with; it’s only overshadowed by Armageddon in terms of star size and power. (Armageddon alums Michael Clarke Duncan and Steve Buscemi also have roles in The Island.) Most impressive is the fact that almost all members of The IslandThe cast of s was in or went on to star in other genre movies and TV shows. McGregor was coming out of the star wars prequel trilogy and set to reprise his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi next month in the Disney+ limited series named after the Jedi Master; he also starred as the villainous Black Mask in Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn. Johansson would go on to star as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Hounsou would join her with her role as Korath the Pursuer in guardians of the galaxy and Captain Marvelas well as the titular assistant in Shazam! Finally, Bean had starred in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and would later star as Ned Stark in The iron Throne. Eagle-eyed fans will also be able to spot Star Trek: Voyager alum Ethan Phillips as one of the clones.
Actors can also bring their A game, especially since some of them literally play two. McGregor is the film’s MVP; he plays Lincoln as rebellious and sarcastic – perhaps to provide a deliberate contrast to his performance as Obi-Wan. He also plays wealthy automaker Tom Lincoln; the scene where the two Lincolns meet is one of the few scenes where Bay keeps the camera still, letting the gravity of the situation set in. Johansson’s turn as Jordan is essentially a teenager; she has no idea how the world works and trusts almost everyone – which leads to hectic chase scenes throughout the film. Laurent de Honsou is terrifying at first as he pursues the two clones with the dogged determination of a sleuth, but over time he comes to sympathize with their plight – having been through something similar himself. And Bean’s turn as Dr. Merrick is the perfect embodiment of a god complex. “I give life,” Merrick explains in a long speech to Laurent, his intensity building as he views the clones as mere products on an assembly line.
The Island is also Bay’s most cerebral film; while “cerebral” and “Michael Bay” don’t even sound like they belong in the same phrase, the film does tackle themes of identity throughout its run. Lincoln is plagued by what seems like a series of unrelated dreams; it is revealed that there was a flaw in his cloning that allows him to retain his DNA donor’s memories and explains his rebellious nature. And while Merrick might see the clones as little more than products, Jordan and Lincoln return to free their fellow clones from euthanasia – leading to a climax where the entire clone collective emerges into the outside world for the first time. Whether intentional or not, the biblical symmetry of the story of Moses leading his people out of Egypt cannot be denied.
Despite an excellent cast, a good hook and a proven director, The Island turned out to be a box office bomb. Much of this was due to marketing, which didn’t mention the idea of clones and instead relied on the usual “Bayhem” to try and appeal to moviegoers. Add to that the fact that he was facing movies like Charlie and the chocolate factory and wedding crashes, and the writing was on the wall. And as if there wasn’t enough salt rubbed in the wound, Dreamworks and Warner Bros. found themselves slapped with a lawsuit by the producers of the 1979 film Games: The Horror of Clonus on the grounds that Bay had more or less remade their film without permission. The case ended up being settled out of court.
Despite his less than stellar theatrical run and legal troubles, The Island worth a watch. Its casting lives up to the occasion, Bay actually delves into the more gruesome elements of the cloning revelation in the film’s first half, and the action is tempered by a story with strong philosophical undertones. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orciwho participated in the co-writing of the screenplay of The Islandwill end up writing Bay’s first two Transformers movies as well as other sci-fi blockbusters, including JJ Abramsit is star trek and Mission: Impossible 3. I hope Bay can one day return to this kind of film, because it’s proof that he doesn’t have to stick to rash action.
‘Ambulance’ Cast and Character Guide: Who’s Who in the Latest Michael Bay?
About the Author