by Luke Baumgarten & r & The Island & r & You may have heard that The Island is about cloning. You may have heard that it deals with urgent ethical quandaries and the paradoxes of cutting-edge medicine. The Island, you may have heard, is so much more than just an action movie.
You may have heard such things. If so, you've been lied to.
The Island is about explosions, not cloning. It's about car chases, sight gags and one perfunctory sex scene. It's about clever product placement and forcing millions of people to watch hundreds of trailers. It's about making money.
I could spend hours weaving the clones' purposeless existence into a metaphor for the kinds of films Michael Bay makes. Since I'm not doing anything else at the moment, I think I will Like these clones, each of Michael Bay's movies has the same sterile plot given new settings (space, Hawaii, Arizona) and new perils (a rock, the Japanese, an immortality crazed world). These story elements are put in the places explosions can't go. Like spacers. So yes, The Island is about cloning, but only in the way that Pearl Harbor was about World War II or Armageddon was about drilling into an asteroid.
The Island is about cloning because you'd have a seizure if you watched two and a half hours of continuous explosions. The Island is about cloning because it's hard to get a clear shot of that Michelob Ultra bottle when it's sitting in the cupholder of your car, which happens to be a "12-cylinder, 2009 model Caddy."
Michael Bay's directorial aesthetic draws deeply from MTV and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a barrage of quick cuts, fades and more shaky-cam than you can shake a camera at. He only really pauses long enough for you to get a good look at that Cadillac logo, that Michelob label, those MSN Search kiosks. Then it's off to blow something up.
Absurdly, product placement even creeps into the clone dwellings. Every morning, every clone in Cloneland wakes up and puts on a white tracksuit and a pair of Pumas. Every morning, every clone gets water from fountains brazenly marked "Aquafina." Every clone who wants to swim wears a bathing suit that screams "Speedo." When they relax in Cloneland, they play the official video game console of Cloneland, the Xbox. In case they forget what they're playing, "Xbox" is emblazoned in six-foot-tall letters all around the game room.
What's the point of all that advertising? These clones are walking transplant donors. Brand loyalty isn't going to help them where they're going. Further, what's the point of marketing when there's only one choice? You don't need to persuade clones to drink water. If Aquafina is the only option, you certainly don't need to persuade them which brand of water to drink.
But the advertisements in Cloneland, they aren't for the clones. They're for the people who paid $8.50 to watch the clones.
There's good news for our metaphor, though. The clones in Cloneland begin to question the things they are shown. They gradually realize that -- like Michael Bay's movies -- the world they see and the mythos that sustains it are elaborate shells concealing a hollow core.
It takes them four generations, though. I hope Michael Bay's fans are on a steeper learning curve.