HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Now Showing Today's Date:

The Invasion

Can't sleep. Clowns will eat me.

Oh, for those days when that was your worst fear. Instead, we've got terrorist attacks, bioterrorist attacks, ecoterrorist attacks and cineterrorist attacks to worry about. If we accept the premise behind the tense but muddled The Invasion, all we really need to do is go to sleep and everything will be fine.

The fourth adaptation of Jack Finney's novel The Bodysnatchers, this Nicole Kidman vehicle limps along with a bizarre pedigree, and it has to be cited to understand just why this movie feels so at odds with itself. Credited director Oliver Hirschbiegel allegedly turned in a cerebral think-piece short on action, so producer Joel Silver brought in his favorite ringers, The Wachowski Brothers, to amp up the volume on it.

That wouldn't necessarily be bad; after all, they did once give us a high-octane action film that still made us question the nature of reality. But somewhere in the writing, either theirs or that of Dave Kajganich, somebody typed with hands of finest honey-baked ham.

Each time Finney's book has been filmed, it has been seen as a metaphor for its time. Here it's hard to focus on what criticism exactly is being leveled. Our heroine, psychiatrist Carol Bennell, strives mightily to make sure that her patients (and her son) are well-adjusted, non-violent citizens, freely dispensing medication to achieve her goals. Yet when faced with an alien take-over that turns everyone into well-adjust, non-violent citizens, she has to panic.

Too conveniently, perhaps, her ex-husband is one of the first victims of the spores - a change from the traditional pod-person thing that reflects more modern anxieties. As the ex Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam) says, becoming an alien now is "…as easy as catching a cold."

Thank heavens aliens can't paint over walls.
Not only do we prey upon bird flu hysteria, Kaufman happens to be high up in the CDC. That makes his vaccine for a new strain of flu actually full of alien vomit that allows for the take-over, so…we can't trust bacteria and we can't trust our government, because they want us all to turn into sheep.

Okay, so I think I've nailed down the metaphor. Except the army actually does know what's going on and is actively working against the CDC for a cure. It turns out that some people do have a resistance due to a certain earlier illness. Be grateful that nobody drives a tripod that just stops dead as the aliens succumb to a cold.

In case we miss anything else, the script also gives us Russian ambassador Yorish (Roger Rees), who argues that without violence and aggression, a human is not a human. Actually, the scene that comes from has quite a bit of snappy repartee and food for thought, but it's an oasis of tidy intellectualism in a film that keeps sprouting little idea threads and leaves them just messily frayed.

The strongest thread lost would be that for a non-violent and presumably non-emotional society, the invaders turn to violence quite easily. They also claim to be one big unity, but they can't tell if you've become one of them unless you betray emotion.

If Northam's character is any indication, they're also pretty petulant. But that's also a pacing problem. We barely get to know his character before the change; all real information about his personality comes from Kidman. He even apparently has a girlfriend (Malin Akerman) that never gets referenced past her first harp on him, but seems to hover nearby after assimilation.

Dad wins the "who can be creepier" contest...
Yet the film, whoever should be credited, musters up its fair share of tension. A constant use of jump cuts and a few flash forwards keep the audience off-balance. Cheap tricks, perhaps, but they work, as it's hard to focus on whether or not someone is acting normal, or just giving off the reflexive benign smile of one of the Sciento - er, invaders.

It's also driven by some very fine actors. Though Kidman has a tendency to go breathy when assuming an American accent, she plays a fierce protective mother with conviction. Bringing his shaggy masculinity, Daniel Craig skates through as the concerned neighbor/best friend/wannabe boyfriend, allowed to keep his native accent.

Just when you thought no American actors could play Americans anymore, Jeffrey Wright pops up. Nobody, but nobody, plays ambivalent self-righteousness like him, but even better, his character doesn't need to be convinced that an invasion is going on. He's a vaguely defined scientist fully accepting of what he's seen.

Though it robs the film of some tension, it is a neat twist that nobody questions that an invasion is going on. Random people appear that have figured out how to hide in plain sight, at least for a while, and the military immediately recognizes the aliens for what they are.

A lot of good things could have been at play here, but the final product just doesn't add up. Maybe on home video we'll get to see the pre-Wachowski version, but even then, you're still better off renting the 1978 version (linked here by the presence of Veronica Cartwright) or the truly creepy 1956 original.


Derek McCaw

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites