The Island

Recommended. Okay, Michael Bay, formula action movie with tons of non-sequitur action sequences. But so what. It brought a transcendence that lifted the formula out of its typical action emptiness and gave it some real heart and soul, something so many action movies just lack. It is an exploration of cloning ethics that bears directly on our current issues of the definition of persons and the value of human life. Truly astounding. It’s the story of some clones who discover they are being bred to harvest their body parts for rich clients. They are born and raised in a facility like cows and are lied to that there is a contamination on the outside world that keeps them locked up in their facility. But there is a lottery that you can win and leave the facility to go to the one uncontaminated paradise left, The Island. Of course, they are actually taken and harvested for their organs and killed. Here is some of the obvious pro-life rhetoric in this film: The company that makes the clones says, “It’s a product, not human,” when questioned about the destruction of such clones (read: embryos). One of the clients tells his clone, “You’re not human. You’re not a person like me.” So the definition of personhood is challenged as well, because we see that the clones are obviously persons who have been defined away as non-persons, much like the Nazis did with the Jews. It’s the power of image showing the attempt to deny the obvious. The pro-clone people see the clones as “Organs in a jelly sack.” And they keep them away from the real world because people would see that they are living breathing human beings, NOT products without souls. When someone wins the lottery to go to the Island, they’re called “Chosen” and this is made a very big point several times throughout. This is an obvious allusion to “Choice” the fruit or results of “choice” is the death of these people. There are some powerful connective allusions to other atrocities of man’s inhumanity to man in history. They are branded with a number, like those in the Holocaust, A black man mentions how his people were called “less than human” in history, and some clones are herded into a gas chamber, another reference to the Holocaust. These are the same arguments made by the Pro-life movement that the declaration of the unborn or clones as “non-human” or “property” is exactly what was done in Nazi Germany and the Slavery movement in America. And to top it off, when the clones are being created, they are in big sacks in fetal positions sucking their thumbs. Another obvious reference to the unborn. Of course for sci-fi to be able to deal with clones that are aged the same as their donors, they have to create a way to grow a clone unnaturally fast, so in this story, they take some tissue and inject human DNA into it and it enables it to grow to the same age as the donor. Whatever. They hide the humanity of the clones by defining them in terms of the “mass of tissue” that they start out as. The point is that the entire run for their lives that the clones are doing is a metaphor for the lives being hunted down by the predators of the pro-choice and cloning movements. We have become a predatorial society that eats its young to sustain its aged. We have become a monstrosity that is dehumanizing humanity, the necessary first step in genocide and atrocity to alleviate the moral guilt. Interestingly, there are some side elements about religion and God that are somewhat ambiguous. On the positive side, the cloning guy says the clones are the “holy grail of science. They have no souls. I will cure leukemia. How many can do that?” (Science as religion) The hero replies, “I guess you and God.” In other words, the old point that scientists try to eliminate God but end up trying to be God in their power. On the negative side, I think the cloning city is made out to be a bit like religion. The point is made that “Contamination is the one global threat” to keep the clones from searching and discovering their true identity. Almost like a slam on the Garden of Eden and God’s curse for eating from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And the Island becomes a sort of metaphor for Paradise, or Heaven, and the hero says, “I wish there was more than just waiting to go to the Island.” This worldly, rather than otherworldly. Which really, most Christians would agree, but it is nonetheless a caricature of religion as pie in the sky. But then again, the clones are NOT told anything about God, which is part of the censoring. So when the hero clone hears about God, he asks his secret helper who works for the corporation what God is. He replies, “When you want something and you close your eyes and wish for it. God’s the guy who ignores you.” The clone hero’s donor says he made his clone because he got hepatitis, “a parting gift from God for all my philandering.” So God is mostly dealt with irreverently and negatively, making me think the filmmakers’ were trying to have morality without God, which really only makes them look foolish and hurts the consistency of the philosophy behind their story. When the hero clone tells his love interest that “the Island is real. It’s us.” I think this may be a humanistic turning inward saying, either, “There is no pie in the sky Island paradise, humanity is paradise,” or a more positive version: “we are the means to the end of others to achieve their island.” So the God thing could have been a stronger angle, but may have been deliberately downplayed because of their own worldviews.