Revisiting the Reviled — ‘The Island’ is Michael Bay’s Ambitious, Bombastic Prelude to ‘Transformers’

VANAPHASE™ the Vanadium powerhouse!


Sometimes long-standing working relationships end. One exceptionally fruitful partnership between director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer came to an end following the action sequel Bad Boys II. There seems to be no ill-will between the two, but Bay spread his own wings as a producer while Bruckheimer would make splashes into the world of television. If there was a divorce, nobody went broke when dividing the possessions. Bay’s first film away from Bruckheimer was a guide into where the bombastic director would take his next films. The Island carries the distinct political edge of a Michael Bay film with so much chaotic action that exists to render the plot secondary. Looking back at the film over a decade later, it becomes apparent that The Island was a testing ground for the film franchise that would define Michael Bay for over a decade – Transformers.

But breaking away from Bruckheimer wasn’t a guarantee for Bay. The Island would be his first true flop. For the first time as a feature film director, Bay was vulnerable. Complicating matter, the original story by Caspar Tredwell-Owen wasn’t as original as initially billed. A lawsuit from the makers of the ‘70s b-movie Parts: The Clonus Horror claimed that the story of The Island was lifted from a movie that had peaked when it appeared on an episode Mystery Science Theater 3000. The finished script by Tredwell-Owen along with work by Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci takes an interesting concept and renders it into an extended chase scene, a story where the larger moral questions are drowned out by bombastic action and conspiratorial overtones that have come to define the work of Bay and his screenwriting collaborators.


From a thematic standpoint, The Island is the movie version of the kind of person who would employ the phrase “Wake up, sheeple!” in casual conversation. It takes place in a futuristic underground society where people work menial jobs while hoping they’ll win the lottery and be transported to the Island, the last area of the Earth that isn’t contaminated. Dissatisfied with the uniform nature of his world, Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) asks questions of his superiors, his temper flares when he can’t get bacon with his breakfast. In this sexless society, Lincoln Six-Echo is still able to strike up a platonic friendship with Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson). With his inquisitive nature, Lincoln Six-Echo strikes up a friendship with James McCord (Steve Buscemi), a worker within a restricted sector of this new society. Before long, though, Lincoln Six-Echo discovers the horrific truth – the people that populate this renewed society are merely clones and a trip to the Island means that they’re killed and their organs harvested. Lincoln and Jordan escape the underground society and are hounded by Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou), a mercenary tracker hired by Dr. Bernard Merrick (Sean Bean), who wants both killed to preserve his billion dollar industry of harvesting organs to help the rich stave off death.

The inherent political aspects of The Island are undermined by Bay’s compulsion for more and more action, not to mention the half-baked conspiracy elements. Once Lincoln and Jordan have fled the underground and entered the real world, The Island is just an exaggerated car chase, spectacle that is hollow and seemingly never-ending. The reductionist idiocy of Bay’s film never takes its horrific allegory of income inequality and healthcare beyond the chaser and chased. In this world the rich survive from a system of indoctrination and euthanasia, but Bay can’t make it mean anything more than “Crash! Swerve! Boom!” And when looking at the broader filmographies of Bay, Orci, and Kurtzman, The Island is just another conspiratorial entry from these filmmakers who have a paranoid and child-like distrust of power lacking in any political sophistication.


More to the point with Bay, The Island shows the director’s failings in tackling more ambitious story material. He’s incapable of building tension between his characters and the story because those things just get in the way of the car chases. With The Island, Bay reveals his hand too quickly for no other purpose than to get the action. With its extended car chases, sometimes crashing through glass-covered skyscrapers, The Island plays like a testing ground for all the bombast that would overpopulate the Transformers movies.

For all its similarities with Bay’s subsequent Transformers movies, The Island doesn’t feature Bay’s most regressive trademarks of racial stereotypes and blatant sexism. Though Scarlett Johansson’s Jordan Two-Delta is the clone of a Maxim model, Bay avoids shooting her in the same lecherous manner that he captured Megan Fox. Of course, Jordan Two-Delta is the lone female character of The Island, with only a handful of other women populating this underground dystopia. Michael Bay’s sexism by omission isn’t particularly endearing, but it’s nowhere as frustrating as his typical forays into cinematic misogyny. Whether it’s an enclosed society controlled by mysterious forces or the fictional Los Angeles of 2019, the Bechdel Test doesn’t exist in the world of The Island, though product placement for X-Box does exist in both realms of this futuristic society.

For all its flaws, and there are many, The Island marks the moment when Michael Bay earned complete control over his filmography. No longer in the shadow of a big-time producer, Bay was able to make films that appealed to his sensibilities, though it could be argued that what drives Bay is the very thing that undermines his movies – the unending barrage of action, casual sexism, and really fast cars. The Island remains Michael Bay’s lowest grossing film to date, the one true flop of his career. But it wouldn’t be long before Bay was back with his knack for spinning cameras, low angles, and action that borders on the incomprehensible. He’s not the type of filmmaker that can handle stories that demand complexity, and The Island proves that anything beyond the mayhem is out of reach for the director. With a keen eye, I still believe that Michael Bay is an extremely talented filmmaker that can’t get out of his own way. All of the things that make a Michael Bay film a Michael Bay film are the same things that make them so bad. The Island is no different.

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
‘I Feel Bad,’ Episode Two is Better than the Pilot (Minimal Spoilers)

About half an hour ago, I let loose my frustrations on...

‘I Feel Bad’ Continues the Whitewashing of Asian Cultures

I Feel Bad made me feel awful as yet another show...

Cabin Boy Blu-ray
Fancy Lads Rejoice! ‘Cabin Boy’ is Finally on Blu-ray

Chris Elliot is nobody’s idea of a leading man, but for...

Event News Event Reviews
viz media
Have no Fear, for Viz Media is Here! – SDCC 2018

I grew up reading more manga than I did American comics....

Transformers: The Movie Theatrical Debut
32 Years Ago Today, Was The Transformers: The Movie Theatrical Debut

On this day, 32 years ago, the world was graced with The...

Blizzard SDCC 2018
Blizzard SDCC 2018 – Blizzard Entertainment Brings Massive Lineup to SDCC

Blizzard in SDCC 2018 – Blizzard Entertainment brings Overwatch, StarCraft, and...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Exclusive Track Premiere from Madden NFL 19!

(July 26, 2018 – Los Angeles, CA) – Lakeshore Records today...

Star Ocean Anamnesis
The Most Intuitively Fun Gameplay of Any Mobile RPG – Star Ocean Anamnesis Review

Star Ocean Anamnesis is hands down the most fun and intuitive gameplay...

Ghostbusters World
Strap On Your Jumpsuits and Proton Packs – Ghostbusters World First Look

Ghostbusters World First Look at SDCC2018 – When someone asks you if...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Five Questions for Gary Morgenstein About ‘A Mound Over Hell’

Gary Morgenstein is a journalist, public relations expert and author with...

Ralph Breaks the Internet Graphic Novel
Dark Horse Disney Ralph Breaks the Internet Graphic Novel Revealed

Dark Horse reveals new original Disney Ralph Breaks the Internet Graphic...

black torch
Black Torch – New Supernatural, Action Manga from Viz Media

VIZ Media releases a new, supernatural story with the release of...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
DC Collectibles Brings Batman Dark Nights: Metal to Life

Straight from the pages of the bestselling DARK NIGHTS: METAL comics series comes...

Make Better PIX this Year with PIX Smart Animative Backpack

Start the school year off by making better life PIX, like picking up...

Chuck Billy of Testament Talks About His Signature Vaporizer

Chuck Billy of Testament talks about, “The Chief” his signature vaporizer,...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Bellator Hawaii to be Exlusively Aired on DAZN

From Bellator MMA – LOS ANGELES – The Neal S. Blaisdell Arena...

USA Boxing’s 1st West Coast Alumni Association Comes to Hollywood

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (September 11, 2018) – The stars will be...

Trifecta/UFC Kick-off Golden Ticket Giveaway for Sold Out UFC 229 Khabib vs. McGregor Epic VIP Experience

Running from today, September 11th through September 16th, the first 250 orders...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents Harry Potter and the Cat Conjuring Pt3

Pt 3 of the epic non-canonical Harry Potter and the Cat...

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Cat Conjuring pt 2

Pt 2 in the epic non-canonical adventure of Harry Potter and...

Heroes of the Grid
Go Go Back Renegade Studio’s Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid!

With a little less than 3 days left in their campaign, Power...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Coastal Commoners Ep 2 Who’s Better Chris Jericho or Ric Flair and The Black Superman ‘Controversy’

This week Gary and R.C. respectfully disagree on who the better...

Coastal Commoners Ep 1 Rosh Hashanah and the Assyrian/Jewish Connection

Editor’s Note: The views of Mr. Morgenstein and Mr. Samo do...

Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming. Related

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Deadpool 2 Vinyl Giveaway!

We are giving away a copy of Deadpool 2 Score Soundtrack on...

Crisis on Earth-X Soundtrack
Blake Neely Behind-the-Scenes Recording of Crisis on Earth-X Soundtrack

Check out this exclusive Behind-The-Scenes video with Blake Neely as he...

Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

%d bloggers like this: