Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig star in the critically defiled The Invasion, the latest reincarnation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This time around, the invasion takes place in a zombie-like way, and the infected hosts spread their kind by puking on innocent humans. Yes, puking.
The Invasion isn't nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be. Critics were hammering this film long before it reached theaters, and so I was expecting a complete and utter mess. It isn't the case. The movie is relatively entertaining and at times a bit spooky. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel keeps things going at a pretty quick pace, and the final thirty minutes of the film is essentially one long action sequence.
Still, Hirschbiegel cannot be congratulated for his effort here. The movie isn't a disaster, but it could have been a whole lot better. He seems so anxious to get to the action that he forgets to develop much build-up at all, and plot points are often skimmed over or rushed to get to the next "neat thing." For instance, the invasion begins when a little girl hands Kidman's ex-husband a piece of debris. He pricks his finger, and bam! He's done for. This is in the first thirty seconds. No build-up, no suspense, no sense of dread. Follow that up with a pointless, but nice, shot of Malin Akerman in her underwear, and we have an opening.
The rest of the film moves at the same, not-quite-finished pace. The characters come to the conclusion that an alien is taking over people's bodies extremely quickly, and the whole invasion happens so suddenly you never really get to soak it in. Remember the beginning of the new Dawn of the Dead, where Sarah Polley wakes up and is shocked to see the world in ruins? I would have loved to see a similar approach here, to see that sense of awe that something truly bad is happening.
Of course, Hirschbiegel's version was probably much worse than this. Warner Brothers was apparently so disappointed with his original cut that they hired the Wachowski brothers to rewrite parts of the movie and James McTeigue to reshoot scenes. The extra money clearly didn't do enough to make the film all that good or profitable, so I can only imagine what the original take on the story was. Irregardless, there are inherent flaws with the film. Aside from the problems mentioned above - overly rushed storytelling and editing and a lack of energy - the way the aliens attack is just silly. The puking really doesn't work, and there are several scenes that are funnier than they are spooky. It's hard to get too involved in a film about an alien invasion when the aliens aren't very intimidating.
The ending is also quite miserable; it almost appears as though Hirschbiegel/McTeigue were trying to make a political statement, but it comes so late and out of left find that it just hits with a dull thud. I realize the original Body Snatchers may have been a reaction to fears of a communist invasion, but whatever the directors were attempting to say, it doesn't come across in a coherent way. Additionally, everything is wrapped up way too nicely. The final scene is almost laughably bad.
All that being said, The Invasion has its moments. Kidman and Craig are decent enough, as is Casino Royale buddy Jeffrey Wright. The film is relatively entertaining and has some exciting moments. Fans of sci-fi movies like this have a perfectly watchable film to deal with; unfortunately, you can see how just a few major but easy tweaks could have gone a long way.
The Invasion isn't nearly as bad as critics said it was, but it still isn't very good.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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