January 29, 2008
To say that The Invasion (2007) had a troubled production history is a mild understatement. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel set out to make an artier and edgier take on Jack Finney’s classic science fiction novel, The Body Snatchers. However, the studio did not like his version and producer Joel Silver brought in his pals, the Wachowski brothers to rewrite the ending and director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) to reshoot it. The result was a film that flopped both commercially and critically. Now that all of the dust has settled and it is finally being released on DVD, The Invasion can be reassessed. Is it really that bad?
When a space shuttle breaks up and is destroyed re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, strange fungus-like stuff is found on the debris. Anyone who comes in contact with it and then goes to sleep becomes unfeeling hosts for an ever-growing alien menace. Psychiatrist Dr. Carol Bennell (Kidman) meets with a patient who claims that her husband is not her husband and recounts a chilling story about how he killed their dog in cold, ruthless fashion. Later that day, while taking her son (Bond) trick or treating, a dog attacks one of his friends who doesn’t seem the least bit upset or traumatized.
The next day, she witnesses more strange incidents and people who act in almost robotic fashion – they lack any kind of emotion. Carol mentions this to one of her colleagues, Dr. Ben Driscoll (Craig), on their way to a black tie dinner. Later that night, she’s attacked by an anonymous census taker. Carol, with Ben’s help, research this strange new phenomenon and uncover a pandemic – a virus that infects the DNA and reprograms how we act and behave.
Hirschbiegel gradually ratchets up the tension as Carol races to find her son, who has been kidnapped by her ex-husband (Northam), one of the first people to be zapped by the alien fungus, and stay awake. Along the way, she witnesses people who are still human being taken off the street by alien-controlled police and helped by others who tell her to act emotionless. There are a few annoying jumps in logic, like Carol abandoning her vehicle for no good reason and dropping a gun on two occasions that she could have used later on. For a supposedly intelligent character, she doesn’t make very smart decisions at times.
This is the fourth adaptation of Finney’s novel and so far all of them have paled in comparison to the first one, directed by Don Siegel, which was also the most faithful to the source material. This latest incarnation’s take is that the alien threat is virus-based, but it still adheres to the book’s threat of sleeping as how one becomes transformed into one of them. The reason that this story keeps being remade is that the allegory for the stifling oppressive nature of conformity is so powerful and still relevant after all these years.
While the aliens offer a world without pain and suffering, it is also one without joy and happiness. The Invasion updates this classic story for our times as it channels some of the anxieties of our age: avian flu, SARS, 9/11, the Patriot Act, and so on. In a nice change, this film also deviates from previous adaptations by going in a different direction with how it ends. Some may cry sell-out but it feels true to the rest of the film. The Invasion is hardly as awful as some critics would have you believe. If you go in with low expectations you may come away pleasantly surprised by the end result.
“We’ve Been Snatched Before: Invasion in Media History” examines how the Body Snatcher films commented on the times in which they were made and this new one is no different. This featurette also examines the fears that the film addresses, including virus-based threats and how he deal with them, in this informative extra.
“The Invasion: A New Story” takes a look at how this film updates Finney’s original story for our times in this brief, pretty standard promotional featurette.
“The Invasion: On the Set” examines how they shot on location whenever possible and picked Washington, D.C. because it is the centre of power in the United States.
“The Invasion: Snatched” takes a look at how the alien menace spreads in the film.