The cinema within : spectacle, labour and utopia in Michael Bay’s The Island

Baker, Brian (2015) The cinema within : spectacle, labour and utopia in Michael Bay’s The Island. Senses of Cinema (75).

[thumbnail of Michael_Bay_s_The_Island_FINAL_ALL]
PDF (Michael_Bay_s_The_Island_FINAL_ALL)
Michael_Bay_s_The_Island_FINAL_ALL.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (214kB)


This paper will be oriented around twin poles: the aesthetics and politics of destruction, and the problematic of genre. The Island begins as a dystopia, drawing visually on the totalized and enclosed worlds of THX1138 (1971) and Logan’s Run (1976), but also drawing on the grey-blue visual palette of The Matrix (1999) and Minority Report (2002). It is the latter film that The Island more nearly approximates, accelerating from a conventional dystopian trajectory (alienation of the protagonist leading to the revelation of the true state of the world) into the tropes and kinetic action sequences of the chase movie. These intertextual borrowings foreground the motif of the inauthentic in the narrative, with the very fabric of the film replicating the status of the ‘agnate’ clones that are central to the film: The Island makes no claim to originality, and in fact consistently sides against the authentic and ‘original’, privileging the experience of the inauthentic or ‘copy’, throughout the film. Consistent with this is a self-conscious staging, particularly in the first half of the film, and central to the conceit of ‘the island’ itself, of the massive power of imaging technologies which (through ILM) form the fabric of the cinematic spectacle of The Island as a film. This staging works to fold both imagined worlds (the underground dystopia and the near-future USA) into analogous relation to the security apparatus and biopolitical circuits of the contemporary West (and, by extension, contemporary sf films such as Code 46).

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Senses of Cinema
Additional Information:
© Senses of Cinema 2015
?? science fictionscience fiction cinema ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
17 Dec 2014 11:45
Last Modified:
20 Jun 2024 00:19