Saw the sneak preview of THE ISLAND tonight. It was better than expected — a good combination of clinical horror and summer thrill ride.
Some of the story and visual elements will remind viewers of LOGAN’S RUN and THX-1138 (with a tiny bit of BLADE RUNNER thrown in), but the film truly is a remake of THE CLONUS HORROR, although there is no acknowledgement of this in the credits. Especially the first third is very close, presenting the audience with a phony “reality” that the characters accept and then providing glimpses behind the scenes that show us what is really happening (a technique used in THE TRUMAN SHOW as well).
Of course, this movie has a much bigger budget than its 1979 progenitor, so the sets and production values are several orders of magnitude larger. Once the two leads realize that their dream of leaving their isolated facility and going to “the island” is a lie (a bit like “Pig Paradise” in BABE), they escape, and the film turns into a more typical piece of Michael Bay-directed action mayhem — the sort of entertaining silliness where an uber-efficient hit squad can’t manage to kill their targets, while our naive and helpless heroes manage to surmount every obstacle in their path.
Luckily, it’s all done with sufficient verve to make it entertaining, in spite of its absurdity. An extended freeway chase scene is quite impressive (our heroes push heavy, rolling objects off a flatbed truck to block their pursuers, who zig-zag and crash with almost as much excitement as the asteroid belt scene from EMPIRE STRIKES BACK). There are some nice character touches and good performances, and the later portions of the film diverge enough from the original so that the new film is not just a clone. Of course, THE CLONUS HORROR was a 1970s exploitation film, so it reflected a certain cynicism, born both of its age and of economics — downer endings were often the rule of the day, especially in low-budget movies.
THE ISLAND is also very much a product of its era, and it too reflects the economic demands of its budget, so its attempt to shock the conscience of the audience is muted by the desire to provide a fun-filled action flick. This could have resulted in a really bad, heavily compromised film, but THE ISLAND succeeds on its own terms quite well. I know some people really hate Michael Bay as a director, and this wont’ change their minds. But everyone else should have a good time.