This series focuses on the one and only Michael Bay. Attempting to deconstruct his filmography, one film at a time. The ideas explored here may or may not end up in my Dissertation about Michael Bay and Post-Cinema.
And to answer the question: Does it ever rain in a Michael Bay movie?
After the unhinged Bayness of BAD BOYS II, Steven Spielberg called up Michael Bay to direct a sci-fi film for Dreamworks, THE ISLAND.
What followed is Michael Bay’s first box-office failure.
THE ISLAND is a strange LOGANS RUN, 1984, FARHENHEIT 451, THE MATRIX and Puma commercial hybrid. There are some interesting science-fiction concepts within, which isn’t really much of a surprise when one mashes these things together. But it doesn’t challenge these notions in a serious way. The film takes these ideas at face value, and just adds a polished sheen to them.
Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) is the one to question why, to question his world, and to act against it. At one point Steve Buscemi says that Dr Merrick (Sean Bean) suffers from ‘The God Complex’, Lincoln asks “What is God?”, but the subject is promptly moved on. Merrick whilst selling the product, states that the products are not human. These ‘big’ ideas are present, but not explored with half as much care as in say, THE MATRIX.
Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are pretty well cast as these blank slates, discovering the world around them. Ewan McGregor at the time was still Obi-Wan and in 2005 declared to Anakin that “You were the chosen one!”. Scarlett Johansson is starring in her first summer blockbuster, and does a very servicable job in an area she’d come to dominate in years to come.
The Jet-Bike bridge sequence and city/skyscraper sequence are the main action set-pieces. This is unpredictably the best part of the film. The editing is more composed and less manic here than the car chase sequence in BAD BOYS II. The cause and effect logic of the set-piece is well-crafted, with Michael Bay toning down the exaggerated camera angles, and off-hand quips in favour of a more standard action set-piece. This is Bay becoming more mature, more family friendly, more straight-down-the-barrel commercial. Which is what defines the TRANSFORMERS series, but i’ll get to that later.
One of the weird things about THE ISLAND is that the film takes place in 2019. Which is 14 years after the actual release date. The production designers had to come up with ideas of what the 2005 timeline future of 2019 would look like. Jet-Bikes, touch-screen tables, MSN phoneboxes and XBOX present this odd BLADE RUNNER like future, where in that version of 2019 Panam and the CCCP were still a thing.
THE ISLAND has Michael Bay at his most weird and experimental. There are abstract dream sequences that don’t belong in any other Bay film. When a clone is poisoned and dying, there are shots that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tony Scott or early J.J. Abrams movie. There is some weird graphic violence, the sequence with Michael Clarke Duncan’s surgery and escape could’ve been more graphic and cruel, but it doesn’t linger. These interesting flourishes are all too brief.
Steven Spielberg chose Michael Bay to direct THE ISLAND, as I would imagine he felt that the commercial, marketing tendencies of Bay would be an interesting counterpoint to the the idea of ‘products’ and ‘identity’ that the film posits. But it just didn’t work out that way, and failed to make the money it needed to be considered a box-office success.
Does it rain? Artificially and actually.
Next up: Robots in disguise.