Q: There are two different films entitled "The Island" -- one is an action film with Michael Caine that came out in 1980, while the other is a more recent sci-fi one that came out in 2005. But it's always the sci-fi one I see in the television listings. W

« Back to Q & A

Adam Thomlison / TV Media

There are a couple of harsh realities that figure into your question. One is the harsh-for-filmmakers reality that you can't copyright a title, and the other is the harsh-for-Michael Caine reality that he isn't the bankable star he used to be.

Don't get me wrong, Caine is still a huge name, but the popular idea of him today is not as a leading man. In some ways he's a victim of his recent success -- his role as Alfred in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, and similar supporting gigs in hits like "Inception" (2010) and "Now You See Me" (2013), mean he's better known today as a wise guide than a death-defying charmer.

Meanwhile, the drawing power of the 2005 version's stars has only grown since it was made. Scarlett Johansson in particular has become one of the biggest names in cinema today, and co-star Ewan McGregor isn't far behind.

There's also what we can call a contextual problem to deal with. Yes, the new "Island" is a dystopian-future sci-fi thing, but its plot seems almost plausible compared to Caine's movie about pirate conspiracies and brainwashing set in the Bermuda Triangle. That sort of story fit nicely into turn-of-the-'80s cinema, but today it sounds a bit off the wall -- they just don't make 'em like that anymore.

Confusing matters further (though not much), another film called "The Island" was released in 2006, though this was a Russian one that didn't get a lot of global traction.

The real issue here, as I said at the start, is that titles can't be copyrighted. This makes sense to some degree -- titles need to be short and pithy, and there are only so many words to go around. "The Piece of Land Surrounded on All Sides by Water" just isn't as catchy.


Have a question? Email us at questions@tvtabloid.com. Please include your name and town. Personal replies will not be provided.