The Island (2005)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V- ; L- ; S/N. Running time: 2:07

What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth
Psalm 8:4-9

The Island

Director Michael Bay, who has helmed such adrenalin summer thrillers as Pearl Harbor, The Rock, and Armageddon, combines a thoughtful sci-fi tale with the chase—boom-boom—blow-up genre, the result being only partially successful. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson), like their neighbors wearing white clothes resembling high priced athletic suits, live in a carefully controlled underground city in the near future. Those in authority wear black, and they regulate every aspect of life, from what the inhabitants eat to what they see on television. Even the proximity of persons of the opposite sex is closely monitored, guards showing up to warn them when they touch and appear too intimate. The people seem very child-like, with adult classes struggling to read the first grade primer Fun With Dick and Jane. Everyone believes that the world above is a toxic wasteland; to enter into it would result in death. Twice a day everyone stops to watch the televised lottery in which a lucky citizen is chosen to go to “The Island,” the one spot on earth that is unpolluted.

Everyone applauds and congratulates the lucky winners, while secretly wishing it had been themselves. Lincoln Six Echo, however, begins to ask questions and to develop a mind of his own. Why certain foods on certain days? He’d like bacon for breakfast, but is served only healthful oatmeal. And, during an exploratory walk behind the usual mall-like environment, when he discovers a live insect, where did it come from, if the surface is a dead zone?

Thus far the film seems like an intriguing blend of Logan’s Run, 1984, and The Village, but as soon as our hero discovers the reality behind their situation—that they are clones raised by a corporation headed by an unscrupulous genius to provide body parts for wealthy clients—the film slips into hyperactive gear, the last half being an endless series of chases, fiery explosions and crashes. Logan’s Run served as a thought-provoking critique of the over-emphasis upon youth of the culture in 1976. Bay’s film could have led us into reflecting more on the future results of stem cell research and cloning, but he opts to exploit the topic instead. Still, the film is exciting, and a good discussion might very well result from group viewing and discussing.

For Reflection/Discussion

1) What does the film say about curiosity and its results? How is this fundamental to humans, a part of imagination?

2) What similarities do you see between this film and Logan’s Run, 1984, and The Village?

3) How is the society Dr. Merrick has created for the clones typical of the totalitarian ones of the past? Do you think that he would have any inkling of the meaning of Psalm 8? How has he had to dehumanize the clones in order to justify his project?

4) What does the film say about the growing chasm between the wealthy and the poor in our society, especially in regard to access to high tech health care? Do you think the film is on the mark in this regard?

5) How can the film be seen as a cautionary tale (something that science fiction has always done well) for stem cell research and cloning (especially in the light of the recent success in South Korea of the cloning of a dog)?