The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Island (2005)

This aggressively stupid movie makes I, ROBOT look like 2001.  I mean, there was definitely a better, smarter, more thoughtful movie hidden in there (what?  Without consciousness the cloned tissue is rejected?  For a moment I thought we were heading into some kind of meditation on the nature of the soul.  No such luck.)  But that movie would have been smaller, and not half so cocksure that they were making a smart piece of social commentary.  Social commentary?  Well...
Let's start at the beginning.  THE ISLAND tells of a society of people raised in an underground environment.  They have only months or a few years of memory, and supposedly survived some kind of terrible biological holocaust that makes the surface so deadly that the discovery of a single moth is big news.  (this turn into the film's most insanely stupid scene, when these people, who, we are told, ALL believe that the world outside is poisonous, witness a rupture of the walls, not ONE of them runs for shelter.  Instead, they wander out into the sunlight with childlike curiosity.  Must have brought tears to their eyes in the pitch room, but was even ONE of them thinking realistically?  95% of people , convinced that on the other side of a wall was contamination and death, would RUN, dammit. Not one did.  Suspension of disbelieve out the window.  There were many others).  Ah, well, the "Science fiction" aspect doesn't really matter--it was all in the service of a buncha neat explosions and stunts. but when you can't believe the situation, that's al you're looking at onscreen.  Stuntwork. CGI.  Not for a moment do you believe.  You know, I can watch a stage play and BELIEVE I'm watching the edge of a great battle, although only three men are onstage.  Or, I can watch 70 million worth of special effects and think: "ooh.  effects."  And that was the problem here.
There is a big, honking, obvious, blatant slavery metaphor operating here.  Djimon Hansou, a very very African actor of considerable skills and presence, plays a mercenary hired to pursue folks escaped from this facility.  they keep rubbing it in our faces that he is thinking of these people as slaves.  that because he is black, he begins to empathize with them sufficiently to ultimate trash his own career.  Well, that's fine, and one can almost hear Michael Bay and the white guys who dreamed this thing up slapping each other on the back and congratulating themselves on how daring and relevant it all was.  Guess again, guys, your secret attitudes are showing. 
this is one of the whitest films I've ever seen.  There are a few black men walking around in that colony, almost no non-Caucasian women.  You know, that's all right, because they make it clear that it costs 5 million to "buy in" to this game, and the economics are about right.  Fine.  But there are three black characters with speaking lines. What are they?
1) Michael Clark Duncan, the human boulder, playing a childlike clone who babbles his gratitude, and later runs like a terrified animal and is dragged back in metaphorical chains, crying and screaming like a bitch.  A big, buck slave.  Wow, how original.
2) A fat black Sista-girl who does the typical incompetant/oblivious  black receptionist routine.
3) Djimon Hounsou, the enigmatic mercenary/sopiritual guide, who destroys his career so that "enslaved" (mostly white) clones can discover the joys of sex.  He, of course, has no human relationships.  This is one of Hollywood, and America's very very favorite black images.  Watch out for Jamie Foxx coming up in "STEALTH" next week, who will, I predict,  give his life so that his white co-stars can screw.  No, I haven't seen it yet.  Yes, I'm willing to bet I'm right.  I've been right about this stuff for thirty years.  I don't figure anything's going to prove me terribly wrong anytime soon.
Anyway, for fun, loud explosions if you're stoned enough to turn off the logic centers, a "B."  For paper-thin characters, plot stupidity, and the most egregious misuse of racial guilt since Johnny Cochran got O.J. off, the Island gets a "D+".  At best.

No comments: