Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Island

With my exam over last Wednesday, it’s time to have a life again.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any good movies lately.

Bewitched didn’t sound promising according to early reviews. My colleague who watched it confirmed that. Not to mention that Will Ferrell ain’t that cute either.

Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt is a Spanish production. Didn’t look too exciting from the trailer. Not to mention that werewolves are so passé.

The best of the lot was The Island, starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson.
Before I watched the movie, I thought it would be another mindless action flick. It was directed by Michael Bay, after all, of Armageddon and Pearl Harbor fame.

Well, it is an action flick, but not completely mindless.

In The Truman Show, Jim Carrey’s titular character lives in a world fully controlled by Christof. Truman was adopted by a corporation and raised in front of video cameras and shown live to the world. Everything was scripted – his job, wife, childhood, fear of water, etc. He was a real person living in a fake world.

In The Matrix, Neo lives in a virtual world. Everything in the matrix is not real and people will only realize that if they took the red pill. Real people in a virtual world.

In The Island, McGregor’s and Johansson’s characters live in a make-believe world too. The twist is they are not real people.

Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Johansson) have lived in this facility where they have to maintain a very strict daily schedule of exercising (kickboxing, swimming, running) and diet. They were told that the outside world has been contaminated and they are the remaining survivors.

They are humankind’s last hope.

Living in a boring and sterile environment, where everybody dresses in white (including the shoes) and they have tofu every Tuesday , the only motivation for living is this - a weekly lottery to pick one person to go to this almost-mythical island, called well, the Island. The Island is like heaven, as it is touted as the only place left on Earth, which is untainted and contamination-free.

In short, they lead very rigid and disciplined lives. The opposite sexes can't even be close to each other, under their close proximity law.

Hmmm ... doesn't that sound surprisingly familiar?

Warning, spoilers ahead.

What they do not know is that everyone in the facility are clones of the super-rich clients of the Merrick Corporation. The clones are insurance policies for the wealthy who wants to live longer, who have chronic liver disease or other organ-ravaged disease, who want to maintain youthful skin at 60, who are in a coma, etc.

As clones are exact copies of the original, all these (cure, longer lives, youthful looks) are possible.

Nevertheless, Merrick is breaking a lot of laws and lying to their customers, as the corporation promised them that the clones are always in a vegetative state and never gains consciousness, thus they are just "products", not human beings.

However, after repeated failure and trials, Merrick found out that if they are left in an unconscious state, the clones die. Apparently, the clones need experience and interaction; basically to be "alive" to continue to live.

Also, the clones do not begin life as babies. They come out from their liquid pods as adults. Their memory of their childhood are all the same - they had a bike which they rode to their grandmother's house - and twelve other variations of it.

Steve Buscemi played the loud and cynical character of McCord, who told them the truth. "Jeez, why do I always have to be the one to tell the kids there is no Santa Claus?" He definitely had the best lines in the movie, but unfortunately he was killed half way into the movie.

This two and a quarter hour movie raised a lot of questions about cloning and its consequences, but ultimately, it is the age-old question of what makes us human?

Merrick said, "They are not humans; they don’t have souls!"

I will leave that for another post.

End of spoilers.

Action movies usually have big budgets and in this movie, we know where the USD 120 million have gone into. Helmed by Michael Bay, he did not disappoint at all in the action department.

The car chase scene was fast-paced and exciting, with steel rollers being pushed off a truck and then crushing the cars and MPVs which were chasing the protagonists. There were ski-jet like vehicles which could fly, similar to hovercrafts.

The film was set a few decades in the future and the future sure looks good here. Technological-wise. In Los Angeles, the city has cable cars as part of public transportation. The train that brought Lincoln and Jordan to LA too were magnetically levitated (maglev) ones, though super bikes and fast petrol-powered sports cars still exist.

There were a few violent and gory scenes, which provoked a sense of cannot-stand-the-sight-of-blood kinda nausea. One was when hooks were latched onto the back of someone’s legs (that got a squirm from me). Another was when the bad guys’s hand was pinned into the door using a nail-gun (shudder!).

I like movies which raise questions and get the audience to think. Although in this case, the important questions are asked but never got answered, as it is after all an action movie.

When I left the cinema, I was impressed with the writer of the story, whom I later found out is one Caspian Tredwell-Owen. And the movie’s release was timely too, as the U.S. Senate is going to vote on stem cell research this fall.

However, Google results show that "The Island" is a clone of an earlier 1979 cult classic called "The Clonus Horror".

Oh, the irony. A movie about clones, is itself a clone of another movie.

My ratings (out of 5):
Plot: 3.50
Action: 4.00
Satisfaction: 3.75
Overall: 3.75

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