The Invasion

The Invasion on Blu-ray Disc

The third remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" has its moments, but it's easily the weakest of the these "The aliens are coming!" flicks, possibly excepting Abel Ferrara's "Body Snatchers," which we haven't seen.

It also sends a rather conservative-friendly message about freedom and individual rights, which may have been unintentional given Hollywood's bent.

The movie's a bit of a mishmash, trying to sell us a story of paranoia while moving along at breakneck speed and never really giving a chance for the tension to build - and ultimately devolving into a standard chase movie with an ending 180 degrees from the 1956 and 1978 versions.

A space shuttle crashes and in the subsequent investigation some unusual spore-like objects are discovered. Alas, the spores are already at work, infecting humans with what at first appears almost like a flu-type virus but which is really a plot device by which these humans are turned into what once were pod people, part of an alien hive-like intelligence that subsumes the individual into a society of individual cells making up a larger whole.

Washington, D.C., shrink Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman, in another fine performance), begins to smell a rat when one of her customers, er, patients (Veronica Cartwright, in a delicious homage to the excellent Kaufman version) tells her that her husband isn't her husband - that he has somehow changed.

She further smells a rodent when her ex-husband Tucker Kaufman (another nice homage; character played by Jeremy Northam) shows up suddenly, interested in reigniting his relationship with their young son, Oliver (Jackson Bond). Then other people start doing weird things and, before you can say "Bob's no longer your uncle" the world is in a crisis as the aliens start taking over the world quicker'n you can say "Jack Robinson's a pod."

Well, there are no pods in this version. Instead, what would otherwise be pod people spew a horrid-looking substance from their mouths (reminiscent of Jeff Goldblum in his latter stages as The Fly) - either puking it in the faces of their victims or (less gross) hiding it in their drink.

Carol and her best friend Ben (Daniel Craig), aided by Dr. Stephen Galeano (Jeffrey Wright), finally figure out what's happening and, unlike the Don Siegel or Phil Kaufman versions, even how to cure it. This opens the door to the inevitable happy ending that puts a warm and fuzzy face onto what used to be a rich tale of terror that leaves you afraid to leave the theater.

The filmmakers have used fake CNN reports (kind of like real CNN reports, but tailored specifically for this script by people who've obviously never written news copy) to weave in the subtext that, once everyone has given up his soul and become an alien version of himself, there'd be no more wars, hate and the like. The "news" reports show world peace breaking out simultaneously with the swallowing up of humanity, that as people give up their souls the world becomes a better place.

Is that the message they're sending? That we should all give up our individuality, our personal freedom, so the jihadists will love us? Of course, the jihadists are also giving up their souls, so at least it's a "lose-lose scenario."

Then at the end we realize that, with humanity's humanity saved, wars are on the menu again - and maybe that's not as bad a thing as being an "unpod."

The editing jumps all over the place, giving us cuts in the first few minutes that won't be seen until much later. It looks nice and arty, but at the expense of coherence.

Hell, this could have been a really great film. It's been done before, but that doesn't mean it can't be done well - as at least one earlier remake shows. But as mentioned, this movie is really kind of a mishmash, not really knowing whether it wants to be a thriller, a social commentary, a sci-fi flick, a horror flick, or a commercial for CNN.

The actors do a good job, and the production values are good as well, but the movie careens along so quickly you don't really have a chance to absorb anything and so you never really feel the walls closing in around you as mankind begins to lose its battle against the alien force. Perhaps there'd be a better two hour movie in here, but the 99 minutes rocket along like a space shuttle launch.

Which reminds us. How come the space shuttle was destroyed? It's hinted at that the astronauts did it to help prevent the alien scourge from reaching the earth, but how would splattering the shuttle over a huge area of civilian land help that? And does the shuttle have a self-destruct switch? Perhaps the splattering was done deliberately, to spread the spores as far as possible.

The Blu-ray disc is very good. The picture's sharp and clean and the colors, though muted, look good. We A/B'd the Blu-ray and the DVD, and are glad we got to review the Blu-ray.

Audio is Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround (also "conventional" Dolby Digital 5.1) and it's fine.  We wish Warners had also included an uncompressed PCM track but what can you do?

Extras include a documentary "We've Been Snatched Before: Invasion in media history," which is more about alien invasions than it is about previous versions of the movie. There are also three short featurettes on the new film.

The Invasion, from Warner Home Entertainment
99 min. anamorphic widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam and Jeffrey Wright
Produced by Joel Silver
Written by David Kajganich, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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