THE ISLAND

3 Stars – Thought Provoking

The question of human cloning is on all of our minds.  Few of us have such large egos that we want to make replicas of ourselves instead of having children.  But the thought that we could clone a new heart, liver or lung if needed is intriguing.  Like a living insurance policy that would provide a perfect donor match if we would ever have such a need, we wonder what the implications would be.  Would our clone be human with a mind, will and soul?  Would they have our genetic memories, experiences, abilities? Could we clone only organs and sustain those in some form of artificial sustenance?  Does a heart without a body have a soul, or does it become human only if it is in full bodily form?  Is it murder to kill a cloned human or are they the property of the donor whose DNA created it?  What is human life and when does it become immoral to manipulate or end such life?

            Like other science fiction films before it (Nemesis, The Sixth Day), “The Island” imagines a world in which the technology to clone humans has been perfected.  Deep within the recesses of an abandoned desert missile silo, a hundred and fifty billion dollar facility has been created by an amoral doctor.  Promising his clients a living clone of any organ they may need, his plan hid a secret component:  The clones are living, sentient humans who are deceived from conception about their reality as well as their destiny.

Placed within an artificial world where they are cognitively and physically conditioned while they unknowingly wait to be harvested for their donor’s physical needs, they think that they are living in the only uncontaminated place on earth.  They are told that he only other inhabitable place is an island paradise where they are going to be sent to help repopulate the earth.  It soon becomes clear that this island is merely a fantasy developed as a social control to explain why people keep disappearing from their community.

The two central characters are Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson).  Only seven years into their operation, the “echo” series of clones are the fourth generation of “product” to be conceived.  The “delta” series are the third generation.  Cloned with adult bodies and fully functioning minds, their curiosity has been awakened and both begin to question the world in which they live and the explanations they have been given.

The doctor in charge of this massive facility is Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean).  A megalomaniac whose god-complex is a theme within the film, Merrick underestimates the abilities of his cloned humans until it is too late.  His solution is to kill them, and every one of the clones who have lived to this point.

Like Herod of biblical fame who killed all of the two year-olds in Bethlehem to try to protect his throne, people in power have long taken the lives of the powerless.  Whether it is a vulnerable child in the womb, an aging parent in a nursing home, or a clone to be harvested to extend our lives the temptation to end other’s lives for our personal advantage is a problem clearly played out within this film.  Whether terminating the lives of cloned women who give birth for adoptive parents or placing in gas chambers those clones whose curiosity makes them impossible to manipulate, this film presents the reality that such control over others’ is murder.

Discussion:                                   

  1. This film suggests that it is the nature of human life to be curious, whether born of natural conception or cloned conception.  Do you believe that is the primary descriptor of what it means to be human?  What other descriptors would you use? 
  2. When Lincoln Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta become friends, they are not yet aware of their sexual attraction.  The film implies that the facility had been able to prevent the sexual urge by keeping the clones ignorant and at a distance.  Do you believe this is possible?
  3. The genetic memory of Lincoln Six Echo to know the Latin name and designer style of his donor’s boat suggests that a clone would know what its donor knows.  How much of your knowledge, experience and memory do you believe would be known as well by your clone?  Would you share a life and its experiences?  Would you share a soul and its morality? 
  4. The impossible survival of Lincoln Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta defies all logic.  Do you believe this is just flawed science fiction, that they were morally superior to their captors and so good won out, or that there was Divine protection watching over them?  When the construction worker says that “Jesus must love you” when they are caught in a net after an unimaginable chase scene and fall, is the film saying that Jesus is watching over them?  Do you believe God loves – or would love – human clones as he does other humans?