Friday, August 17, 2007

The Invasion


Attack of the Podless People

What do you do when you’re completely out of ideas? Why, remake a classic of course! The Invasion is the third remake of Don Seigel’s great Invasion of the Body Snatchers released back in 1956. There was the similarly named version in 1978, then the truncated Body Snatchers in 1993, and now the back end of the title gets lopped of and we get just The Invasion. Despite several attempts to “reimagine” the standard plot, this film feels very, very tired.

After a Space Shuttle seemingly takes a Kamikaze dive into the atmosphere, strange things begin to happen after the wreckage is discovered. People are starting to act weirdly stoic and lack emotion. Others complain their loved ones aren’t their loved ones. Psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) starts to notice the same thing from her ex-husband, and becomes alarmed when she can’t find her son, whom she just left with him. Soon it becomes obvious than an extraterrestrial epidemic is altering human DNA during sleep and converting them into invaders bent on infecting the entire planet.

While attempting to update the story, the filmmakers really drop the ball by removing elements that made its predecessors so good. Specifically, the pods are gone. In the previous movies, large pods were placed close enough to a sleeping person to “copy” them, while the host would never wake up. This is a gross misstep, as the pod visual is a powerful one, representing a perverse fetus that takes on all the attributes of its “parent”. Now we just get goo that covers the victim’s face, and soon after they have changed. Lame.

Secondly, they cast Nicole Kidman as the lead. I’ve liked Kidman (Fur) ever since I saw her in the excellent micro-thriller Dead Calm (1989), and she is a good actress. Unfortunately, it’s painfully obvious that she’s just had some plastic surgery, and if anyone looks alien in this movie, it’s her. I had a difficult time getting behind a heroine who looked more synthetic than anything that came from space. Her collagen-injected lips were especially noticeable and reminded me of Meg Ryan’s distracting pucker in Proof of Life (2000).

Anyway, back to the story. Since this is pretty familiar territory, I hoped there would be something to set it apart from the pack, but it goes by the numbers and never deviates. There is little suspense and the aliens act stupidly (like standing still and allowing themselves to be shot) and are easily fooled, making them very nonthreatening. A few things work (the baddies vomit in your face to transmit the pathogen), but most don’t, including the too-fast and tone-wrong ending.

I like sci-fi, and wanted to like The Invasion. It’s a classic genre formula that aliens who look just like us are trying to take over, and sleep deprived characters are easy to be sympathetic toward. Much like these invaders, however, The Invasion is a cheap clone of the original item, and not a very good one at that.

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