The Island (2005) (part 3 of 3)
This might come as a shock, but Michael Bay is kind of a self-centered dick. From the very first moment of the commentary, he’s already talking about how “adamant” he was about including an opening dream sequence over the objections of DreamWorks studio heads. A dream sequence that has little to do with the movie, of course, other than introducing the kickass speedboat and providing another similarity to Clonus. Appropriately, this rant sets the tone for the commentary to follow.
When Michael Clarke Duncan first makes his appearance, Bay immediately pimps how he “discovered” Duncan at a gym. He says he convinced him to take the part in Armageddon by telling him he’d be “the first black man who does not die first”. Apparently, that was the big “twist” in Armageddon. And we all missed it!
During the scene were a clone is birthed and cut out of a large clear plastic pod, Bay explains how these pods were full of “154 gallons of KY Jelly”, of all things. To communicate his ideas to the visual effects department, he told them to “imagine a breast implant, but adult-sized!” I’m told Michael Bay imagines breast implants that large every waking hour of his life.
At the Virtual Ultimate Fighting match, the big X-BOX logo behind Scarlett Johansson prompts Bay to launch into a tirade against those who would dare criticize this film’s staggering amount of product placement (In addition to Puma and X-Box, Aquafina, MSN, Ben & Jerry’s, and Cadillac all figure prominently). He rails against critics who accuse him of “whoring out the movie” and making “a big advertisement”, and levels with us thusly: “Let’s face it, guys. The world is focused on products. Products surround us. And for us to think, in the year 2019, that we’re not gonna still be focused, and still have products and labels flying at us from every different vantage point, is just unreal. It’s just not a true world.” Michael Bay, master of cinéma vérité.
In another scene, one of Lincoln’s friends learns the word “dude” from the censors and repeats it over and over. Bay improvised this scene on the spot, he tells us, because he likes to say “dude” a lot. He imparts this insightful tip: “You can use ‘dude’ in thirteen different ways.”
Michael Bay’s assessment of Scarlett Johansson: “Pain in the ass to work with. But I mean that in the best way.” Immediate ass-kissing of Scarlett Johansson follows.
During Lincoln’s escape, Bay explains why he decided to cast Ewan McGregor, who according to him (and anyone who didn’t see the Star Wars prequels) was not much of an action star. Bay says, “I figured if I can make Martin Lawrence an action hero in Bad Boys, I can make anyone one.” Immediate ass-kissing of Martin Lawrence follows.
Bay tells us that Tredwell-Owen’s script was originally set 100 years in the future, but due to budgetary reasons, the setting had to keep being moved closer to the present. Well, at the very least, we don’t have that ridiculous “clones in 1931” deal from Clonus.
The scene were the pregnant woman gives birth and is killed afterwards “is the movie,” according to Bay. It’s the scene that convinced him to do the film, and he even fought to keep it in the “airline version”. For some reason, the airline censors had a big problem with showing the woman’s feet in stirrups [??] so they had to blur them out. Go figure.
After Michael Clarke Duncan is killed, we see his liver get vacuum packed and tossed into a cooler. Bay enlightens us: “Believe it or not, that’s how they transport organs, in coolers.” Gee whiz, Professor Bay, I had no idea!
Bay tried to make Scarlett “likable”, and while Lincoln is scuffling with the guards, she gets involved in the fight, “and her picking up this wrench here, is the first sign of her doing something badass!” He even claims that audiences would “applaud” at this moment. So, I guess a woman doing something besides moping around and staring at her engagement ring is what Bay considers “badass”. Interesting.
At one point the clones board an Amtrak train, and Bay points out how the scale on the train is way off, and it looks at least thirty feet high. He says he wanted to go back and fix it, but apparently there’s this new thing called “overbudget penalties”, where if a film goes over budget, “it comes out of the director’s pocket”. And according to the IMDb, he ended up making $25 million for directing Pearl Harbor, so boo-fucking-hoo.
Bay reveals his belief that parts of this film are like, deep commentary, dude. There’s a scene where we learn Jordan’s sponsor is in a coma, and has a small child. In Bay’s mind, this inconsequential tidbit dares the audience to wonder who has more right to live, a woman with a small child, or her clone who doesn’t have a child. If the intent was to provoke thought, it didn’t quite work out. Then he completely blows off all the moral issues by pointing out the kid would probably have some other family to go to. Well then, that cleans all that up, nice and tidy. Hey Mike, don’t forget the big red bow!
After a scene where a cop car gets split in half by an armored truck, and somehow the two clones in the back survive [!], Bay goes into how shooting this scene caused him to break a megaphone. It seems he breaks several megaphones on each movie, and as you probably guessed, it’s not accidental. “There’s something about a megaphone,” he reflects. “It’s got the extra added value [that] if you snap it on the ground, it’s got batteries that will fly out.” Ah, he must be a joy to work with.
During the extended freeway chase with the train wheels and the cars flipping over, Bay addresses critics who said he ripped off his own movie Bad Boys II with this scene. That’s all complete and utter claptrap, of course. You see, he actually “improved upon it” with this scene. So there you go.
Michael Bay claims that during filming of the freeway chase, “I almost lost my life”. There was a pole attached to one of the jet bike props, and apparently this pole flew past his head at 40 MPH. He describes how this same pole destroyed a $600,000 camera, and there’s actually footage of the camera getting smashed in the “making of” featurette, so I have a feeling he’s not kidding. I’ll leave it to you to come up with your own joke, because this website has yet to stoop to the level of actually wishing death upon someone. (Unless they show me a tombstone with the person’s name on it, in which case they’re just asking for it.)
After the preposterous moment where the two clones tumble down a skyscraper and survive, Bay says, “Now, the thing that saves the absurdity of them living is the line from this construction worker.” That line? “Jesus must love you!” Totally. Good save, Mike.
Bay admits that a scene at the facility contains a “logic problem”, because Lincoln said he was five at some point, I guess, and Steve Buscemi later said he was three, or something, and it makes no sense that he’s talking about it here, because neither of them are in this scene. I think this commentary track contains a logic problem.
For those hoping for The Island 2, your hopes have been dashed. Bay says, “I will never do another clone movie as long as I live.” But it isn’t because of the subject matter, but rather the headache of split-screen technology, and waiting for a “forty-minute makeup job” that was required to change Ewan back and forth between the two characters. It took forty minutes to apply one face scar? No wonder this movie cost 125 million goddamn dollars to make.
During the scene with the two Ewans, Bay suddenly gets weirdly confessional, and it’s completely unexpected, and he starts talking about how this movie totally bombed. He says it was the “lowest opening in [his] career”, and it made a “pitiful” $35 million at the box office.
For those curious about these sorts of things, here’s what Michael Bay blames for the failure of The Island:
- “a very big summer” [huh?]
- the marketing
- the marketing
- the marketing
- the marketing
He says that ultimately, the movie was saddled with a “very complicated title” that was “hard to market”, because “you’re thinking something that is not”. This same idea was floated by the producers, that basically The Island flopped because there really was no island. But as some forum members pointed out, the king doesn’t actually return in The Return of the King, but that didn’t seem to present much of a marketing challenge.
Bay admits they “never nailed it” on the marketing. He describes at length how DreamWorks handled the domestic distribution and Warner Brothers handled the international, and the Warners campaign sold it as more of an action film. As a result, the movie was “number one in France for three weeks”, and “in Korea, it’s—believe it or not—one of top ten highest grossing movies of all time!” He thinks this is “because Korea’s so tied into cloning!” (So was it because of the marketing or not, Michael?) And the whole time, all I can think of is Michael Lehmann on the Hudson Hawk commentary track saying, “Did I mention it was big in Europe?” (At least there, you had a director who was trying to be tongue in cheek.)
Anyway, Bay is totally babbling now, and admits he’s “all over the place” and “talking in circles”, but only because “the campaign was in circles”. He claims to have really pulled for using the Warners campaign in the US, but instead, DreamWorks “tried to be too smart and too intelligent man movie [sic]” and it never “resonated” with audiences. He once again reiterates that he blames the failure entirely on the marketing, for those who missed it. He says that in early 2005, nobody even knew the movie was coming out, and it was “the lowest awareness” ever for one of his films, which really surprised him. “The ball was dropped, big time.”
But in the end, he insists, “it will make some money”. Don’t they all? That’s how stuff like Big Momma’s House 2 gets made. But I find it very odd that during this entire diatribe against the marketing, at no point does he once mention the trailer that revealed the whole fucking story. Did he even wonder how The Island would have done if the trailer hadn’t told us they were clones, and then made that the big secret plot twist? Apparently not.
Then Bay abruptly remembers it’s a commentary track, and goes back to actually commenting on the scenes we’re watching. During the love scene between Ewan and Scarlett, Ewan has a line that wasn’t in the script. Bay confesses it’s something he actually said to the first girl he ever french kissed. It seems “Meg” was her name, and after frenching Meg for the first time, Little Mikey said, “Wow, that tongue thing is amazing!” He adds, “Imagine what a geek I was when I said that, huh?” It’s not as hard to imagine as he thinks it is. And I don’t know who Meg is, but I really want to give the poor girl a hug.
We learn that before this scene, Scarlett “wasn’t coming out of the trailer”. (Yes, just like Paulette Breen before her nude scene on the set of Clonus, but a hunch tells me this is not one of the ninety points in the lawsuit.) Michael Bay, sensitive modern male that he is, thought it was just the “typical ‘woman not coming out of the trailer’ thing”, and he had it all worked out in his head how he was going to “tell her she looks beautiful, and yadda yadda yah, kick everyone off the set, and the lighting’s great, we’re ready for you,” but the real issue is about to win a few more fans for Scarlett Johansson, I think. This is the exchange as remembered by Bay, and the first time I’ve heard a commentary track get bleeped.
Michael Bay: Scarlett, what are you talking about?
Scarlett Johannson: I’m goin’ naked!
Michael Bay: Scarlett, you can’t go naked! This is PG-13!
That was “a very funny Scarlett typical story, alright?” It figures the only thing Bay would have to say about Johansson, other than indulging in standard, knee-jerk Hollywood ass-kissing, is reminiscing about that one time she wanted to get naked. That was badass!
Then Bay decides to make fun of an extra who had the impudence to ask King Michael for screen credit. The guy plays a surgeon who’s held at gunpoint by Scarlett, and the scene ends with him silently cowering on the ground. Bay openly mocks the guy’s performance, and once it’s over he declares, “Featuring Tad… Whatever!” Yeah, Michael Bay is kind of a dick.
Now he goes into how unhappy he is with the movie’s ending. He wanted it to be “a little more mano to mano,” but the ending was reshot at the last minute, and by then Ewan was busy with a play in London. So both he and Sean Bean had to be filmed separately and stitched together using special effects, meaning there’s no “knife into the bad guy at the very last minute, that kind of thing you see in these type of movies.” What type of movies? Michael Bay movies? No wonder he’s disappointed.
During the final fight, Bay admits it “could’ve been better”, because “maybe it feels familiar to what I’ve done in the past”. Yeah, that must be it. So just ignore everything he said earlier about “improving” on the stuff he did before.
In the final scene where the two clones are happily reunited, Bay complains about an extra who kept mugging for the camera in this shot. He recalls visiting James Cameron—speaking of dicks—on the set of Titanic and James Cameron said, “God, it’s always one extra who’ll fuck the whole shot up, won’t it?” But lest you think he and Cameron are just assholes, Bay adds, “Directors know what I’m talking about.” That’s true, you know. I heard Ron Howard just loves to hurl megaphones at his crew.
As we watch the closing shot of Ewan and Scarlett on the Kickass Speedboat, Bay thanks us for listening to him as he babbled for over two hours. He adds, “I dare you to do it sometimes!” Do what? Provide extensive commentary for one of your movies? Already did it, Mikey, and I feel for you, because it was not fun.
And after all this Island and Clonus stuff (not to mention Dean Koontz’s Mr. Murder), I never want to review another clone movie as long as I live.