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Movie Review: The Invasion (2007)

Posted by Sunday on Feb 18, 2008 at 12:30 pm in Movies, Weird Science

Jack Finney’s classic novel The Body Snatchers is re-re-re-made in this science fiction thriller starring Nicole Kidman and the delightful Daniel Craig. Kidman plays the role of Carol Bennell, a psychiatrist on the run from emotionless drone-people seemingly infected with some kind of extraterrestrial virus after the crash of the space shuttle Patriot. Car chases ensue.

Spoilericious review after the jump.

In order to not write an entire exegesis, I present this review in the form of a bulleted list of Pro and Con.

PRO

  • Certain action scenes of the film are intercut with what are otherwise long shots of, say, Kidman trying to figure out what the hell is going on through a process of staring out of windows and nervously googling (and while visually dull, this is probably the most truthful acting of the entire film) (except, replace her googling “my husband is not my husband” with looking up random physical symptoms on WebMD and then concluding she has some kind of cancer) It sounds weird on paper, but it actually worked to move the plot along faster.
  • Holy hell, why do I always forget about Veronica Cartwright? She’s in several of the best science fiction films ever made, including the 1978 The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Her exquisite quivering anxiety and bright blue eyes make her the best tension-building actor in Hollywood. It probably doesn’t serve her well in her daily life, but she pulls off “I’ve been recently crying in terror” like no one else.
  • Daniel Craig.
  • Using vomit to spread infection is always a pro.

CON

  • There are certain jump cuts in the movie that are quite totally without sense. Near the beginning there is a scene where we might be witnessing either a flashback or a flashforward, and neither my boyfriend nor I could tell which. This effect was made worse by Kidman’s character wearing only skin-tight gray sweaters and pencil skirts through the entire movie.
  • The film is peppered with unlikely character behavior on a magnitude from which one must conclude that craft services was serving everyone Jager Blasters during principal shooting. The most succinct of these is when Bennell is shown preparing breakfast for her grade-school aged son wearing completely see-through white pajamas. Nipples. Buttcrack. If the scene doesn’t make you uncomfortable then you are probably a pedophile.
  • Speaking of grade-school aged children, the son Oliver (played by Jackson Bond) is of that most wretched school of silver screen child: precocious. In scene after scene Bond plays Oliver as a smug little shit. To make things worse, the movie was so poorly written that scenes continually hinged on his having heart-to-heart conversations with a Botoxed and frosty Kidman, scenes that are ostensibly to convince the us of how really caring the two are for one another. One must conclude that the writer had never met a real 9 year-old boy.
  • I don’t know how I could have missed foreknowledge of this, but I was surprised by an early scene of a space shuttle catastrophically breaking up during re-entry, modeled intentionally after the space shuttle Columbia disaster. I’m a hypocrite, so even though I scoffed at people who bemoaned Cloverfield‘s sensational destruction of New York, it made me nauseated to watch a shuttle blow up so that a shitty re-make of a previously good movie could be made more poignant.
  • The science is unsurprisingly puerile, as are the scientists. In one scene, a CDC director is informed that the broken shuttle pieces are all swarming with the alien virus — and then promptly picks up a chunk, cuts his finger on it, petulantly flings it down and then goes straight home. He’s not under any alien control yet, mind you, he’s just grumpy, tired and forgotten everything there is to know about disease vectors.
  • The Invasion differs significantly from the original novel and previous three movies by discarding entirely the concept of the “pod people” that are total duplicates of their human originals, thus eliminating the need to physically body murder the human. The very first thing an astute watcher and science fiction fan will then realize is that the movie will end with everyone magically “getting better.” A primary terror and peril of the previous Body Snatchers has been that once a person was duplicated with their imposter, they are most certainly and totally snuffed out. Not “converted”. Dead. The forever kind. As it stands it just feels like an exercise of adjusting everyone’s Prozac prescription.
  • Bennell, with her immense knowledge of and access to pharmaceuticals, can’t seem to force herself awake past about 48 hours or something – I don’t know because no one bothers to establish a timeline.
  • In a pivotal scene, Bennell’s son Oliver must inject her with adrenaline to keep her alive. This requires the child punch a massive syringe through her chest wall and into her heart, ala Uma Thurman’s big scene in Pulp Fiction. The idea that a small child would have the skill or balls to do this to their own mother is stupid.
  • The special effects are needlessly terrible. Can someone explain to me why it is so common to use computer graphics to animate tiny, minor scenes that could have been better achieved with practical effects? In The Invasion, victims of the virus become covered with a mask of CG slime that has that telltale diaphanous, undulating quality of bad computer effects. “Rubbery” isn’t the right adjective, maybe “swimmy”? There is a scene where Oliver has something icky stuck to his finger (later revealed as discarded pod-person skin). Rather than make a simple latex piece with gelatin-slime, Kidman has the unenviable task of miming the gesture of pulling this CG skin piece off Oliver’s hand. It looks fucking terrible. Later she gives the saved skin piece to her doctor friend, and again this piece is animated inside of a ziplock bag. The character remarks that it “looks like a piece of latex,” a comment that caused me to flip out of my chair and have a seizure.

NEUTRAL

  • In the original The Body Snatchers, the aliens have a lifespan of a brief three years. Their takeover of Earth is nothing but a stop at a fast-food restaurant, a quickie visit that will leave the planet devoid of humans and for no real reason. They are defeated when the most rudimentary of opposition is mounted (they actually retreat in a panic when some of their pods are set on fire). I always liked this set-up, that the aliens were so careless and non-committal. It made them more despicable. In the The Invasion, the aliens are morally high-minded and appear to be moving into town for good: they attempt to lure Bennell over to the dark side by pointing out that all war had ceased and that peace shall soon reign. Bennell refuses this only because her son is immune to their conversion virus, slating him for death as “there is no place” for an independent mind. I like this too. The resultant twist ending – that because of people like her, humans are safe and pure, even though this means murder and war is again rampant – has a nice old-school feel to it. I can’t say which I like better.

Truth be told, I don’t conceptually hate the idea of a “modernized” Body Snatcher flick. But this one was pretty crappy. It would take only a few minutes to craft an allegory about the overuse of modern mood-altering pharmaceuticals (not to get all Xenu on you or anything), but the writers, directors and producers all felt it more prudent to trot out Ye Olde Terrorism Shtick, even if in the form of infectious disease.

Speaking of writers, directors and producers, The Invasion went through some kind of post-production hell, which goes a long way toward explaining the epic fail. According to Wikepedia, a full year after principal photography was done the studio hired a second, uncredited director and the dread Wachowski brothers to write re-shoots. An extra $10 million dollars was thrown into the coffin and then everyone decided to pretend like the whole thing had never happened.

Conclusion: best viewed right before watching the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a palate cleanser.

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February 18th, 2008 | Movies, Weird Science

2 Responses to “Movie Review: The Invasion (2007)”

  1. quagmire longshanks Says:

    First and foremost, ultimate FAIL unconditionally guaranteed with the insertion of Ms Kidman as petulant, protesting, protagonist beyoch who’s job it is to save the world. She (Nicole, not her character portrayal)just doesn’t have the stones for this kind of thing. I was immensely disappointed in her portrayal of the character in Golden Compass for the same reason. She’s just, how do I say this in PC terms, too frellin’ girly-girl in her own mind to play someone with cajonés grandés. I don’t mean she must literally have a scrotum, only that this type of character needs the males-start-wars-so-that-humans-won’t-suffer gene. IMHFO.

  2. battlegate Says:

    This is why I’d make an awful movie critic- once I establish that a film is mediocre, (which was fairly early with this one) but not utterly repugnant, I tend to suspend disbelief and just sit back for the ride. Notice I didn’t say “enjoy” the ride… I just stop being very critical because at a certain point I stop having the energy to log all the stupidity unless I’m offended enough to yell at the tv.

    It’s boring of me but I agree with basically everything you said. Especially your neutral point, I just wish they’d done some fast news cuts of the world settling back into its usual bloody cycle, rather than the Russian diplomat’s goofy voiceover summary.

    And Veronica Cartwright! She’s a fucking jewel, right? Only Shelley Duvall even approaches her in the watery, bug-eyed unbridled terror department.

    Overall I give it a Meh -

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