The Island

The reason I’m not giving this any more than three stars is because it is so infuriatingly, deliberately shallow. If it had just blundered on through a bunch of action sequences with no regard for the questions raised by its premiss (clones are being raised and kept in an isolated community, until their originals need them for spare parts, and two of them escape), that would simply be ordinarily shallow. But no. The screenplay places a handful of really interesting issues and questions right there in front of you–stuff that would go on to generate fascinating conflicts and emotional drama–and then completely ignores them in favour of blowing shit up.

For example, the US defense department is funding the cloning institute heavily. What are they getting out of it? How does this tie in with the President having a clone lying around? No answer. Also, the cloning institute’s scientists discover that somehow new model clones are acquiring the memories of their originals. Wow. What potential! So let’s just destroy the whole batch. And most egregiously, while on their escape run, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), whose original is lying in a coma awaiting her backup organs, gets to speak to her original’s child. The child asks, “Is that you, mommy?”

A moment like that is just begging for further exposition. Look at it: the moment is actually down on its knees weeping for attention. I believe this is known in the trade as a “heartfucker”, and you can not just ignore one. You can milk it for all it’s worth, you can twist it into a miraculously happy ending, but what you can’t do is back away from the scene and try to cover your tracks with a mighty car chase. OH WAIT YES YOU CAN APPARENTLY.

Sheesh. That’s what I mean by deliberately shallow. The production team knows there is a more intersting film here, but not only did they make a conscious choice not to make it, they also made a conscious choice to tantalize the audience with glimpses of what it could have been.

The reason I’m giving this as much as three stars is that the film they did make is still a pretty good action movie. A little slow to develop, a little implausible in the damage our heroes can sustain and still walk away, but still full of well-directed thrills and decently (if not spectacularly) acted characters. And what more could you ask for in a summer blockbuster?

No, wait…don’t get me started again….