UMD Review: The Island

The Island is a rare movie from action director Michael Bay. Instead of quickly setting up the story to give more time to the action, the story here is the constant focus. With its intriguing mystery, the entire Island experience succeeds as entertainment. Fans of Bay need not worry either; the action sequences are stunning achievements.

While not completely original, the bleak near-future world that makes up the early parts of The Island is wonderfully rendered. The near total lack of color, strict rules, and mysterious happenings all follow Ewan McGregor's character Lincoln Six Echo. It's a fantastic, eerie, and well explained scenario. There are still questions when everything is exposed, but not enough to ruin what's about to happen to the characters.

With the moral parable that the film is trying to be, the intense, brutal, and stunning action sequences almost feel out of place. There was plenty of room here for at least another half hour of build up towards a non-stop finale. The mysteries of the story are that tightly constructed.

That shouldn't take anything away from the obvious effort that went into these action pieces. A freeway chase past the hour mark (however illogical) is such a spectacular sight it fits right in. It's close to entering multiple lists of "greatest movie action sequences ever filmed." This is where you know it's a Michael Bay film. Toss in some trademark humor and Steve Buscemi for true confirmation of Bay's presence.

What takes away from the entire film are some nasty edits and impossible to follow camera shots. It's all an admirable attempt to capture the energy of the fights and quick movements, but all it does is make for confusing and impossible to follow scenes of peril. Of course, the camera manages to be still for the countless, aggravating, and forceful product placements.

Aside from some typical summer movie annoyances though, The Island gets it all right. Its interesting if not totally original premise is enough to make it an easy sell, and the $122 million budget shows. It's a recommendation for any sci-fi fan. (**** out of *****)

The trick to the UMD format is to be careful with the black levels. Too deep and they bleed due to the low refresh rate of the console. Too light and the washed out look can ruin the tone of the movie. The Island is dead on perfect. It's found that middle ground that suits it perfectly. Sadly, it seems to come at the expense of color, which is lifeless on the portable screen. It's a depressing step down from the nearly reference-quality DVD. (****)

On the other side, we have blaring audio. This is a make up for the video goofs. Bass is the strongest you'll hear on a UMD, and if you're into the action enough to not miss having any rear sound, it's easy to think you're watching a ripped DVD. Clarity is stunning even at the system's highest level. This is one to buy solid headphones for. (*****)

As it usually ends up, none of the DVD features have made the cut. Even though the brief featurette wasn't terribly exciting, there's little excuse for not giving UMD fans something to toy with when the movie is over. Apparently, even a trailer was too much work. (No stars)

If Sony execs ever look back and wonder what happened with this format and why it does a quick death, it's one look at The Island to solve these problems. Lackluster video, high price, and being completely devoid of extras don't speak to a consumer like DVD did. It's a great movie no matter how you watch it (at least in widescreen), but for the price, UMD viewers deserve better.

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