At one hour and 20-minutes, The Island takes off. It has energy before, but now? It’s pure Michael Bay, a showcase of pyrotechnics, flipping cars, and train wheels being shoved off a futuristic Mack truck on a freeway fueled for destruction.
But, we’re still not done, the film leading into an aerial bike chase with unbelievable bumps, a helicopter explosion, 80th floor destruction inside an office building, and then a falling building logo that is nothing short of summer Hollywood spectacle. It’s over eight minutes from the first car smash-up to a construction worker telling Scarlett Johansonn and Ewan McGregor that, “I know Jesus loves you.” Yes, random construction worker who also survived all of this, he must.
It seems wrong to talk about the action first though, The Island the closest thing to a thought-provoking work Micheal Bay was ever involved with, and likely ever will be. That simply stunning piece of explosive choreography is impossible to forget though, the lasting impression years later after the first viewing. On a repeat viewing, it’s all fresh again.
Marketing killed the hook, and you still can’t get away from it. The Blu-ray case let’s it fly that the two leads are clones, used for parts. They’re not even considered people despite their ability to think, feel, and love. They are products of a corporation with a medical miracle, the side effect unfortunately a product that can actually fight back.
The mystery would be legitimate had the studio not blabbed their mouths to the world, The Island stable, controlled, and intriguing. Lincoln (McGreggor) and Jordan (Johansson) live in what seems to be a safe, contained utopia after an infection wiped out the planet topside. At least, that’s what they’re told, and it seems all right. While sanitized, set design and cinematography paint a picture that, not knowing any better, would leave little suspicions.
As it drives on, The Island will plow through a number of plot holes, a couple of contrivances, and plenty of questionable moments during a slightly extended stay. The film is kinetic, carrying with it such a drive when backed by a unique, interesting backdrop, those nagging scripting faults seem to be blown up on that freeway.
Make no mistake, The Island is a Michael Bay movie across the board, including the look and aural qualities. In this domestic debut Blu-ray from Paramount, immediately apparent is the harsh, edgy appearance, almost certainly the result of some light sharpening. There are far too many edges that display halos, and lingering panoramas are unnatural. The flicker and light aliasing seal it. Cars, shirts, tables, wall lines, and even people display some break-up. Sometimes marginal, sometimes easily noticed, both issues plague the film from the opening credits.
The grain structure has a definite bump too, very distinctive if not entirely natural. There are moments where it spikes with intent, other times where is comes across as a problem with this transfer or master. The Island came out in 2005, seeing release to HD on television and overseas on HD DVD and Blu-ray. This is likely a source that has made the rounds since Paramount first pushed into the realm of HD home cinema, the end results of early encoding evident.
It’s still capable though, all of those quirks and dated signs of tampering only get their hands dirty here and there. Moving away, the first thing to stick is the facial detail, dominating, crisp, and pure definition. The disc produces what are easily some of the best film-based close-ups on the market, medium shots equally astounding in their purity. Despite the rigidness, various effects scenes such as the chase through the city on the flying bikes contain extravagantly detailed views that seem to stretch for miles. The minute edge enhancement and aliasing can’t take it all away.
Bay’s hallmark though is saturation and intensity, flesh tones impossibly orange, and palettes nothing short of dominating. You can begin to see the orange/teal palette slipping in, most of the underground clone facility bathed in lighter blues, and lit as such too. Primaries that do exist are brilliant, whether a small object in the background or a monochrome focus during certain scenes. Black levels are absurdly deep, demanding attention and getting it. Contrast never lets up either, blotchy and white hot, as if the world above wasn’t infected, but a victim of sun moving a few million miles closer to the Earth. That’s not the encode at work, just Bay.
One of the de facto standards in DVD audio is certainly a cut above uncompressed, this masterful DTS-HD mix awe-inspiring from the brutal bass delivered by the heavy drums during the opening credits. Bass digs its symbolic heels in and forces itself to constantly establish its presence. The chase sequence is certainly reference (one of a number of scenes that are really) metal clanging onto the road with a pure, clean low-end output. Debris scatters, and when the logo comes tumbling down, it seriously might as well pass right over your own head.
Chase sequences are aggressive, vehicles panning to the sides or the rears, whatever the visuals call for. Gunfire is brutal, assault rifles hammering the subwoofer while capturing bullets as they miss and ping off metal. Explosions line the finale, an entire complex shattered, and with the volume up, it’s hard not to appreciate the brilliant audio design.
It’s not only the action though, the underground world delivering an established echo as speakers blare messages about the lottery, and as the two escapees scrounge around the city for information, ambiance is at its peak. Cars and suspended trains create a magical-like transport to the future, a totally convincing environment.
Extras are pulled over from the DVD intact and complete. Michael Bay delivers his thoughts in a solo commentary, followed by Future in Action, sort of the midway between a promo and informative behind-the-scenes bit. A making-of though is certainly a glorified commercial, followed by a final featurette titled Pre-visualization: Forward Thinking. Interviews along with plenty of shots of sketches, models, and more are included. Together, the three pieces come in just under 40-minutes.