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Still confused with the whole sex
thing, 3-year-old clone, Lincoln Six
Echo (Ewan McGregor) tries his luck
with his reflection.

The Island
Review written by: Alex Sandell

It's not the contamination you have to worry about; it's the product placements ...

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) is missing a Puma.  Not just a shoe, but a Puma.  He has about 6 pairs of the things, but one is missing.  When he urinates he finds that his sodium levels are high and he isn't going to get any bacon for breakfast.  With a hungry stomach and an open cafeteria, he settles on one of the complete pairs of Pumas he owns, leaves his room and enters the main body of the sterile compound he's been forced to live in since the contamination.  On the elevator ride down to the cafeteria, he sees that, once again, he didn't win the lottery, which would have given him a free trip to the Island (purported to be the last non-contaminated place on earth), where he could breathe fresh air.  The winner is an elated Starkweather (Michael Clarke Duncan), who only arrived at the compound six months earlier.  A downtrodden Lincoln Six leaves the elevator, walks past some ladies wearing Speedos, and enters the cafeteria, where he's cheered up by Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), who snags him about five pieces of forbidden bacon before the two are separated due to "proximity" rules.  The couple meets again later in the day when they have a virtual fight on what must be a huge Microsoft XBOX.  There are clearly placed XBOX logos flanking a small black ring, where a virtual Lincoln Six Echo is defeated by a virtual Jordan Two Delta.  After the fight, Lincoln drowns his sorrows in a bottle of Aquafina, which is placed right before the camera.  Jordan consoles Lincoln and the two look ready to kiss, before a security guard reminds them, once again, about the proximity rules.  Lincoln Six ends up finding a moth and starts to wonder how it could have survived the contamination.  He follows the moth past someone working on a silver Apple Computer to an off-limit area of the facility.  There he sees Starkweather's chest being cut open with a buzzsaw.  Being that Starkweather was supposed to be off enjoying his lotto win, Lincoln starts questioning both the island and the contamination.  When Jordan Two Delta wins the lottery, Lincoln Six Echo convinces her to escape the compound and risk the open air.  They manage to get away and enter a larger world, full of plenty more ample opportunities for product placements and generic Michael Bay action sequences.      

Force-fed advertising

Movies by Director Michael Bay, former overseer of television commercials, have had product placements before, but nothing like this.  Movies themselves have had product placements before, but nothing like this.  Watching it only once, without taking notes, I noticed product placements for Puma, Aquafina, Speedo, Johnnie Rockets, Cadillac automobiles, Microsoft XBOX, Microsoft MSN, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Apple Computer, Mack trucks, Chevrolet, Budweiser beer (part of the Anheuser-Busch family of watered down liquid piss), Michelob beer (also part of the Anheuser-Busch family of watered down liquid piss), Nokia phones, Movado watches (someone wrote in saying they think it was a TAG Heuer watch), Amtrak trains, Calvin Klein, the NFL and a couple other products (including a credit card) that I can't remember off the top of my head. 

These corporate logos aren't just shown.  You can't miss them in the blink of an eye, like you could the infamous Atari corporate logo that dated Blade Runner within 24 months of its release (product placements in futuristic films are always bad ideas -- imagine if 2001: A Space Odyssey had "Lee's Bell Bottoms.  Wear them now.  Wear them for life." signs plastered all over the spaceship).  These corporate sponsors, along with their logos, are written right into the film; so maybe audience members should stay out of auditoriums playing it. 

In a scene stolen directly from the Terminator films, Lincoln Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta enter a biker bar, and are unaware of 21st century lingo.  We see Budweiser ads all around them.  They meet up with McCord (Steve Buscemi), an engineer Lincoln knows from the facility.  He rushes them from the bar.  The audience breathes a sigh of relief, "at least the Budweiser commercial's over!" 

Not so fast!  This isn't a normal film we're talking about here, this is The Island

McCord brings Lincoln and Jordan to his house (which makes absolutely no sense, since that is one of the first places the people from the facility would look), where he has a Budweiser lamp and a wife whose entire purpose for being in the film is to give McCord a reason to say, "go pick us up a six of Buds."  Yes, she also has clothing that Jordon Two needs to wear, but there is no reason the audience needed to see her to grasp this clever plot-point.  McCord's wife is just a Budweiser shill.  As is his lamp.  As is Michael Bay.  As is this film.

Other product placements are just as prominent.  The audience groaned over the XBOX scene.  They sounded suicidal by the time that Lincoln Six Echo is looking somebody up and we actually see an MSN search screen booting -- cute MSN butterfly included (could the moth Lincoln found earlier in the film be the much talked about MSN moth?).  The audience I was with was watching the film for free.  I can only imagine how people paying for all these advertisements will feel.  To quote Johnny Rotten from all those years ago, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"  

The rest

There is a movie squeezed between the product placements.  The film is intriguing while the group is in the compound.  It's a slow-moving, character-motivated opening that we don't typically (IE - never) see in a Michael Bay film.  It has a unique look and feel that really makes you wonder if they can keep it up the entire picture and create an intelligent science-fiction film.  They can't.  Once the clones escape, the movie has its fun moments (such as Lincoln coming face-to-face with Lincoln), but it's a pretty average chase film, with Bay's trademark explosions, gunfire and fast cars.  None of the action scenes seemed to really dazzle anyone.  There wasn't any cheering coming from the audience when our heroes took out a baddie.  To my surprise, Michael Bay reuses the car chase scene he already directed in Bad Boys 2.  Instead of cars and corpses being thrown off a truck at other cars, we have Lincoln throwing cement/metal poles at other cars.  Replace the poles with automobiles and cadavers and the two action sequences are nearly identical. 

Did I mention we get a brief PG-13 sex scene that reveals nothing more than Scarlett Johannson -- who's hotter than ever in this film -- wearing a bra?  Michael Bay obviously never learned where people actually want to see some fireworks and explosions.  Either that, or clones haven't gotten down the basics of unsnapping underclothing.  Remember that whole proximity rule thing?  It didn't give Lincoln or Jordan much (IE - any) experience in that area.  Rumor has it that Johannson actually wanted to do the scene topless, but the PG-13 rating the studio wanted stood in her way.  PG-13 rating, the bane of man's existence since 1984.

The acting in the film is alright (although Ewan McGregor is surprisingly weak, when putting on a Generic American accent).  The plot seems dangerously close to being anti-Stem Cell Research.  I'm not sure if that's what it was going for, but if it was, shame on everyone involved.  The finale is overly sappy Spielbergian crap (no surprise this is a DreamWorks' film, and Spielberg is co-owner of DreamWorks).  But those ads!  Everything else takes second place to those damn ads!  I can't stress enough how unfair it is to ask audience members to shell out ten bucks a piece to sit through ads before a film, only to be forced to watch more of them during a film. 

Product placements are seen as a necessary evil, but do they really have to be constantly seen?  I have grown more tolerant of product placements, dropping the "What are you selling us here?" section of my reviews a few years back.  But this movie crosses a line and constantly slows the film down to throw in another obnoxious tie-in.  The film's many corporate sponsors should buy the audience member's tickets.  BMW had a series of mini-films out a while ago.  They didn't expect people to pay to watch them.  I think The Island is the same kind of thing.  The corporate sponsors appear to have paid a large part of its production costs and the film itself doesn't add up to the sum of its ads.

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Batman Begins
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Amityville Horror
Sin City
Oldboy

On a scale of 1-10?

5

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