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The Island

Movies | Packing a powerful pro-life punch, this movie could change some minds about cloning

Issue: "Superheroes strike again," Aug. 6, 2005

Science fiction has long imagined the dire consequences of cloning, human manufacturing, and biological engineering. But the public-its imagination currently inflamed with dreams of everlasting life and health through stem cells made from the bodies of unborn babies-is largely supportive of the new Frankenstein technologies.

The Island (rated PG-13 for sensuality and intense violence) might change some minds. Whether its message comes from the views of the filmmakers-the action-movie director Michael Bay and writer Caspian Tredwell-Owen-or whether it just emerges logically from the movie's premise, The Island packs a powerful pro-life punch.

The story, set in the mid-21st century, opens with a seeming utopia. Everyone is taken care of, with round-the-clock health care and mandatory good nutrition, and exhorted to be happy. The white-and-stainless-steel sterile environment protects the inhabitants from a "contamination" that supposedly destroyed life in the outside world. Those lucky enough to win a special lottery, though, get to go to an island paradise.

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What they do not know is that they are all clones of wealthy people in the outside world. When a "sponsor" needs an organ transplant, his clone wins the lottery and disappears-not to an island but to a hospital to be "harvested."

The corporation offering this service assures consumers that the clones are not really human, that they have no consciousness, that they exist in a "vegetative state." Echoing the Terry Schiavo and stem-cell rhetoric, the executives insist that they are not really killing people, but rather are curing diseases and thus "saving lives."

But two of the clones, wonderfully played by Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, learn the truth and escape. Their adjustment to the real world, of which they have been kept innocent, is charming. And the chase scenes and action sequences, as they are hunted down in a futuristic Los Angeles and finally confront their "sponsors," outdo the usual Hollywood escapist fare in suspense, cinematic effects, and excitement.

The Island makes an important imaginative contribution to the current debates, reminding us that clones are not monsters. The monsters are the people who do the cloning and those who are willing to destroy life just to enhance their own.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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