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Face-Off: The Island vs. Transformers

04.25.2013by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face-Off we put together a match up between two of the men dominating the sci-fi scene in 2013 in Tom Cruise and Will Smith. Mr. Cruise ended up taking the official verdict with you our readers agreeing with that particular opinion. Smith wasn't without his supporters though, with one of the opinion that being the Fresh Prince alone earned him the victory.

As of late Michael Bay has reminded us all that he's very outspoken with a controversial "apology" about what I think to be one of his best films Armageddon. Interesting publicity for his new film Pain and Gain, a film which took our own JimmyO by surprise (read his review here). He has most recently said those remarks were taken out of context. Bay has had an interesting track record as far as his films go, he has a few gems to his name (Bad Boys, The Rock) but he is usually blasted by many critics and fans alike. So we've put together a match between two of his films that bring the action he's been known for his entire career in The Island and Transformers. Let's discuss.
Story
A group of people live in an isolated compound in fear of belief that the outside world is too contaminated for mankind to inhabit, save for one island. When "Lincoln Six Echo" stumbles onto something that reveals the truth about the whole set up, and with Jordan Two Delta escapes the facility to find the world isn't as dangerous as he's been led to assume. We then are treated to a game of cat and mouse between Lincoln, Jordan, and the facilities head honcho Dr. Merrick. I love flicks that are set in a dystopian future and before this film goes all out action we see the great concepts that can stem from a film with those themes. I dug it.
What should have ended with Sam Witwicky simply getting his first car, turns out to land him smack in the middle of a war that's raged on for years between giant robots known respectively as Autobots and Decepticons. Pretty simple set up right? We have the good guys, we have the bad guys, we have the middle men in the form of the insects that we humans are to those robots. The deepest we go here is how early these beings were found and the area-51 type cover-up the government has enforced. Other than that...let sh*t blow up.
Cast
Ewan McGreggor. Scarlett Johansson. Sean Bean. Djimon Hounsou. Steve Buscemi. The late Michael Clarke Duncan. This is a pretty sweet line up and I'm a huge fan of everyone I've listed. Ewan surprisingly made for a great leading man, and I can look at dear Scarlett 24/7. No need to explain the awesomeness that is Sean Bean is there? Especially when he's put his bad boy pants on for the show, and Djimon is an amazing actor who was great as the head mercenary for hire to bring our heroes down.
Shia LaBeouf. Megan Fox. Josh Duhamel. Tyrese Gibson. John Turturro. Rachael Taylor. Anthony Anderson. John Voight. The always amazing voices of Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving. We get more of a packed house here, and part of the criticism this film has received is the focus on the human characters while sacrificing screen time for the Transformers. I can see where that argument comes from, but at least for this film I was entertained enough by said human characters not to completely dub the movie a piece of sh*t.
Action
The Island shifted from being an intriguing science fiction film to being an all out action picture, not to say that shift is necessarily bad. Fight scenes, chases, we got all of the toys Bay likes to play with. I have to say the chase scene in this film was the shining moment when it comes to this particular category. Bay loves to throw dangerous metal off the back of vehicles doesn't he? I had serious Bad Boys II deja-vu here. We got all we come to expect, everything gets decimated and we even get great moments that take advantage of the futuristic settings the film takes place in.
We get brilliant teases of the balls-to-the-wall climax of the film sprinkled throughout the first two acts. The attack of the base in the beginning, the clash in the desert. Teases I would have liked to see more of, a small chase scene on a freeway that ends with Optimus Prime disposing of a foe in bad ass fashion, and a glimpse of a war being waged on Cybertron the native planet of the Transformers that I thought we deserved more of (seriously more of that and less of a dog pissing on a Transformers leg). Still, that final battle in the city shows Bay excelling at what he does best...putting a kick ass action scene on film. I can give the man that much credit.
Overall
The Island sported a great premise and took some time to explore it, some good performances from its cast, and action scenes that are as good as any that you're likely to see. This film obviously took cues from other science fiction films, but you'd be hard pressed to find a modern sci-fi film that hasn't. There is very little that truly breaks new ground it is all in how you execute a familiar idea these days and The Island did a serviceable job. I'm a sucker for films that confront us about what our future could possibly bring, and I'm a sucker for films with a vision of what the future can bring us in terms of technology. The Island supplied us with both.
The first Transformers film, turned out to be toned down version of its sequels and this fact did it justice. There was ridiculousness here to be sure, but not nearly on the level that we got in Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon. It did a good job in introducing us to all the players, Shia was less annoying here, the comedy satisfying, the eye candy plentiful, and the action served its purpose. It's all a matter of if you can stomach Bay's particular brand of storytelling these days I suppose. Me? While I thought this first journey into the world of Autobots and Decepticons was decent enough, the intriguing premise of the Island hooked me a bit more.
The Island
So there you have it, folks. I wouldn't necessarily count out the first Transformers flick but as I stated, it's all about what you prefer. In this case, I preferred The Island's more serious approach to the material while providing us with some great action scenes to boot. But what do you say? Do you think The Island borrowed from too many pre-existing concepts for you to bring yourself to care about it? Did you have enough of a blast with the first Transformers to give it the edge? Time to strike back!

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at [email protected] with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which Michael Bay film is your favorite?
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