Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 2, 2016)
Back in 2007, The Invasion became the fourth cinematic adaptation of Jack Finney’s 1955 novel Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I wanted to see the 2007 Invasion theatrically, but it came and went so quickly I never got the chance. Undeterred by its poor box office performance, I decided to take a look at the Blu-ray.
When the space shuttle explodes and disintegrates during re-entry, it leaves a wide trail of debris from DC to Dallas. It brings with it something sinister as well: an infectious space spore attached to it. CDC representative Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam) investigates and becomes contaminated by the spore.
This changes Tucker, as he becomes literally a new person, affected by the spore. DC psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Kidman) immediately senses the difference, and she starts to develop additional suspicions when she hears of people who act unlike themselves.
Along with doctor friends Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) and Stephen Galeano (Jeffrey Wright), they discover that a virus that alters a person’s DNA during sleep spreads the plague. The movie follows Carol’s attempts to stay human and also to save her son Oliver (Jackson Bond).
As the fourth version of this tale to hit the big screen, a discussion of Invasion should focus on what it does to justify its existence. Unless a flick decides to take the bizarre shot-by-shot replication mode of Psycho 1998, a remake needs to do something different. Otherwise, why bother?
At the very least, one must give Invasion credit for its refusal to simply imitate its predecessors. Oh, it obviously shares many similarities with the earlier flicks, but it still manages to stand on its own. I think this one uses the prior efforts as conceptual inspiration instead of as a direct blueprint.
Whether or not these various changes succeed becomes a different issue. For instance, the method that the aliens use to take over the humans is very different here. In the old movies, pods created replacement versions of folks, whereas here an infection changes them from the inside. This still requires sleep to work, but otherwise it’s a definite variation.
I could live without the disgusting aspects of this, as the transformed people spew infected vomit at their intended targets. Otherwise I think it’s an interesting idea, and one that increases the threat. The pods were ominous but not as difficult to escape. When people can easily infect you wherever you go, though, the situation becomes much more difficult to endure.
Really, I can’t find fault with the changes such as that, but that doesn’t mean that I think Invasion is superior to its predecessors. Oh, it might top the forgettable 1993 version, but it certainly doesn’t compare with the original 1956 edition or the creepy 1978 take.
While Invasion evolves into its own film and indeed improves on the model in some ways, the execution falters much of the time. Rather than embrace the eerie paranoia of earlier versions, this one prefers a more standard thriller/horror vibe.
Invasion also is not a terribly coherent effort, as it emphasizes action over atmosphere or plot. Characters wander into illogical situations and plot holes abound, but the movie doesn’t care; it just wants to throw out the scares and jumps.
Even when Invasion attempts to become more thoughtful, it can’t follow through in a satisfying manner. Unlike its predecessors, this one actually suggests that planet full of “pod people” might not be a bad thing. With these replacements in play, world peace develops. Is free will and true humanity worth all the pain and angst that result?
The movie alludes to these concepts, but it fails to do much to explore them. The notion arises during an awkward and incongruous dinner party scene, and it pops up again at the end, but that’s about it.
At no point does the movie do more than nod at the philosophical implications. The Invasion wants to believe it’s a thoughtful flick, but it really prefers to stick with brainless action.
And I can’t say it flops in that department. The Invasion never quite becomes a good movie, but it never turns into something genuinely bad either. Kidman remains lovely to watch, and the drama manages to keep us reasonably involved. That’s enough to make the flick moderately entertaining but nothing more significant occurs.