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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2%
Worth A Look: 32%
Pretty Bad: 16%
Total Crap: 8%

6 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Invasion, The
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by Erik Childress

"Not A Rat Turd. But Not A Caper Either."
3 stars

Warner Bros.’ The Invasion arrives in theaters with a full count at the plate. It’s three balls are a trio of films based in one way or another on Jack Finney’s novel, The Body Snatchers, from 1956, 1978 & 1994, all of them great. Even the few foul-offs to its credit like Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty and The Puppet Masters (based on Robert Heinlein’s novel which inspired Finney’s) have the strength of a premise that is timelessly creepy and like its predators, able to attach itself to whatever social or political malfeasence relevant to its time. On the other side of the pitch count are the two strikes in its oft-referenced troubled production. It’s director, Oliver Hirschbiegel (of such foreign favorites as Downfall and Das Experiment) was fired Dominion-style when the studio wanted more action than subtlety and replaced with the more than capable Wachowski Bros. who wrote new scenes and got their V for Vendetta director, James McTeigue, to pick up the reins. It’s not as uneasy a mix as it seems on paper, but you can’t help feel like its guts are still lying in the editing room looking for someone to host a definitive cut.

Nicole Kidman plays Carol Bennell, a psychiatrist who begins to see strange behavior from both her patients and her ex-husband (Jeremy Northam), a CDC agent investigating a space shuttle disaster. Seems reentry brought with it some alien spore that likes to get on some flesh and reconfigure your DNA once you hit deep sleep. Carol’s best friend, Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) is a doctor who also has a lab buddy (Jeffrey Wright) who figures this all out. The infected are spreading quickly though, increasing their numbers in part to a government-sponsored vaccine to the “disease” that is really just hyperdermic spore bits, and it’s up to Carol to keep her son (Jackson Bond) safe even if his body has a champion immune system.

This material, as it was with all three previous editions, has always established itself as a science-fiction thinkpiece that lends naturally to a chase picture. So the problem with The Invasion is not one of a split-personality, but that of a film that treats its audience like guinea pigs incapable of allowing an evolving tension to work its magic. This is abundantly evident about half-hour in (after a fine establishment of the situation) when the editors got hard-at-work to piece together one of the worst dumbed-down montages in recent memory for those from the shortbus members of the crowd. Flashbacks and voiceovers from earlier recall one of those soap opera intermissions that give you a brief recap of the show’s first half in case you had to leave the room. Worse off, it’s not the last one we’ll see.

With the editors feeding us the obvious, it feels as if the breadth of the film’s ideas were also replaced with a quicker pace through 95 minutes. When Kidman and a Russian ambassador debate the essence of what it is to be an American, thankfully it has more bite to it than a similar discussion in Rush Hour 3, but it also stands out like a sore thumb with the writers dangling it out like a piece of intellectual meat and poking us for us to get the point of their movie. Once the chase is on about 40 quick minutes in, we’re down to the cliché of the lone parent on the run with their child. With little reassurance that we have a director willing to drop the kid out of a helicopter (as Abel Ferrara did), the finale plays like a poor retread of the exact same situation we experienced in 28 Weeks Later earlier this year. When one character reappears after a share of time offscreen, there’s none of the ambivalence to their identity that was so brilliantly put to the test when Terry Kinney came to recollect his children in Ferrara’s version. Suspense is not the film’s strongsuit.

Several moments in The Invasion come close to the radical suggestion that what the Snatchers are bringing to the Earth party may be the way to go after all. No more fighting or wars. Harmony for all and for all a good night. Naturally, that always leads to the individuality aspect and how the world would be a boring place if we were all the same. On the same token though, The Invasion never quite develops its own individuality other than the minor shifts made to the takeover process. Pods replaced with projectile vomit eliminate the more nauseating images of seeing yourself created from scratch right before your eyes. (A lame dream sequence teases us with the thought of multiples, but is little more than a cheap stunt.) More bewildering is how in the Starbucks culture we live in that those at a major conference wouldn’t notice a mouthful of spores in their plain, black coffee.

The Invasion winds up baring a closer resemblance to the defunct 2005 television series (Invasion) then its cinematic predecessors and its ambition is more small than big screen. The rapidity of the infection gets the next-day/same-street/different-attitude progression that worked better in a comedy (Shaun of the Dead) than it does here. With all the mention of newspapers and media reports it could have been fun to see what the aliens were coming up with as propaganda a la Fox News or Air America (whomever you believe the spore people represent.) Kidman does her best with little and Craig is charming enough in his all-too-brief scenes. Poor Jeffrey Wright is left with nothing but medical exposition and yet delivers it in such a way that is interesting enough even if we have no idea what he’s saying. The Invasion moves briskly enough not to bore us but somehow never reaches the level of quiet intensity personified so effectively in the 1978 version that I’ve always considered the penultimate one. With little in common with that film other than the recurring surnames of the leads and Veronica Cartwright (who apparently will NEVER be taken over), The Invasion is a passable take on a greater story. It just doesn’t have enough balls to get a free pass.

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originally posted: 08/17/07 14:00:00
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User Comments

4/25/19 Dr. Lao Plays like a parody of the genre, except it’s not funny 1 stars
2/21/17 morris campbell its sux see the 56 78 94 versions instead 1 stars
5/23/11 pwhite98270 I liked it but I'm a sci-fi fan interesting government involvement 4 stars
10/22/08 Shaun Wallner Great story! 4 stars
10/06/08 Dean Rapp One car chase, that's it for action 3 stars
7/14/08 Karen Incredible movie! 5 stars
7/01/08 The Main Ingredient Expected the worst, was pleasantly suprised but nothin on the 78 version 3 stars
4/04/08 Jack Sommersby An underrated, intelligently nuanced thriller that delivers the goods. 4 stars
3/02/08 Nanci Torres I really liked Nicole, she is great. 4 stars
2/03/08 ad never expectd much from nicole, but craig could do better 2 stars
10/24/07 William Goss Latest Body Snatchers bears little resonance, less thrills than its predecessors. 3 stars
10/13/07 Ronald Newbold 1956, 1978, 1993, and 2007 - '56 and '78 are the best and closest to the book 2 stars
8/30/07 chienne Why is anyone surprised this is a dud? All Kidman's films are duds 1 stars
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  17-Aug-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 29-Jan-2008



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