In The Invasion, Hollywood’s fourth take on the creepy Jack Finney novel Invasion of the Body Snatchers about an alien force cloning humans into a unified zombie state, a sad thing happens: The film starts off as a decent, creepy thriller, but then, like the characters within, it goes to sleep and gets infected by a virus.
That virus is called “Wachowski,” as in the Wachowski Brothers (makers of The Matrix) who were brought in by producer Joel Silver to rewrite chunks of the film, including the ending. The film was hijacked from director Oliver Hirschbiegel (the excellent Downfall) and handed to director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) for re-shoots. There’s a very distinct moment in the film when creativity and quality take a nap, and the movie wakes up a piece of shit.
The premise has changed a bit since the original film. Instead of pods replicating people, a virus is passed on through people puking on one another. The virus has arrived on Earth via a crashed space shuttle because, I suppose, the alien spores found meteors and rain less dramatic. No pods this time. People just go to sleep, their DNA is replicated, and they wake up as bland as Laura Bush.
Nicole Kidman stars as psychiatrist Carol Bennell, essentially occupying the role held by the likes of Kevin McCarthy and Donald Sutherland in past versions. I’ll say this for her: She hasn’t looked this good in years. Bravo to the Hollywood plastic surgeons and the costuming department that put her in that cute sleeping outfit near the beginning of the picture. I’m also very impressed with Nicole’s hair. It’s silky, shiny, sort of like sunrays cascading from her cute little goddess head.
A patient (Veronica Cartwright, who had an important part in the ‘78, and still best, version) shows up in Kidman’s office complaining that her husband isn’t her husband. Soon, the streets are filled with expressionless people, and census takers are trying to puke on Kidman at all hours of the night. As it turns out, Kidman’s son is spew-proof, so that provides the whole Aliens subplot of a woman protecting a child from evil forces. It’s also a little on the ridiculous side.
Here’s just one of the many things about this movie that bothered me: The pod people (we’ll call them that, even though there aren’t any pods) claim that the transformation has removed violence from humanity, therefore the Iraq war, trouble in Darfur and North Korea come to an end. Yet, the pod people violently and angrily puke on their victims. It’s not like they peacefully walk up, shake hands, and politely vomit on a victim’s shirt. They get a scary expression and spew right into people’s faces. They also wrestle with their victims and snap dogs’ necks without remorse—pretty damned violent for a nonviolent alien force, if you ask me.
Another thing that bothered me was the sudden shift to high-octane car chases, clearly not the work of the original director. The movie totally cops out in the end, which completely contradicts the gloom-doom vision of Finney’s storytelling and the superior film versions. Sutherland’s screech at the end of the 1978 version is one of cinema’s great endings. This one ends in a way that’s supposed to send you home from the multiplex feeling hopeful. Not what I want from a body-snatcher flick.