Cyberpunk Review » The Island

June 5, 2006

The Island

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2005

Directed by: Michael Bay

Written by: Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Key Cast Members:

  • Lincoln Six Echo/Tom Lincoln: Ewan McGregor
  • Jordan Two Delta/Sarah Jordan: Scarlett Johansson
  • Merrick: Sean Bean
  • Rating: 5 out of 10

    The Island screen capture


    Overview: The Island is straight Hollywood fare from the get go. In this summer bubble gum scifi-action romp, you’ll find few original ideas here, or even a coherent plot, but you will find loads of awesome visuals and even more action scenes and explosions. Vast amounts of money went into creating some rather incredible action sequences. Unfortunately, with all the thought devoted to creating those sequences, there apparently was little left for the story itself. Still, Scarlett Johansson looks absolutely gorgeous in The Island, and Ewan McGregor works as a leading man.


    The Island screen capture


    The Story: In the future, the desire among the rich and famous to live for ever dominates their existence. Along comes Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean) who founds the Merrick Corporation to meet this market need. The Merrick Corporation has (supposedly) found a method to take a person’s DNA and clone all of their organs within a gelatinous blob that maintains a persistent vegetative state. Unfortunately, they were never able to make this work, so instead, the Merrick Corporation broke all the laws and went with straight cloning of their human sponsors. For a cool 5 million bucks, sponsors can buy an insurance policy to ensure they always have a perfect set of organs that can be harvested to save them from whatever malady arises.


    The Island screen capture


    To keep the clones under control, Dr. Merrick constructs an alternate reality where a contaminated world has killed everyone except for a few fortunate souls who were rescued and placed into a special set of buildings. They have also saved an Island, which is now the only place on earth where people can live without dying. Now all the clones await their turn in the lottery, which, if won, supposedly means they will be able to go to the Island. In reality, the clones are “selected” when their sponsor has need for one of their body parts. From their diet to their associations with others to their urine output, every aspect of a clone’s life is monitored. THX-1138’s surveillance society, right down to the oppressive white, is omnipresent in The Island.


    The Island screen capture


    Lincoln Six-Echo, played by Ewan McGregor, is a clone who starts questioning his surroundings. He eventually gets out (through a completely idiotic plot point) and realizes that that those who leave to go to the Island are in fact being murdered. He quickly goes back to get his close friend, Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson) who just yesterday was selected to go to the Island (her sponsor is dying from wounds suffered in a car crash). Together, they make a break for it, but are pursued by (we are told) a crack-group of ex-special forces agents led by Djimon Hounsou. With the help of a low-level employee (Steve Buscemi) that Lincoln Six-Echo befriended, Lincoln and Jordan make for Los Angeles in an attempt to find Lincoln’s sponsor to discover the truth. From there, The Island turns into a high-tech, futuristic chase movie, with continually larger explosions and action sequences dominating screen. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but suffice to say this movie is as predictable as they come.


    The Island screen capture


    Michael Bay’s Approach to Story Telling: It’s pretty clear that director Michael Bay doesn’t plan movies like most directors. He seems to pay FAR more attention to the visual progression than he does the actual dialogue. The narrative in Island, like most of his movies, simply doesn’t hold together. To buy it, you have to accept all sorts of inane action on the part of the characters. Michael Bay seems to construct his movies via storyboards alone – for instance, he knows that in the end, the hero and the bad guy need to fight on a high-tech, scary looking bridge with explosions going on in the background – he is far less concerned about the rationale that brings them together. In watching it, the Island is one of those rare movies that is actually more coherent if you turn off the sound. The story you make up to go with the visuals will almost certainly make more sense then some of the plot points Bay provides.


    The Island screen capture


    I don’t even mind that we have to accept that two clones, three and four years old, are able to outwit an entire platoon of ex-special forces personnel, or that they “magically” assume all of their cloned person’s skills (like riding flying motorcycles). I can even accept that a supervisor on a regular basis, gives a clone a key that gets him to the outside world to save the supervisor from running errands, or that the the police regularly park their squad cars in the middle of an intersection and then don’t look for broadsides, but some of the basic plot stuff really does bother me. In the Island, the cloning is a HUGE secret that implicates the entire corporation into illegal action, but none of the investors, including the Defense Department which as spent 120 Billion on this “technology,” ask any questions. Even more incredible, none of the hundreds, if not thousands of low-level employees have ever consider spilling the beans. Instead, they are so closed-mouthed, they don’t even tell their family members. Killing is cool for them, as long as they get to keep their meager paychecks. This is just one example – far worse are the ending plotlines, which have our heroes assuming that top-notch special forces personnel wouldn’t search them for weapons even after they’ve shot people (lucky for them, the special forces personnel complied), that hired thugs would hang out and watch their boss go mono-a-mono with the hero vice wasting our hero, and that the boss himself, up in the comfort of his office, would be able to make it to the hero far quicker than any of his hundred thugs who’s job it is to enforce the peace.


    The Island screen capture


    Product Placement Gone Wild: It’s kind of refreshing to know that in the future, all dehumanized clones have to wear Puma shoes and clothing, drink Aquafina, serve Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream to kids, model for Calvin Kline on billboards, play Xbox, seek out MSN Search as a phone book, conduct their slave work on Apple computers, steal American Express credit cards, snag rides on Mac Trucks, wear Monza watches, and look longingly at Michelob Light beers. And of course, EVERYONE will be driving either Cadillacs or Dodge Magnums in the future. The Bond movies, where you expect significant product placement, don’t hold a candle to the monstrosity that is The Island. Not only do we get an obscene number of product placements, the on-camera product “lingering” that Mr. Bay engages in is almost criminal. I felt like I should have gotten a discounted ticket due to the myriad of embedded commercials. It’s rather amazing if you think of it – that almost 70 years into the future, all these companies will still be using the same logos they use today. I must say though the product placements are very memorable – they make be both remember the product and more importantly, they instill in me the STRONG desire to never buy these products again, as I now associate these brands as contributors to fucking up my movie watching experience.


    The Island screen capture


    The Visuals: While I’ve bashed the Island’s plot, Michael Bay certainly deserves a lot of credit for delivering some pretty cool cyberpunk visuals. The clone development labs look pretty darn cool. Additionally, Michael Bay continually composes shots displaying wonderful color panoramas. We get gorgeous yellows and blues in a variety of textures and settings. In scene after scene, it becomes clear that while Bay isn’t too concerned about the dialogue or narrative sequences, he’s intimately involved in the look. In some cases though, the visuals, while impressive, make absolutely no sense – the worst example being the weird eye-nanobots that are needed to take pictures of the brain activity. That its necessary to have metal insects entering the eye in order to take a brainscan 70 years into the future strains credibility far past the point of reason – even worse, the brainscan cannot be processed until 48 hours!


    The Island screen capture


    The Action Sequences: Michael Bay is known primarily for his outrageous and visually impressive action sequences. He does not disappoint in the Island as the action is consistently top notch. We get awesome explosions, incredible chase scenes and lots of gun fire and fight sequences, all with wonderful camera angles and high quality positional surround sound. If there’s one reason to definitely not miss the Island, it’s the action sequences. Michael Bay may not be a great film maker, but he and his crew are genius at constructing creative, eye-poppingly tense action.


    The Island screen capture


    The Bottom Line: If there was one change I would make to the story, I would have suggested they had done away with the illegal nature of cloning (the second change would be to eliminate the magical memory transferral that happens between clones and sponsors). The Island would have worked far better if it portrayed a world were society as a whole had decided that cloned people were property. Instead, the Island practically ignores this question. But while I have a hard time suspending disbelief for the plot the Island provides us, I probably would have given it six stars, similar to a number of other Hollywood movies high quality visuals and significant plot issues. Unfortunately, the obscenely over-the-top product placement deserves at least the loss of one star. Not only are there over a dozen companies, the “linger” factor makes it clear that you’ve just paid to watch a commercial. In the end, this is simply asinine and reflects poorly on the studio (Dreamworks), the film maker (Michael Bay), and the products themselves (too numerous to mention). I would conservatively guess that the product placement easily cost the Island many tens of millions in lost revenue. The Island cost 126 million to make but only brought in 35 million, large part because virtually all reviews discussed the overbearing product placements. Word of mouth from viewers merely confirmed that if you pay to watch this in the theatre, you will be paying for commercials.


    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Security-Surveillance State, Memory Modification, 5 Star Rated Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.


    June 5, 2006

    Case said:

    Ah, Michael “The Devil” Bay’s sad little attempt at making his own “Matrix.” How pathetic. Nice try, Mickey…keep at it. Maybe someday you’ll actually make something that ISN’T total garbage…but I’m not holding my breath. You shouldn’t be, either.

    I have to give you credit, SFAM, for even being able to sit through this…or, really, ANY of his films. Head on over to for a hilarious breakdown of the “similarities” between this “film” and the cheesy 70’s movie, “Parts: The Clonus Horror,” it ripped its entire plot off from.

    SFAM said:

    That’s a pretty fun site. Yeah, I should have mentioned the connection to the Clonus Horror (I haven’t watched Clonus Horror but was aware of the connection). The funniest connection was that the clones in Clonus Horror all wore Adidas clothes whereas those in the Island wore Puma! What a rediculous movie to rip off. Considering the amount of money that The Island lost, I don’t see Fiveson and company collecting any dough from the theft.

    But just to be clear, while Michael Bay movies do blow big chunks, give the guy some credit - he really does do overblown action scenes wonderfully.

    June 6, 2006

    Spider said:

    When I first saw the trailer, I thought The Island was a Logan’s Run remake before The Island title came up.

    SFAM said:

    Hi Spider, in watching the Island, rarely do you get a sense that anything original is happening. You are constantly reminded of older scifi movies like Logans Run.

    June 13, 2006

    Neuromancer said:

    I actually liked this movie.
    Consider it to be nothing more than a ride in a rollercoaster. No direction and no motivation but to have fun. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
    The visuals are the only thing you will experience afterwards anyway so don’t bother with the story.

    SFAM said:

    Hi Neuromancer, that’s probably the attitude you need to enjoy this movie - turn off the brain and enjoy the visuals. There definitely are some cool visuals.

    August 6, 2006

    DannyV_El_Acme said:

    I reacted in what can only be called absolute horror when I learned Bay is the one who’s gonna direct Transformers. Only the announcment of Paul WS Anderson directing Castlevania fills me with more despair :(

    SFAM said:

    Yeah, I wouldn’t expect much out of Transformers, and even less out of Castlevania. For some reason, these guys keep on getting money.

    DannyV said:

    Not only do they keep getting money, they keep getting good franchises, which is the tragic part. I tell you, when they announced Paul WS Anderson was getting Castlevania, I literally almost weeped. Castlevania has been my favorite video game franchise since I was 6 years old, and it being given to this… this hack of a filmmaker, well, it just goes beyond the pale. Didn’t anybody see what he did to Resident Evil?!

    This is more heartbreaking considering the awesome job Konami made by giving Silent Hill to Christophe Gans. That movie was genious.

    Well, at least the Metal Gear Solid movie’s DEFINITELY not gonna suck. Kojima himself said he will personally handpick the director and cast, and that he’ll write the screenplay. That basically guarantees a perfect adaptation.

    August 28, 2006

    criticalmass said:

    ewan mcgregor did a damn fine job though, loved the first half of the film and the future elements throughout but it just went crazy at the end in typical bay fashion

    SFAM said:

    Hi Criticalmass, I certainly don’t think either McGregor or Johansson were the problem here. I also agree that the second half was far worse than the first half, although the first half was still problematic.

    February 4, 2007

    HeWi said:

    Some cool visuals and McGregor & Johansson did ok. For me though the constant failure in Bay movies are the actions scenes with wobbling fast cuts and zooming. That’s kind of what one would expect from amateurs. Though I understand that doing it otherwise would require actual talent from the director.

    In the DVD extras most of the interviewed production crew members and actors are constantly reminding us how great action director Mr Bay is. I surely would be interested in the specifics about movie making process (maybe not applicable with this movie?) instead of listening that back slapping mantra.

    February 5, 2007

    SFAM said:

    Hi HeWi, I’m not sure I can get past the statement that you took time to go through all the extras on this! ;)

    Seriously though, generally I think Michael Bay’s ONLY positive trait is his FX scenes. He really does these rather well, and sometimes is even innovative. Unfortunately, they rarely fit with the narrative. I do agree that some of this fighting scenes are pretty choppy though.

    June 4, 2007

    nicnikt said:

    it is like remake of polish movie fron 80s “sexmisja” the sexmision”
    it is not a porno movie:)

    randomrob said:

    It is very much borrowed from ‘the Clonus horror’ 1979… from IMDB:

    A young man escapes from a govenment run project called Clonus only to find out that Peter Graves (Jeff Knight) a candidate for Presidency is a conspirator to keep Clonus a secret. Top government officials are aware of it and support the super secret project, because they are cloning themselves to live longer and better lives, at the expense of their clone counter-part, who is no more than a “slave” as far as human rights are concerned. The ethical and moral values are explored as the escapee (Tim Donnelly) known as Richard returns full circle back to Clonus, only to find his girlfriend lobotimized for government security purposes.

    Sound familiar?

    August 24, 2007

    APX said:

    I liked, fun movie to spent some time and recover your head from some highly mental activity requesting movies like One Point O or Pi.
    Just get in the mindset to enjoy great FX and action sequences, and be prepared to see some incredible bullshit like Scarlet is detained but she can hide a gun in her clothes.

    October 4, 2007

    622621 said:


    March 6, 2008

    Anonymous said:

    island rocked!

    November 15, 2008

    D said:

    I want to buy those puma clothes!!!!!

    I thought it was a Logan Run remake before I eventually bought the DVD and watched it (because it was sci-fi film). Great sci-fi, and fun to watch!

    The product placement is extreme, but this could be expected in a futuristic environment, so I never took it as a negative of the film.

    There is some great techy stuff in the film though:
    The flying motorbike
    The doctors touch surface computing desk
    The mercenaries weaponry

    I’d love to get the clothes Lincoln Six Echo wears (already had the shoes before I watched the film - my fave shoes) and would love to get the rest of the kit.

    Anyone know the make model etc?? Shop even!??

    March 19, 2009

    kobra said:

    You know, SFAM, you give bad ratings to the things that you don’t like, but it doesn’t means that it’s bad. You ALWAYS want a super philosophical movie with the dialogs of Metal Gear Solid and the psyche of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but you can’t find that anywhere. Definitively Akira MUST have a 10 (or a 9.5), for example. I’m tired of this, you know.

    March 21, 2009

    Louie Louie said:

    I watched this film only because Scarlett was in it (well I really like McGregor’s works aswell) and I must say it was really fun to watch and if people say “I hate brainless movies with loads of action” they lie. Island isn’t intelligent movie but I don’t think we all should watch Match-Point or Jarmush’s films for all the life. Sometimes you just need to seat and relax (I sound pathetic because this theme about “brainless films” are really old but still). I don’t think this movie should be on this site actually (like some more movies like Transformers which is here too) just because it’s science fiction. And second: though I dislike Bay’s films they are still better than Roland Emmerich’s (my opinion).
    PS. I liked the “product placement” phrase, hehe, but it’s a rule to use such things in the movies nowadays unfortunetely. I was surprised when I saw two “competitors” of sport clothes like Adidas and Puma in ONE film! And by the way in the scene where Jordan watches a tv advert with her twin Sarah Jordan… it was old Scarlett Johansson real Calvin Klein advert :O Pity.
    PPS I’m tired of Sean Bean’s villains. They are everywhere from Don’t say a word (?) to Equilibrium.

    April 5, 2009

    PinkyHellbitch said:

    Well yeah it’s brainless movie but, it makes you lose your time a little; and one of the few things that called my attention is that flying bike. It’s cool to imagine my self in one of those rides xDD jeje…

    April 10, 2009

    Blue Tori said:

    On the Bike I would like to drive one of those. I do love the visuals. I didn’t relize there was so many commerical things in the movie. I thought it just looked great.

    August 24, 2009

    Val said:

    First of all, and putting all hatred aside, this movie has grossed 160 Million worldwide. Not 35. So says IMDB Pro.

    Secondly, try this where you live: From the time you get up to the time you go to bed, see how many “products” you use in a day. How many products do you SEE in a day? It always pulls me away when I watch TV or see a video game where there are unmarked soda cans or cars with no emblems. When I hear people complaining about product placement, I figure it’s because they heard someone else complaining about it. I couldn’t care less. I don’t even think about it. Drive that Caddy, drink that Coke, wear those Pumas. You’re going to see a lot more of it in the future.

    Now then…to the movie…it is visual bliss, with fantastic colour correction, lots of testosterone, DREADFUL dialogue, and thin plot.
    It’s Michael Bay. You pay to be entertained. Whisked away for 2 hours. I don’t want every movie to be Shawshank Redemption. Sometimes I want to see pretty pictures and ridiculous nonsense. Egomaniac Michael Bay is the master of this, and although sometimes he goes over the line (Transformers 2, Bad Boys 2), this is a hit with great action, and a super score.

    November 19, 2009

    yoshinatsu said:

    I only like the first part of the movie.
    Then was Hollywood and Michael Bay all over again.

    March 29, 2011

    Penultimate truth said:

    Sean Bean isn’t a Villain in Equilibrium. Also, I agree - brainless movies, soo much shaking camera bullshit that I felt sick. For some reason, I can’t remember the product placement, hopefully burned it from my memory, but it’s most likely ingrained in my consciousness. Yes, the future will most likely have big corporations and consumerist marketing abound, but to use shite companies from today!? Where’s the imagination in this. I’d actually Logan’s run is better… Clonus, I don’t know. If you’ve never seen it (unrelated as it is) check out Mr Nobody - not so much cyberpunk as literary SF, but still very good.

    September 23, 2011

    MuadMouse said:

    Overall, I found The Island terminally boring: the plot was idiotic, characterization poor, and worst of all, the action sequences dull and unimaginative (not to mention contrived).

    For me, the film has only one redeeming feature: the much-maligned product placement. Brands and commercialization are vital to cyberpunk. Just look at Robocop! Brand names and prominent product placement remind us who rules the fictional world we are watching.

    January 14, 2012

    Spoilflesh the carcass said:

    Being blissfully ad-blind, I paid little attention to the product placements. I use Google search anyway, considering that they actually have released voice search, unlike MSN/Bing, and I’d never ever willfully choose to buy American cars over German ones.

    This film hilariously took so much from George Lucas’ work, visually. The Splitting resemblances to THX-1138, (SPOILER–>) and the scene with Obi-wan Kenobi shutting down the shield generator - oh the sweet irony. The speeder-bike scenes (more Starwars paraphernalia), were magnificent, though still not as epic as the Starwars equivalent. () and while implausible that the clones would inherit memories from their DNA sponsors, it was at least an interesting notion to explore (or at least touch upon). (

    Being blissfully ad-blind, I paid little attention to the product placements. I use Google search anyway, considering that they actually have released voice search, unlike MSN/Bing, and I’d never ever willfully choose to buy American cars over German ones.

    This film hilariously took so much from George Lucas’ work, visually. The Splitting resemblances to THX-1138, (start SPOILER) and the scene with Obi-wan Kenobi shutting down the shield generator - oh the sweet irony. The speeder-bike scenes (more Starwars paraphernalia), were magnificent, though still not as epic as the Starwars equivalent. (end SPOILER). Since the Lucas influences come from pretty brilliant films, I wasn’t so upset.

    It’s nice to watch nicely put together action sequences now & again, (start SPOILER) and while implausible that the clones would inherit memories from their DNA sponsors, it was at least an interesting notion to explore (or at least touch upon). (end SPOILER)

    Even though the plot was holier than a hunk of Swiss cheese embedded in the shirt pocket of a firing squad victim, I was happily entertained. Johansson as a virgin is too enchanting a concept to miss out on ;)

    P.S. sorry about the accidental HTML comment tags on my previous comment which you can delete.

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