The Island (2005)
Film review #568
Director: Michael Bay
SYNOPSIS: Human survivors of a post-apocalypse “Contamination” live their lives in an underground silo with every aspect of their lives monitored and regulated. The only way out is to win a random lottery, wherein the winner gets transported to “The Island,” an apparent paradise. Lincoln Echo Six, one of the residents, begins asking questions about the outside world and The Island, and when his friend Jordan Two Delta wins the lottery to go to the island, he takes the chance to try and find out for himself what that entails, leading to a discovery that forces him and Jordan on the run…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Island is a 2005 sci-fi film. It is set in an underground bunker, where the human residents are told they are the last surviving life on the planet, and their lives are monitored in every detail to ensure their safety. Lincoln Six Echo is one such resident who is questioning the whole system, much to the annoyance of the director. The only way to leave the facility is to win a random lottery, where the winner will be take to “The Island,” a paradise where the winner can live a life of luxury. The setting of the film should be familiar to those who know anything of the genre, as it pays homage to films such as Logan’s Run, in setting it in a dystopian futuristic society where certain things are forbidden (love, mostly). It, subsequently, should come as no surprise that this whole set up is hiding a dark secret, and when Lincoln Two Six discovers that The Island doesn’t exist, and they are all just clones being used as spare parts/organs for their sponsors who paid for them to be made, he and Jordan Two Delta, who has just won the lottery to go to The Island (which in reality is just having your organs harvested), make a break for it and escape into the outside world. They are pursued by a mercenary force on the orders of the director to have them returned. The whole setup should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this type of film, but the familiarity with the concept allows the characters a bit more breathing room to develop. The trouble with this, is that the film doesn’t really do that: it just turns into a chase film with little direction: I get that the two main characters are just trying to survive and perhaps not thinking about a long-term goal, but this does leave the film feeling, as a viewer, a little rudderless.
Lincoln and Jordan are pursued by this band of apparently highly trained mercenaries, but the fact that they are unable to stop two people that have never been in the outside world or seen many of the things that exist there just makes them seem a bit incompetent. Despite a lot of focus being on the intimate relationship between the two leads, the film does have a fair few big action scenes, unsurprisingly brought to you by director Michael Bay. As you might expect, there are scenes full of high speed chases, explosions, and loud noises that are designed to have a lot of energy and hype. The problem with this though, is that it doesn’t really mix with the other part of the film, and again, that these two people who have never been in the outside world are able to survive these over-the-top sequences just seems implausible. The film does feel like it is made up of two different films that just do not mix. There’s a number of scenes that are quite gory and visceral too, which feel a bit much for a middle-of-the-road sci-fi film. The trailer too, makes the film seem like more of an action film, with comedic elements, when that just is not the case, so you can understand why it received mixed reviews for failing to deliver what it promises.
The chemistry between the two main characters, played by Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannsen is pretty good, but the fact that they are described as being like fifteen year olds who have no idea about sex, relationships, the outside world etc. makes them very odd characters to try and get to grips with sometimes: sometimes you can be convinced that they are clones raised in an underground silo, other times it just doesn’t seem plausible. I imagine it’s hard to write characters that fulfil their premise, and I don’t think it’s the fault of the actors, who do a good job, but I do think the film sets itself quite a difficult premise to implement, especially as the film is marketed as a more casual sci-fi film. The supporting cast is composed of familiar faces such as Sean Bean and Ethan Phillips (Who played Neelix on Star Trek Voyager), and again help ease the viewer into the film. While the film does deliver some different parts that work, they don’t come together to form a cohesive whole in and of itself. The film is marketed as something it is not, and I’m not sure what the vision of it is: it obviously pays homage to a specific type of dystopian sci-fi, but how it is building on it (via subversion parody etc.) never becomes apparent. The story is a bit of a mess, and feels very implausible at points, and it doesn’t push its character development enough to make it’s leads stand out. Has some good parts, but becomes a bit of a jumbled mess when stitched together haphazardly.
The Gingerdead Man (2005)
Film review #441
Director: Charles Band
SYNOPSIS: Following a robbery in which two people are killed, the criminal is executed for his crimes. Sarah, whose Brother and Father were the ones killed while she survived, is working at her family’s bakery when a mysterious delivery arrives. When she bakes a gingerbread man with this delivery, it comes alive with the soul of the robber that killed Sarah’s family, and seeks to finish the job he started…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Gingerdead Man is a 2005 comedy horror film. The film starts off with a robbery in progress at a diner (who robs a diner?), where Sarah watches her brother and father get shot and killed by the robber, but before he can kill her, he is stopped, and eventually executed for his crimes. Years later, Sarah is working at her family’s bakery when a mysterious delivery arrives, and when she bakes a gingerbread using this delivery, it comes alive with the soul of the robber who murdered Sarah’s brother and father, and is looking to finish what he started. The film follows a typical format of horror films, with the cast of various personalities attempting to survive the murderous spree of the villain, who picks them off one by one through somewhat creative deaths. Despite the absurd premise of cursed bakery products, the film for the most part plays it straight, and takes the whole scenario seriously. There’s a few silly one-liners and some of the deaths are over-the-top, but other than that it’s a pretty straightforward affair that doesn’t take much advantage of it’s bizarre premise, and the uneven pacing means that there isn’t really enough tension built up to make it interesting. The whole premise of the robber’s soul being transferred into a gingerbread man isn’t explained at all, and while it’s somewhat easy to piece together what happens, the specifics aren’t explored. This isn’t the type of film to worry about the details though.
The characters resemble a fairly typical horror film cast, full of conflicting personalities and drama between them. There’s Sarah Leigh and the other employees of the bakery ‘Brick’ and Julia, and also Lorna Dean, whose father runs a nearby commercial bakery attempting to put the family-run bakery out of business, and her boyfriend Amos Cadbury (nice sweet-related surname there), with whom a love triangle is set up between him, Sarah and Lorna. A lot of the character development is done through scenes of dialogue that really slow the film down, and also don’t really add anything to what’s going on. The Gingerdead Man himself we hardly see enough of, as he appears only nearly half way through the film, and given it only really has a sixty minute runtime, there’s not much exploration of the set-up, or giving the villain opportunity to creatively enact his killing.
The Gingerdead Man is obviously a low budget affair, with the short runtime, the use of a very limited amount of sets, and plenty of scenes consisting of just talking. Gary Busey as the robber/The Gingerdead Man is the only recognisable casting, and is probably where the majority of the budget went (even though he was paid “only” $25,000). The music seems to also to be a bit misplaced; it never seems to fit the scene, or builds up too soon or too late. The Gingerdead Man himself is decently animated and fairly lively, but we only ever see him from close-up shots and never in full view of the camera, probably to hide the strings or whatever puppetry was being used to animate him. Also, the credit sequence consists of the slowest possible crawl of people involved, and runs to over ten minutes in an obvious attempt to increase the runtime, which is ridiculous for such a low budget feature. Overall, The Gingerdead Man does nothing to fill the ridiculous premise that its title promises, and also doesn’t offer much as a parody of horror tropes either. Everything it does the Child’s Play films have done much better, so it has little to offer as a unique film experience.