In the new limited series, The I-Land, a group of strangers wake up on a deserted tropical island and must find ways to survive the island—and each other. If that sentence seems familiar, that’s because it’s a word-for-word rip-off of a synopsis of the popular J.J. Abrams series, Lost. And just like that synopsis, The I-Land is a blatant rip-off of Lost, but it doesn’t do anything quite as well as its inspiration does.
Right from the get-go, this Netflix production from creator Anthony Salter fails to construct an immersive or engaging world, and the bad start only gets worse as the writers try to pack in far too much action without developing any of the characters in a meaningful way. Every person on the island is as dumb as they could possibly be, seemingly forgetting they’re helplessly stranded within minutes of waking up and ignoring survival entirely in favor of being obnoxious and unlikable for no reason whatsoever. Because of this, the first episode is almost unwatchable.
It’s almost impossible to root for anyone in The I-Land because none of the characters are worth rooting for. None of them have any redeeming qualities, and watching them interact doesn’t create any tension because the viewer has no reason to care about what happens to them. Once the big “twist” happens, the show decides to tell the audience what happened instead of showing them through visual storytelling.
Outside of the woefully uninspired script and lazy writing, the actors don’t do much to improve upon the lackluster work of the production team. None of the actors are better than below average, and their performances range from subpar to unintentionally hilarious. No one talks like a real person, which might be partly because of the horribly written dialogue and partly because of the laughable cast, and every interaction feels as forced as possible. Most of the conflict in the show arises entirely from character decisions, and none of them are believable in the slightest because of how unconvincing the actors are in their roles. Even with good actors, this show would probably be a lost cause, but the performances vault the series from a bad one to a “so bad it’s funny” level.
Leaving behind the personnel issues, the editing in this show is just short of abysmal. Each transition is an awkward cut to a completely unrelated shot from a secondary crew of some random tropical animals they found during a jungle shoot. The music isn’t awful, but the editors use it far too much to create faux tension because the directors failed to create a natural sense of unease through good cinematography. There are a few scattered continuity errors throughout each episode, and they’re noticeable enough to take the viewer out of any sense of immersion the show was able to muster up prior to the mishap. The best editing is usually unnoticeable because it’s doing its job: pushing the story along in a way that makes sense and enhances the experience. The editing in The I-Land is very noticeable because it does the opposite: It holds the story down and takes away from the experience.
Visual effects and set design follow the precedent set by the show’s everything else: Terrible computer-generated sharks are noticeable, and set design comes across bland and uninspired. Despite all of the knocks against it, there were a few interesting concepts, with the best of those being the “escape room” type feel of the beach setting.
Even though this series will likely pop up on Netflix’s “Recommended” lists, it’s difficult to recommend watching it at all. At best, it’s a nonsensical mess to watch with your friends while you’re drunk so you can make fun of it. At its worst, it’s a dreadfully maddening experience that serves little more purpose than making the viewer upset about all of the little problems, as they quickly pile up throughout the episodes.
Featured Image by Netflix