I missed this article when the Los Angeles Times first posted it a few days ago, but better late than never: “Bay’s Island Is No Paradise.”
It’s a brief rundown of what a financial flop THE ISLAND is: a $124-million budget versus a $12.4-million opening weekend. There are also a few quotes from director Michael Bay speculating on what went wrong (he blames the marketing campaign, the lack of stars, and the subject matter).
Of course, the answer should be pretty obvious: the title.
What do the words “THE ISLAND” convey to you. Probably something along the lines of THE BLUE LAGOON or ROBINSON CARUSO. But the film isn’t set on an island, nor is it about an island; the island is just a red herring, hiding what’s really going on. (PARTS — THE CLONUS HORROR may have been a horrible-sounding exploitation title, but at least the filmmakers and distributors were smart enough not to call their film AMERICA.)
The advertising art hardly helped: if you didn’t know who Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson were, the posters looked like some kind of clothing ad. Nothing told you that you were in for an action-packed science-fiction thrill ride. I mean, ARMAGEDDON may not be a great movie, but it is a great title, and it tells you exactly what you’re in for.
Of course, THE ISLAND presented difficulties, because there is a big surprise revelation about one-third through, so the advertising couldn’t really tell what the movie was about without destroying the surprise. Still ,there should have been a way to turn that around and make it a strength, playing up the mystery and inviting the audience with a tease to come and find out what was really going on.
The ironic thing in all this, sadly, is that even people who hate Michael Bay’s work in general (I’m not among them, although I can’t blame them after PEARL HARBOR) are admitting that this is probably his best film. He tried something a little different (at least in its first third) and got burned. Next time, he’ll probably go back to doing wall-to-wall stunts, crashes and explosions, instead of actually setting up the story and characters for a half-hour at the beginning.