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Michael Bay
Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou
Writing Credits:
Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

A man living in a futuristic sterile colony begins to question his circumscribed existence when his friend is chosen to go to the Island, the last uncontaminated place on earth.

Box Office:
$126 million.
Opening Weekend
$12,409,070 on 3122 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 136 min.
Price: $12.99
Release Date: 6/21/2011

• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Bay
• “The Future In Action” Featurette
• “The Making of The Island” Featurette
• “Forward Thinking” Featurette


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The Island [Blu-Ray] (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 23, 2021)

After a slew of commercially successful but oft-disdained movies, The Island brought Michael Bay back down to earth – and then some. Despite a budget of well over $100 million and a prime July release date, The Island nabbed a pathetic $35 million in the US. That means it resides below duds like Beautyshop and Fever Pitch on 2005’s box office charts.

Bay bounced back with 2007’s Transformers, but it looks like Island convinced him to stay away from original properties for a while.

Set in the then-future of 2019, The Island starts in sterile indoor society created due to “contamination” of the outside. Only one natural enclave remains, a spot called “The Island” where residents can go if the win the lottery.

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) chafes against the heavy restrictions placed on him and the others. He develops a friendship with – and clear romantic interest in – Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) but can’t pursue this too heavily because the rules strictly prohibit physical closeness. Eventually Lincoln discovers a slew of secrets about “The Island” that take him on a major adventure.

If nothing else, The Island provides pretty good entertainment – once. I saw the flick theatrically and enjoyed it. While I found nothing especially memorable about it, I thought the movie offered a lively diversion.

On subsequent viewings, the strengths of The Island recede and its weaknesses come to the forefront. When I first watched the film, its intriguing premise and vivid action sequences made me enjoy it. Unfortunately, on later screenings, the former seems more simplistic and the latter become less exciting.

If there’s one thing Bay knows how to do, it’s stage a powerful action scene, and to be sure, he offers some good ones here. Once Lincoln and Jordan make it out of the complex, they’re involved in many life or death situations, and the movie takes good advantage of those.

They’re just not enough to sustain a poorly-explored plot and an excessively-long running time. Length is almost always a problem for Bay, as he usually makes movies that go too long.

The 136 minutes of The Island would be time well spent if Bay could actually dig into his subject with gusto. Unfortunately, the ethical issues involved with the harvesting of clones exist solely as a backdrop for the action sequences. The movie never invests very well in its characters or themes, as they feel like props for the chases and explosions.

No, Bay didn’t populate his better movies with substantially greater depth. They used stock characters for the most part, but he still managed to eke some emotion and personality out of them.

That never happens here. Perhaps it shouldn’t happen given the unformed nature of the clones’ personalities, but it still doesn’t make for good viewing.

Really, Bay veers on the edge of self-parody here. With his constantly swirling camera, shots that swoop into the faces of characters for dramatic effect, and omnipresent slow motion, I get the impression he’s running on fumes. He seems to use these techniques because he feels they’re part of his “style”, not because they make any sense within the framework of the movie.

Unlike many, I do believe Bay has true talent as a filmmaker. He shows glimmers of this in The Island, and as I mentioned earlier, you’ll probably have a reasonably good time with it during one screening.

On closer inspection, however, it becomes more apparent that Bay can’t figure out how to do much more than recycle the same tricks, and these mean that the movie never becomes much more than a procession of stale sequences.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio A/ Bonus B-

The Island appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a generally positive presentation.

Sharpness usually fared well. Some shots looked a bit soft and indistinct, but those didn’t occur with much frequency. Instead, the majority of the film was clear and concise.

Only minor concerns with jagged edges or shimmering on a couple occasions, but mild edge enhancement appeared sporadically. As for print flaws, no issues arose.

As expected, Bay infused The Island with a highly stylized palette, and this usually split into two tones. The shots back at the indoor society seemed cold and sterile, while the rest of the flick exhibited a strong teal and orange hue. Across the board, the colors worked fine within their stylistic restrictions, though they tended to feel a bit heavy, even for a Michael Bay movie.

Blacks were dense and firm, while low-light shots exhibited solid clarity and definition. This transfer satisfied most of the time and occasionally looked great.

On the other hand, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Island suffered from no relative problems. Instead, it gave us the kind of slam-bang mix that one would anticipate from a loud action flick like this.

The soundfield used all five channels to great effect. Since the film poured on the raucous set pieces, the track got more than a few opportunities to shine, and it lived up to expectations.

Elements always seemed accurately placed and they meshed together smoothly. The surrounds contributed good ambience during the rare quiet scenes, and they kicked into overdrive during the many loud ones.

Check out the extended road chase to find some vivid and involving audio. Cars zoomed all over the spectrum, bullets flew, and the piece created a great sense of action.

Audio quality also seemed positive. Speech was always natural and distinctive, and I noticed no concerns connected to edginess or intelligibility.

Music often got subsumed to the action pieces, but the score and songs nonetheless came across as lively and well reproduced, with a good presentation of dynamics. Effects were accurate and detailed.

They seemed firmly displayed and showed great punch. All those elements were tight and concise, and they never suffered from any distortion. Overall, The Island gave us an excellent soundtrack.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio showed more range and punch.

As for visuals, the Blu-ray looked cleaner, smoother and better defined. While not a great-looking presentation, the Blu-ray upgraded the DVD.

When we head to extras, we begin with an audio commentary from director Michael Bay. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Bay touches on the usual topics. He gets into casting and working with the actors, locations and sets, stunts and visual effects, story issues and changes to the script, and production demands.

Reason to like Bay: he discusses the movie’s financial failure in the US. Bay believes the film tanked due to a poor promotional campaign. While this sounds like excuse making, I agree with him.

The studio sold the flick really poorly. Would it have been a hit with more interesting ads? We’ll never know, but I’d imagine it would have been more successful.

Reason to dislike Bay: he mentions that Scarlett Johansson wanted to do her love scene nude but he insisted she wear undergarments so they’d keep a “PG-13”. Dude, you couldn’t shoot it both ways? Don’t the words “unrated cut” mean anything to you?

While Bay covers appropriate subjects and gives us a reasonable overview of his film, his commentary never really gets going terribly well. He tends to speak in fits and starts, so the track doesn’t become consistent enough to truly engage.

There’s a fair amount of dead air, and while the gaps don’t last very long, they pop up often enough to make the commentary drag at times. Bay presents a good enough look at the flick, but he doesn’t make it anything special.

Three featurettes appear, and we find a 15-minute, 42-minute piece called The Future In Action. We hear from Bay, producer Ian Bryce, stunt coordinator Ken Bates, special effects supervisor John Frazier, visual effects supervisor Eric Brevig, director of photography Mauro Fiore, technical advisor Harry Humphries, digital production supervisor Christopher Townsend, aerial coordinator/pilot Alan Purwin and actors Djimon Hounsou and Michael Clarke Duncan.

The featurette covers the creation of the movie’s action, with an emphasis on one of the big chase sequences. We get a look at all the stunts and effects that go into it. This ends up as a tight little piece with enough detail to make it worthwhile.

The Making of The Island runs 13 minutes, two seconds and includes notes from Bay, Bryce, Frazier, Hounsou, Bates, producer Walter F. Parkes, and actors Scarlett Johannson, Ewan McGregor, and Steve Buscemi.

“Making” looks at story and characters, Bay’s work on the shoot, cast and performances, stunts and action, and various effects. Some shots from the set add value, but this largely becomes a fluffy promo piece with little informational value.

Finally, Forward Thinking spans eight minutes, nine seconds and involves Bay, Brevig, Townsend, Parkes, Bates, animation supervisor Scott Benza, compositing supervisor Dorne Huebler, TD supervisor Hayden Landis and special effects makeup Greg Nicotero.

Here we learn about the use of animatics in the production. “Forward” becomes a reasonably efficient overview.

The Island works as a decent action film once, but it doesn’t hold up to additional viewings. Those reveal it as a thin, glossy film without enough excitement to make it worthwhile. The Blu-ray presents erratic but generally positive picture with excellent audio. As for the extras, we don’t get much, but the components are fairly informative. The movie becomes a spotty affair.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of THE ISLAND

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