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Attack of the Clone

Michael Bay's latest action film looks suspiciously familiar.

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The introduction swoops in from overhead during the first helicopter shot. Scarlett Johansson is frolicking in slow motion under the sun on a fancy boat near the beach. Just when you wonder if this is one more pre-movie credit-card commercial, Ewan McGregor is dragged underwater by a group of slippery skinned thugs who look like a cross between the ghouls in "Jacob's Ladder" and the Blue Man Group. He then bolts upright in bed, awake, realizing it was all a dream and that he actually lives on the set of "Logan's Run."

The residents at this large, self-contained institute are the adult survivors of a holocaust that has made the outside world uninhabitable. They are fed well, down to the last appropriate milligram of sodium, clothed in brand-new white garments every day, and dance at the hottest Las Vegas-style nightclubs with refreshing Michelob beer at night. The downside is they can't touch each other, come and go as they please or read above the first-grade level. The only change the residents look forward to is winning the lottery system that sends a lucky few to live on an island, the last unpolluted place on earth.

McGregor's Lincoln Six-Echo thinks something is fishy about all this, not excluding his name. He makes investigations that require climbing around in the duct work and donning doctor's scrubs to go undetected in hallways, assuring us that even though his memory goes back no more than three years, he has at least watched a fair amount of the USA network. He learns that residents who win the lottery are actually killed and harvested for their organs and progeny that go to rich people, and he decides to flee (but not before he grabs the sultry Johansson).

Their escape is rather easy. It's the ordeal of getting chased around Los Angeles, escaping exploding cop cars and flying speeder bikes through skyscrapers (all apologies to 9/11) that will cause them to get scratched and dirty. The earth, we learn, is fine. It was all a hoax to keep the clones in line. At this point, "The Island" settles into a chase picture, only to be interrupted by the occasional scene from another movie.

If you want to imagine what the rest of this film looks like, close your eyes and recall Meat Loaf's music videos from the '90s, some of which Bay directed. There are certain clichéd visual marks in an enterprise like this, and Bay has no qualms about using all of them ad nauseam. Besides helicopter usage, they are as follows:

When uncertain how to move from one scene to another, use the shot of a flying helicopter as a transition.

Whenever a character finishes killing a bunch of people, he must walk away in slow motion, drenched in the spray from a water bottle.

In such moments of extreme crisis or deliberation, blow wind from a giant fan to convey the emotional impact of hair and loose clothing flapping in the breeze.

During at least one moment of climactic derring-do, send the camera rotating around the character in slow motion, proving we are not on a film set after all.

After these predictable action-movie moments, Bay sends McGregor and Johansson back to the clone institute, via helicopter, for a showdown with the archvillain (Sean Bean). But you already knew this. It seems everyone did. "The Island," made on a reported estimated budget of $122 million, has flopped stateside so far, opening in the middle of the summer to a pitiful $12 million in ticket sales. Hopefully this will send a message. We need something new to watch next summer. * S



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