Monday, March 29, 2010

The Island

The Island is a film that came out relatively recently (2005) and is mostly a conglomeration of ideas from its predecessors, but it contributed one new concept that makes it worth mentioning. Unfortunately, this concept constitutes the main point of the story and is not revealed until the middle of the film, and since it's the only thing worth talking about here, I am going to put a big spoiler warning at this juncture for the sake of any one planning to see it. Read on at your own discretion...

===============<<spoilers below>>========================

Science fiction often involves stories that take a contemporary topic in science or engineering and explore what might happen if it were taken to extremes or used for ill purposes. In recent years, films have started to appear that explore the world of bio-technology, especially involving the manipulation of DNA. This is a natural response to the rapid progress that has been made and is still exploding in bio-tech. One of the more controversial aspects of the field is cloning. The fact that real cloning has been demonstrated and is now accepted as real science opens up all sorts of interesting, and sometimes scary, possibilities. A case in point is Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, which explored the possibility of cloning animals that no longer exist today.

I remember seeing trailers for the The Island and wondering what they were up to. I've seen so many sci-fi plot lines that I was intrigued by the fact that I just could not guess "the secret" that they were holding back on. There was this controlled community of people in a laboratory-like evironment, who were all waiting to go to "The Island" once their name was drawn from some lottery. Romantic involvement, even physical contact, was forbidden and enforced by proximity meters. They are told they are being quarantined from a world-wide epidemic. The story, of course, involves a couple who fall for each other and eventually make the horrifying discovery that there is no Island. They are in fact being harvested for their organs. It turns out each person in the facility is the clone of someone out in the "real" world who has paid a great sum of money to have their clone grown to adulthood so they can have perfectly matched organs on hand when the time comes that they need them. There is no public outcry because the facility is kept secret by the parent corporation. I hardly remember anything about the story itself, but the concept seemed so amazingly plausible that it stuck with me. How many rich people would go for this if they could pay for it and tell themselves that everyone is doing it anyway? How many companies would not hesitate to capitalize on it and use customer demand to absolve their conscience as many do today?

Of course, our heroes escape into the world outside, pursued by hired mercenaries, and innocently amazed at the world they discover. They end up seeking out their clone owners with whom they have some interesting confrontations. This latter part of the film turns into a bona-fide action movie with several plot turns that actually make it rather enjoyable to watch. It's almost like getting two movies in one. So I'll put this one down as an honorable mention for it's fresh ideas and for not completely botching the climactic conclusion which is what usually happens in Hollywood science fiction projects.

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