Responsibility 101

Don't you just love it when people can suck it up and take the blame for something that went wrong? It is, in this ever-bleak world we live in, one of the few bright spots to be found, especially when people are as forthright as Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes. See, they are two of the producers responsible for the "The Island." And at a recent press junket for the film "Just Like Heaven" -- yet another derivative comedy in an increasingly creatively bankrupt Hollywood (and what are the odds, do you think, that The Cure song of the same name will appear somewhere in the film?) -- MacDonald and Parkes came clean about why they thought "The Island" sank at the box office.

Of course, they took all the blame.

Cough.

No, they blamed everything from the title to the ad campaign and marketing to the apparently non-existent star-power of the two leads. Which, you know, makes sense.

Parkes: "On the movie side, it's a bad title. It's a title that refers to something that doesn't exist in the movie. You might say, 'Oh well, so what?' But really from the title comes the advertising campaign and from the campaign comes the image people have of what they may or may not see, so that was a problem."

MacDonald: "It is, quite honestly, something we talked about later into the process of marketing the movie and almost made a change, but that's also a difficult decision, when you've already gone into production with a title and it's kinda in the air."

Yes, that explains it: poor title choice. How can you blame something like the title of the movie! That is utterly absurd for many reasons, not the least of which is these people are holding the purse strings, so they could have said, "Eh, scratch that. Let's call it..." and contribute a new title. Simple fact of the matter is, if the movie made money, these people would be saying, "Oh, the title was fantastic! Pure genius!" How utterly ridiculous. If all it took was a change in the title -- and they had a feeling during production that the title would pose a problem -- then they should have changed it. Does anyone believe that Ewan McGregor or Michael Bay or whoever would have changed their approach if the title was "Lies, Lies, Lies" instead of "The Island"?

And, actually, "The Island" isn't that bad a title. It's a myth perpetuated on the characters to keep them in check and in line; a control mechanism. The idea of the Island represents joy and hope and all these things these characters strive for in the film but can't -- and probably never -- attain. That analysis belies the quality of the film, but still. It's wholly undeserving to blame something like the title as the reason the movie didn't make any money.

Speaking of unfair, how about this excuse:

Parkes: "Listen those are superstars of the future, those two actors [Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor], they're not superstars of the present."

MacDonald: "I think within the industry, we think they are bigger stars, particularly Scarlett -- both of them, we know Ewan's not a star, but he's such a good actor."

Parkes: "[We] loved Lost in Translation. [I] admired it and it's extraordinary. It made $30 million and that was a big hit for that movie."

MacDonald: "[Scarlett] is not owned by this sort of young generation at all. Even lesser television actresses, quite honestly, would have more connection to that audience."

What. The. Hell.

Ewan McGregor not a star? I think a mighty large number of Britons would be screaming you down if they heard you say that. And Scarlett Johansson is disconnected from "this" audience? What audience are speaking of, exactly? The one that eats the garbage you force-feed them with a smile on their face and their parents' pocketbook in hand? I suppose that's correct; I mean, after all, the people who dig her movies are smart, hip and totally aware when they're having the wool pulled over their eyes by shoddy Hollywood producers. I guess the best actress for the role would have been someone like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan or some other tabloid honey. Geez.

That is the most half-baked bunch of nonsense I have ever read. McGregor and Johansson are two of the finest actors of their generations and have a tendency to rise above the material when the occassion is called for. After all, McGregor is the bright, shining center of the "Star Wars" universe in the first two, otherwise blah, prequels. And Johansson, hell, she goes out of her way in "The Island" to make the hackneyed crap she's forced to recite seem not only plausible but believable.

And, I think, that's where the major problem is: the source. The movie is bad, plain and simple. Just because Roger Ebert gave the movie three stars doesn't mean anything (Read his review here). This is the man, after all, who panned -- under the pretense he was "lost" after seeing it twice -- "The Usual Suspects." (Read his review here.) And, oh yeah, he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, one of the worst movies of all time.

Audiences get a bad wrap. They are pandered to and pandered to and demeaned constantly by the Hollywood machine -- and even the indie one ("Mysterious Skin," anyone?) -- but they have that pesky habit of sorting out the nonsense from the interesting stuff. And that's what happened here. The failure of "The Island" has nothing to do with its stars or its title or its marketing -- hell, the trailer was good enough to get me to see it and I was dead-set to just write it off as sugary summer eye candy. It does, however, have everything to do with the material. It's too similar to other movies and it's boring, mostly because it's so derivative.

MacDonald said, "We've done this a long time and we've made so many movies. It was a big risk to go out with an original, and what turned out to be a difficult, idea and in summer, you're going out in a highly competitive time." When you have people like this who are so deluded to think a movie that is a blatant rip-off of numerous other films -- "The Matrix," "THX-1138," "Clonus," etc. -- is original, it's no wonder they want to blame someone or something else for the failure of the product.

Parkes and MacDonald have made some awesome flicks (check out their IMDB listings here and here), but this one was a stinker, simple as that -- and they should admit where the real fault lies rather than blaming everything that actually worked.

(Thanks to IGN FilmForce for running the story about the producers of "The Island" chatting about why they thought the movie failed. You can read the original story here.)