Review Date: February 3, 2008
Released by: Warner Brothers
Release date: 01/29/2008
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Shaping up to be the timeless Hamlet
of horror, Invasion of the Body Snatchers
seems to be the property with the most enduring cultural relevance in all of horror. The first came during McCarthy, the second during shifting yuppie climate, and the third AIDS and the Gulf. The Invasion
comes now 14 years after Body Snatchers
(leaving only Of The
left to truncate for the next remake). It’s been awhile since Iraq really mattered, so what then does this new trip down the subtext of Jack Finney’s original novel use to make itself contemporary? I’d love to say iPod people, but this one gets a little more political than that. Read on, clones…
The film begins with a flash-forward of Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman
) raiding a drug store for all the uppers she can find in a bid to stay awake. Yes, even in today’s advanced society, those anamorphous aliens still use sleep as their primary means of attack. The movie jumps back a little, but even before the attack society seems unkempt. Carol battles with her ex-husband over custody of their child, war blazes on the television and a space ship explodes in space and shoots its remains across the globe. On those fractured pieces of American advancement and exploration lie the seedlings of the pod people, and once they hit the atmosphere, no one is safe.
The pod people start taking over at an alarming rate. Carol notices it first when one of her psychiatric patients (Veronica Cartwright
from the Kaufman remake) says her husband is no longer like the husband she used to know. Her husband before was angry – he’d hit her. Now though, he’s polite and even complacent. That doesn’t sound like such a bad trade off, does it? Still, people run for their lives, trying to stop this epidemic from swallowing modern society as a whole.
The one hope seems to be Carol’s kid, Oliver (Jackson Bond
), who through some sort of childhood disease, is now immune to any sort of body usurping. If Carol’s scientist friends, including Bond man Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig
) can extract the DNA from Oli, perhaps there’s a hope that humanity can be saved. They’re taking over though, and now Carol must walk the streets stoic as people are massacred in front of her, hoping she will not be noticed. She must be polite, and in our conflicted world of high-stress and a general lack of sleep, that’s easier said than done.
It would be redundant to say The Invasion
feels repetitive, as if everything occurring within has been done before, because, well, it has. Numerous times. What this film lacks though, fittingly I guess, is the humanity of the previous entries, this time focusing instead on action. The film was notably taken over by producers to up the action and turn down the politics, so what remains here are a bunch of dramatic action sequences without any drama, because the context of characterization has been removed. We basically know the leads from their jobs and little more, and we know the supporting characters even less. There was always a sort of sense of community in the previous films – the flower power community of San Fransisco in Kaufman’s take the most notable. Here it’s all about detachment, and while this may be some sort of commentary on today’s times, there just isn’t much meat to lend to such a figurative feast.
The characters feel synthetic because of their lack of development, and so too do the effects with their reliance on CGI. We get some really bad blood stream shots to denote transformation that make the dated red cell effects in the decade old The Stendhal Syndrome
look state of the art. Again, what made Kaufman’s take such a masterpiece was the organic nature of his effects. Those creatures there felt so real and threatening because they were made from physical elements. The effects here are no doubt done to simulate the vantage of the scientists in the film, but in looking closer in the film, its flaws feel even more fatal.
The film is virtually as auto-pilot as those stagy scenes on the hood of Carol’s car. It’s a paycheck for Kidman in between arty roles, and Craig reportedly did it as a favor to her The Golden Compass
heroine. The kid is awfully formal, with the great spontaneity that makes child actors unique completely removed here. He may as well be a pod. I’ve been doing it the entire review, so I’ll again cite Kaufman’s remake, and how Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams shared a great, honest and passionate relationship between the two. That was a humanity worth saving. Yet, somehow in the final moments of the film, it’s as if the film steps outside itself to offer one great critical twist to mock both this remake and the society it was made for.
The film ends differently than the others, not in terms of tone (which is how the others handled it), but this time too in terms of story. The pod people don’t win. Humanity is saved. The clincher, though, is that they never deserved it. Modern man has done so much harm to the world, what with the pollution littered on the film’s streets, and the wars that encompass every television station, that really, a subdued, complacent pod culture would have been a major improvement. Carol realizes this tragedy, and perhaps Kidman too, looking at how vapid the film’s performances and characters are. It’s a great reflexive twist that while making the film timely, still fails to make it significant.
Considering the film is short (99 minutes) and without much extras, it’s nice at least that Warner went dual-layer with this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. There’s a little bit of noise, and objects at time seem to have a bit of shimmer. Still, it’s generally very sharp, saturated and what you’d expect from a modern big budget production.
Likewise with the sound, presented here in your routine Dolby Digital 5.1. Surround usage isn’t overly active, but it certainly kicks in during the disposable, tacked on Wachowski action sequences at the end of the film.
Considering the film bombed, and not only that but the film was taken out of the hands of its director, it is no surprise, then, that there isn’t much support here in terms of extras. We get a few trailers for other Warner titles (are original theatrical trailers now only something Criterion will touch?) and about 30 minutes worth of featurettes. The biggest of which is “We’ve Been Snatched Before”, which starts off promisingly enough detailing the liquidity of the story and how different cultural forces have shaped it over the years. However, after that start it quickly goes into Poltergeist: 25th Anniversay territory, with a bunch of doctors and psychologists talking about pandemics and society’s ability to deal with them. Snore.
The other three featurettes are all three minutes, each one EPK ready and about a different notable aspect of the production. “A New Story” has them talking about embarking on yet another remake. The funniest bit here is that big cigar chomp Joel Silver blowing smoke up Oliver Hirschbiegel’s ass about the great product he made, when here he hired the Wachowskis to reshoot the living dead out of it. Nicely done, fats. “On the Set” offers a nice look into the location, and how this was one of the first movies to film in the Washington D.C. embassy, and how Hirschbiegel only wanted to shoot in real locations. It also ends with some behind the scenes footage of one of the more notable stunts in the film. The last clip, “Snatched”, unfortunately has nothing to do with Nicole Kidman, instead looking deeper into the (really) subpar effects work in the film. And that’s that.
If the previously standout Body Snatchers
films aren’t enough for you, The Invasion
at least promises cultural relevance in its deconstruction of today’s current wartime and environmental hysteria. The only problem is that the whole thing just isn’t that good. The picture and sound are fine, it’s a new release, when aren’t they? The extras are fluff, so rent it, forget it, and wait until the next one surfaces in fifteen years to address our apathy towards compartmentalized remakes.
Movie - C-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - A-
Supplements - C+
- Running time - 1 hour 39 minutes
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- "We've Been Snatched Before" documentary
- Three EPK featurettes