A space shuttle explodes and crashes to Earth. It carries an alien infection that soon begins to infect the general public one-by-one. Soon, it is up to the immune and uninfected to fight back and escape the transformation.
The Invasion is a remake of a remake. The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was a science fiction film that provided an allegory for the Communist scare of the McCarthy era. Despite the author’s dismissing any specific political stances in the work, as well as lead actor Kevin McCarthy’s denial, the success of the film was due in large part to the fear of the time. The 1978 remake debuted when the Cold War was reaching a fever pitch. The era of McCarthyism was over but the fear of a Soviet attack was fresh in the mind of the nation. The movie turned out to be one of the few times that the remake might have exceeded the original. Donald Sutherland’s performance was masterful and provided some winks to the original as Kevin McCarthy himself ran up to a car begging for assistance.
As the movie begins, the Space Shuttle Patriot explodes in orbit and pieces crash to Earth. This is how the alien virus was transmitted this time around. Instead of aliens inhabiting the bodies, as in the other versions, this time it was a virus. The virus attacks the bodies, shutting off emotions and creating a docile species in its place. As a result, the new version of The Invasion is not a story of fear and paranoia as much as it is an allegory of whether it is better to live in a peaceful society without emotions or to live in the damaged world we all know.
This is a very interesting take on the subject matter and should have given us a wonderful film full of questions and endless discussion of the subject matter. Instead what we get is a disheveled mess of a film with poor writing, lesser acting and nonsensical plot contrivances. What could have been a modern masterpiece turned into a sloppy, bad movie that failed from the start. This was arguably because the film’s original director, Oliver Hirschbiegel, was removed from the project by Warner Brothers and the Wachowski Brothers were brought in to help with the final product. The brothers called in director James McTeigue to do $10 million in reshoots. This should have been an automatic, as the Wachowski’s Matrix trilogy and McTeigue’s V for Vendetta dealt with the same subject matter in an intelligent and thought provoking. However, with different visions comes a confused film.
The film opens with Nicole Kidman frantically searching for pills to help her remain awake. It is filmed in a scattershot shooting style with numerous quick cuts and unsettling camera swishes. We then go back in time to see how she ended up in the drugstore. Unlike the original versions of the film, the first thing we see in the flashback is the results of the crashed shuttle, the alien residue and the infection of the first victim. Instead of raising questions of the lead character’s sanity, we know from the start there is an alien infection. This helps us get past the always interesting scenes with the lead wondering if they are going crazy or whether they are actually in danger. Actually, we get those scenes anyway, but they carry an obvious lack of tension because we already have been shown the truth.
Kidman has a son (Jackson Bond), an ex-husband (Jeremy Northam) who suddenly wants back in his son’s life, and a new beau (Daniel Craig), who all plays a part in the story. Unfortunately, nothing in the story feel cohesive and characters appear to be added as plot contrivances instead of being used to present a linear flowing story. The plotline remains similar to the original films in that everyone transforms in their sleep once they are infected with the virus, via saliva. When Kidman’s son turns out to be immune to the infection, the doctors realize there is a way to fight the infection. The facts about the infection, the idea that you must sleep to change, and the causes of the son’s immunity to the disease is explained in exposition by a doctor (Jeffrey Wright). This is a poor way to add to the story and breaks the cardinal rule of showing and not telling.
I’ll stop here to talk about the poor acting in the movie. Nicole Kidman has a lot of trouble in the movie pretending to be someone with emotions trying not to show emotions. I have always felt Kidman was a bit stiff in her performances and she would have been prefect as one of the pod people. However, when she turns on the emotions I have never been sold on her performances and when she pretends to be stiff, it came across as ridiculous. Both Daniel Craig and youngster Jackson Bond were very good in their roles, but the rest of the supporting team struggled with the absurd dialogue they were given to perform. Northam and Wright, two good actors, stumbled on their delivery so badly at times I felt sorry for them. First time screenwriter Dave Kajganich did all the actors a huge disservice with the dialogue and while the story was an interesting idea, the script needed a few more runs from a more polished script doctor.
The first movie ended with hope, but we stopped just short of saying that everyone would live happily ever after. This is great, as they were forced to tack on the “happy ending” and were able to do it without compromising the overall theme of the picture. You should never stop looking over your shoulder when the enemy has been that close. The second movie did not have the Production Code to worry about and ended on the wonderful image of Donald Sutherland turning to Veronica Cartwright and screeching, almost showing no hope whatsoever for the protagonist. The problem with the new version is it refuses to give the pessimistic ending and shows the protagonists not only surviving but living happily ever after. It tries to show that because they fought back against the invasion, the wars and hate crimes continue to plague society. Despite this pessimistic thought process, the fact that the infected said they would eliminate anyone with immunity proved there was no other option.
There were a few things in the movie that worked. The scene from the 1978 version with McCarthy running through traffic was repeated here with a random woman doing the same thing. It was then even repeated later with Kidman and was very effective. There was a cameo from the 1978 version as Veronica Cartwright returned to explain that her husband is different and has changed. Things like this shows that the filmmakers were well aware of the prior films, however they were apparently oblivious to what made those originals work so well.
The video looks good and the sound is great. Nothing special, though. There are a number of featurettes. We’ve Been Snatched Before: Invasion in Media History talks about the media’s role in spreading the news of disease (SARS, Mad Cow, etc..) for better or worse. It is quite the boring featurette. The Invasion: A New Story is a very, very short talk with the cast and creators of the new movie. It is fluff and nothing more. Nothing is even said about the reshoots, and only Hirschbiegel is mentioned. The Invasion: On the Set is much like the prior feature, except it talks a little about shooting in D.C. The Invasion: Snatched is another short one, with a little about the makeup but nothing worth your time. These last three features are all fluff and worthless additions.