Sunday, November 04, 2007

Attack Of The Clones

It's disturbing to learn that, in the near future, there will still be Maxim magazine and Aquafina bottled water, but no one will be familiar with Blade Runner. Or Total Recall. Or Minority Report. Or any of a hundred similar movies about eerie futuristic dystopias, not just the ones based on stories by Philip K. Dick.

So when, for instance, in The Island, "Lincoln Six Echo" and "Jordan Two Delta" (don't ask) escape from their brave new world and wind up in a roadside dive with Steve Buscemi (don't ask), full of questions about who and what they are, couldn't he just loan them copies of Logan's Run and The 6h Day and let them sort it out for themselves?

But no, no one ever does this in these movies. In fact, it's a curious feature of futuristic sci-fi movies that the one thing that their inhabitants lack is awareness of, and easy access to, futuristic sci-fi movies. Apparently, all of the DVDs we've been buying over the last decade are going to degrade even faster than our wretched mortal coils.

It is the mortality of those coils that is the subject of The Island. The plot is about producing a steady supply of replaceable body parts for people rich and vain enough to want them. The movie would have worked better if it had implicated its own makers, say by positing Hollywood producers as the clients for such a service, rather than some Scottish guy who designs boats for a living. Yeah, those greedy heartless boat makers really piss me off.

In the movie, the clones served as "insurance policies" for their "sponsors," providing them with backup organs such as livers and kidneys for easy transplant in case of need. I would like to see a movie where the director of a big budget action picture goes into a coma, and they have to find a replacement brain for him. The jokes would write themselves!

It is, of course, an irony that a movie about extending the lifespan of certain privileged humans by harvesting the parts of other creatures is basically a hodge-podge of elements from many, many previous movies. It is an irony that is largely unexplored by the makers of this film, who mostly throw a few ideas out there as a pretext to blow stuff up real good and drive various vehicles real fast.

Being an American male born in the late twentieth century, I'm a sucker for a good car chase, and this movie had an OK one. The heroes release train axles from the back of a truck they're riding on, sending them clanging in to traffic to thwart the bad guys chasing them. It's kind of hard to believe the driver of the truck wouldn't have noticed this and pulled over after the first few axles fell, but maybe there's some sort of Teamsters regulation about this.

(Why are all the best car chases in sequels? The big three are The Road Warrior, Terminator 2, which has two of them, and perhaps The Matrix Reloaded, which loses points for excessive use of digital effects and for its deus ex machina resolution.)

It's also kind of hard to believe that in the year 2019 or whatever in Los Angeles, with a metro population of roughly 20 million (not counting clones), you could track down someone named "Tom Lincoln" or "Sara Jordan" just by using their first and last names. I mean, even the original Terminator, in 1984, had to go through the phone book and kill a couple of other Sarah Connors first before stalking the real one.

At the end, when Lincoln ultimately frees the slaves -- er, clones -- they all come pouring out into the sunshine in their matching white unitards, lining a desert hillside and breathing the free, non-contaminated air. I was quite overcome, not with emotion, but with a jumble of associations. First, as the camera panned high above them in a helicopter, I thought they might break into a chorus of "I'd like to teach the world to sing." Then I thought, the people who argue against expanding the welfare state are going to have a conniption when this crew of uneducated, unemployed, unskilled laborers hits Los Angeles. Finally, I thought that with their matching white outfits and blank suggestibility, they might be lining up to catch a ride on the spaceship behind the Hale-Bopp comet.

The wife had a simpler take on the scene. She thought they looked like the Polyphonic Spree. It's good to know that her quick wit and familiarity with emphemeral pop culture haven't been completely eroded by nine years of pregnancy and parenthood.

So yeah, this movie sucked. On the other hand, if we're really going to clone people, we might as well start with Scarlett Johannson.


anne said...

You know, that whole harvesting organs thing had me convinced that I saw this movie. Then I realized it was a book I read - The House of the Scorpion.

Close enough.

Jozet said...

Aw, shucks.

I love you, too, Dear.

D.B. Echo said...

Too bad they didn't have Woody Allen dressed up in one of those white suits.

This movie was allegedly a remake of "Parts: The Clonus Horror". Though I can't say for sure, since I never saw the former, and never stayed awake all the way through the latter.