Returning to The Island wasn’t quite the experience I was hoping for, as the fairly engaging premise and eminently enthusiastic cast could only make up for so much of director Michael Bay’s trademark Big Screen mayhem, and pretty-soon the picture devolves into unremarkable, familiar, action scenes where cars are being thrown at the screen. That’s not to say that the whole thing isn’t still entertaining – and fun – because clearly it is; but you somehow wonder what might have happened if the action director had run with the script – one of his more intriguing ones – rather than just gone down his usual Summer Blockbuster route.
On Region A-locked US Blu-ray we get great video and audio and a nice selection of extras, all of which should persuade fans of the film that this is a package worth picking up. It’s a superior effort to the 2007 UK Blu-ray release, which sported only a lossy soundtrack, and a Making-of Featurette – with lossless sound, and a more comprehensive extras set on offer here. Those familiar with Bay’s work should certainly know what to expect, and will likely not be disappointed with the Bayhem on offer here, and those who generally enjoy a good sci-fi action thriller should also check The Island out – it’s got a lot of good ideas going for it, even if it doesn’t really make full use of them.
The Island comes to US Blu-ray with a superb 1080p High Definition video rendition, presented in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Michael Bay productions inherently come across extremely well in terms of visual presentation, and The Island is no exception. Detail is excellent throughout, from the facial close-ups to the longer landscape shots, boasting the utmost clarity, with no sign of any softness, no pesky DNR smudging, and negligible edge enhancement. There are no real digital defects to note, and nothing really to impinge upon your enjoyment of the movie. The colour scheme tracks from the clinical blue-and-white-dominated facility, through to the sweltering desert and the dirty cityscape. Colours are rich, at times over-saturated – but this is all totally in-line with Bay’s stylisation, and black levels are superior throughout, both solid and deep. Overall it’s not quite a perfect-10 presentation, but it’s demo quality material nonetheless.
On the aural front things are just as great, the movie coming complete with a boisterous DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which promotes the film’s soundtrack extremely well (and far better than the lossy soundtrack that adorned the UK Blu-ray release a few years back). Again, the material is perfect for some stomping aural action – which is exactly what we get. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, largely dominating the front and centre channels wherever appropriate, but the surround and LFE action mostly comes from the score and effects. The score is punchy and penetrating, always giving the channels something to do, particularly in the more action-packed moments; and the effects range from some beautifully observed low-key ambient sounds, which create an amazing atmosphere, to all-out frenetic mayhem for the bigger setpieces, gunshots and helicopters whizzing around thanks to excellent surround coverage, and the LFE channel coming into play mostly for the latter, although it gives some nice depth to the entirety of the proceedings. Again, just shy of perfect, it’s demo-quality all the way.
The Island comes to US Blu-ray complete with the same extras that fans would have been familiar with since its days on SD-DVD, but which were only available on different releases before – i.e. the US Region 1 DVD sported an Audio Commentary and a Featurette entitled “The Future in Action”, where the UK Region 2 DVD had only a Making Of Featurette (which, as far as I am aware, incorporated the associated Pre-Visualisation Featurette) but did offer DVD-Rom access to the Audio Commentary. It also bests the 2007 UK Region Free Blu-ray release, which also only sported the Making Of. Thankfully here we get both Featurettes, and the Commentary, making it, overall, a nice selection which basically covers all the bases.
Michael Bay commentaries are renowned for being bloody entertaining, and this is certainly no exception. He’s an engaging, energetic contributor, who is more than happy to divulge every little technical and background detail into his production, and – a few tedious silences aside – he provides a decent accompaniment to the movie.
The Making of The Island takes a quarter of an hour to look into the production, with cast and crew snippets offering up background information into the movie and, in particular, the action setpieces. Marginally fluffy, with plenty of final film footage, it really only skims the surface, but is still a welcome addition.
The Future In Action is a similar near-quarter hour in length, and looks more specifically at action sequences in the movie – and the stunts and special effects used to bring them to life. We get crew interview snippets, including titbits from Bay himself, as they take us through some of the more prominent stunt sequences (noting a moment where they crashed one of the jet bikes and took out a half-million dollar camera), and explains how he was perfecting his CG usage during the course of this flick.
Pre-Visualisation: Forward Thinking spends a further 8 minutes looking specifically at the CG effects design using animatics and computer-based storyboards to plot out the action sequences prior to final VFX layering.
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