Trying to decide whether or not to go see The Island? Maybe this will help….

  • If you like a movie that steals ideas from other movies and patches them together into something far, far less satisfying than the properties it stole from, well, you’re gonna love The Island.
  • If you like movies that want you to take their stories seriously, to laugh and cry with the characters, and then ask you to accept that those same characters can fall seventy stories off a skyscraper, get up, dust themselves off, and run away without much thought, you’re gonna love The Island.
  • If you like movies in which most objects are labeled with large capital letters explaining their obvious function, just so that viewers can identify them during high-speed action, you’ll really enjoy this movie.
  • The Island seems to assume that its audience is made of complete idiots, so it’s constantly reminding us of the simple plot details and having characters define things for each other. Do you like condescending movies?
  • Bothered by gaping holes in the logic of a story? Don’t worry. The Island works overtime to bombard your senses so you don’t have to worry over plot details.
  • If you like movies that pretend to care deeply about the sanctity of human life, and yet pummel you with 1000-mile-per-hour imagery, crashes, explosions, deafening noise, and shocking imagery of human bodies being maimed, slashed, gutted, bruised, and beaten, you’re gonna love The Island. If you go, try closing your eyes at almost any point in the movie. You’ll notice that it’s like closing your eyes in front of a strobe light, and it might send you into an epileptic fit.
  • Enjoy mind-blowing coincidences, one after the other? The Island is your ticket.
  • Want to see a film that portrays authority — ANY authority, from cops to the cafeteria lady — as evil and oppressive and disposable? Want heroes wholie, cheat, and steal in order to rebel against any authority but themselves? In other words, do you have the sympathies of a six-year-old?
  • Do you enjoy the sound of breaking glass? Go seeThe Island. Whenever anybody in the movie falls or runs or drives at a high speed, you can expect their path to be blocked by all manner of glass objects. One of them falls from a great height in the middle of a train station, and somehow lands behind a bar, crashing through a huge shelf-system made of glass and loaded with bottles of alcohol. So not only do we watch this character shot, but also falling, and then smashing through enough glass to put windows in a skyscraper.
  • If you’re not bothered by films set in the distant future that don’t even bother to update the logos of their product placement, here ya go. MSN, Johnny Rockets, Calvin Klein, Nokia… apparently they’re all sporting the same brand logo many decades from now.
  • If you like scenes of mass devastation without having to worry about unfortunate things like bystander casualties or dutiful policemen dying in car crashes… this one’s for you.

Now, on the other hand, if you enjoy good science fiction, intriguing ethical questions, adrenalin-rush action, dazzling special effects, here are several movies that offer these things without wasting your time: THX 1138, A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), Minority Report, A Clockwork Orange, Star Wars, Episode Two: Attack of the Clones, Gattaca… oh, and apparently an old sci-fi flick calledClonus, which happens to have the very same plot outline as this, Michael Bay’s latest two-hours of audience abuse.

The plot? It’s not a far cry from Soylent Green. We discover, early on, that McGregor and Johansson are just clones, living in a clone society, oblivious to their origins or their puprose. They’re walking, talking “insurance policies” waiting to have their organs harvested for the benefit of their “originals.”

The “originals” believe they’ve invested millions into the development of tissue that is not part of a sentient creature; and thus they see no ethical problem with cloning their cells. But the clone-making company learns that the organs just don’t work unless they’re developed within living, breathing human beings, so they create a covert society in the middle of a desert where the clones can obliviously grow these “resources” until the day they’re told they’ve won a “lottery,” and they’re carried away into the depths of this evil corporate fortress and euthanized so their organs can be extracted.

Bay and Company seem to think they’re wrestling with tough ethical questions. But their exploration is no more provocative than Charlton Heston running around in a panic, shouting, “Your insurance policies are people!”

So, instead you sit there watching five very fine actors — Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Djimon Hounsou, and Sean Bean — waste their formidable talents on one of the most embarrassing career choices they’ve ever made. (I’ve met both Buscemi and Hounsou, and they’re extremely intelligent, mature individuals. It must have pained them to speak some of this dialogue.)

There’s a fleeting bit of fun to be had watching Ewan McGregor meet his “original” and fight himself. But that doesn’t make up for what they do to Scarlett Johansson, whose natural beauty is lost in these relentless, grotesque, Maxim-style glamour shots served up for the salivating neanderthals in the crowd. Seeing such squandered talent and beauty is probably the most painful part of the whole affair.

No, wait. There’s something worse — thinking about how many meaningful projects could have been impressively staged with just a fraction of the budget used to make this waste of space and time.

So there… the decision is yours. Me? I walked out of the theater feeling as if I’d just paid seven dollars to have someone shove my head through plate glass windows for two hours, except for the fact that I’d been laughing, incredulous, most of the time. That can’t be healthy.