Robyn and I watched an interesting movie last night.
Directed by Michael Bay, the king of explosions and light exposition, the film was surprisingly deep and brought up many questions about identity, humanity, and what makes a person a person. No, I’m not talking about Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, although that film does raise many interesting questions, including why the Transformers put their deepest darkest secret in the same place the Holy Grail was placed and how such an intrepid explorer as Indiana Jones didn’t recognize the fact that Optimus Prime’s relatives were buried in the same place, just a little more to the left.
And this film was also not The Rock, which only raised questions as to why the only man who ever escaped from Alcatraz (who also happened to be Scottish) looked so much like Saruman the White before a shave and a haircut.
No, the film was the vastly underrated The Island, starring Ewan MacGregor, Scarlett Johansen, Sean Bean, and the guy from the Dex commercials.
The movie starts out following the life of one Lincoln Echo Six, a man living in a very futuristic society, where everything is taken care of for him, what he can he eat is prescribed for him by a computer that analyzes his morning “business,” and who only wears white. (Another reason why you know it’s futuristic. People in the future only wear white jumpsuits and wear white Pumas.) He has everything taken care for him, yet he is unhappy and feels like there should be something more to life. He has struck up a friendship with a beautiful young woman, Jordan Delta Two, and although society does not allow them to have “proximity,” they are clearly close and enjoy each other’s company. In the society live nearly 2,000 others, all like them. They are the last survivors of a horrible contamination that has destroyed the earth. The only place left on earth that is beautiful and sustains life is a placed called “The Island.” Everyone who lives in this society hopes to win the lottery and be allowed to go to the Island to spend the rest of their days in endless bliss.
Warning: Spoilers Below. If you have not yet seen the movie, go back and watch it, and then come back and read the rest. Unless you really don’t mind having the premise of the film and its major plot points all ruined for you. That’s your call, not mine–so, like I said–warning: spoilers below.
Of course, like any utopian society, there are problems with this one and eventually Lincoln and Jordan discover that not is all that it seems. The Island, in fact, does not exist. The contamination never happened, and the entire population that they know has been scientifically cloned to provide organs, babies, and more for the super-rich. The clones were never supposed to be anything more than organ donors and baby factories, yet they have become thinking and feeling humans, whose only memories are those implanted in them–at least, that’s what the science that created them thinks. The doctor who runs the operation sees them as “soulless” and “not human,” and yet…
Lincoln shares the humanity of the man he is cloned from. He remembers what that man remembers, has that man’s abilities, etc. But beyond that, deep within him is the feeling that “there is something more.”
As society debates health care, as I read about scientists able to make monkey embryos combining the DNA of two mothers and one father, as we debate the merits of stem cells, I wonder, if this isn’t the question that we all wrestle with. It’s easy when we see others as only “others.” But those others have feelings, longings, desires, and are wondering, “Isn’t there more to this life?” The scientist who created the process can’t fathom that his “creations” could have that question. They are programmed from “birth” to be and do exactly what he wants. But there is an inherent flaw in his design: humanity was not created in a test tube. Humanity did not evolve as part of a process, a scientific model.
Humanity was created by God who has stamped His imprint into each and every one of His creations. And in that creation is the desire to be part of something bigger, to feel something more, and to know the purpose for which they exist.
The Bible calls that “eternity in their hearts.”
Science, as represented in the film by Sean Bean (a marvelous actor who too frequently plays villains or villainous types), looks to itself for the answer to eternal life. It promises people the chance to live forever, to stop the break down of the human machine. But the human machine will always break down, and as the film points out, there is an inherent danger in the scientific process: the unexpected. In the case of the movie, the unexpected is the fact these clones develop real memories–30 years of memories in 3 years–beyond what they have been programmed to accept. They feel more than they are supposed to, and their quest to know “what is outside” mirrors the entire human experience to know “why.”
When Lincoln and Jordan first see the world with their own eyes, a world they never knew existed, their journey to humanity becomes even more pronounced because they see that what they’ve been told is a lie.
The enemy tells the same lie to the world all the time. There is nothing beyond what you see here, you can trust me, your existence is a mundane one and you have no greater purpose than what I tell you. The journey to the outside world, where the air is real, where earth has feel, smell, and texture, tells Jordan and Lincoln that what they’ve known is a lie. They can see for themselves that they are human and part of a much bigger world, a bigger story, and that the promised paradise, the Island, is not heaven at all, but hell. (Which is probably what Michael Bay was trying to say by blowing up so much stuff. Or maybe he just likes big explosions…)
Is it the greatest movie ever? Hardly.
But I like when Hollywood films try to do more than just blow something up. I like it when movies make us think about bigger questions.
The Island is one of those movies. What does it mean to be human? Isn’t there something more to life? And what about the moral and ethical questions when science begins to play God? It’s like Brave New World with sexier characters and cooler chase scenes. So, watch The Island and look at the deeper story behind the effects, the explosions, and the good-looking actors (except Steve Buscemi, who is not good looking but is always enjoyable). Ask yourself, is eternity in their hearts because it was placed there in the cloning process, or because that’s exactly how the Creator designed them?
Plan Your Escape from what you’ve always known. You Have Been Chosen for something more.
(Interesting how the marketing for this film points out to those bigger questions. Probably an accident.)