This has to be the lamest alien invasion movie since the killer tomatoes attacked. I knew going in about the production troubles and the massive reshoots ordered by the studio honchos to ‘fix’ the film, but I thought I could give it a fair shake anyway. I mean, it’s got Nicole Kidman, who usually only strips down for quality, and 007 himself, Daniel Craig. The credited director is Oliver Hirschbiegel, a German filmmaker highly praised for his Der-Fuhrer-fillum ‘Downfall’ several years back. This is his American debut. He must’ve been the draw for the great cast, which also wastes the great Jeffrey Wright, Roger Rees and Jeremy Northam in roles that wouldn’t challenge a mannequin. Normally, I would say that the studio ruined a great director’s work, but I really don’t think this was ever any good to begin with.
This ‘Invasion’ is, of course, yet another adaptation of the 1955 Jack Finney novel that inspired the Don Siegel classic, the excellent 1978 Phillip Kaufmann remake with Donald Sutherland, and the not-so-bad-you-couldn’t-watch-it Abel Ferrara version in the ’90s. There is something so universal in Finney’s tale of an alien takeover that changes the world not with a bang but with a whimper, the aliens slipping into your homes like a thief in the night and changing you and your loved ones while you sleep. From Siegel’s ‘communists are all around us’ fear mongering to Kaufmann’s sly satire of the ’70s ‘Me’ generation, the story has been used by filmmakers as a commentary on their times. The commentary here is literally insane and I’m still trying to figure out what Hirschbiegel and Time Warner want us to think. Clearly, it’s not on the side of mankind, that’s for sure.
The scope of the story has widened from the small town of Santa Mira, California to Washington D.C. where Kidman, as Dr. Carol Bennell, works as a psychiatrist clad in very form fitting outfits. She is also busy raising a son, Oliver (Jackson Bond), on her own following a divorce from CDC agent Jeremy Northam. They are quite estranged and Kidman’s only friend appears to be scientist Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig). Craig’s hair, turtleneck and ‘Members Only’ styled jacket actually made me question what year this movie was taking place. If they’re ever going to make an ‘Airwolf’ movie, Craig’s clearly the man for the job.
Of course there’s some kind of space semen that’s arrived here from yet another of our shuttle crashes, and immediately Northam gets his sticky fingers caught in it. Apparently, 2007 is too cool to bring back the alien pods, so we’re left with some kind of super snot that is squirted into your face or mouth like ’28 Days Later’ or a Peter North ‘money shot’, and starts messing with your DNA while you sleep.
Since Kidman and Craig appear way too dense and fashionably dressed to figure any of this out, that job falls to the ‘Wise Black Man’ normally played by Morgan Freeman. But he must’ve been tied up building some crap for Batman, since Jeffrey Wright (‘Angels in America’) takes on the role here and immediately made me think of ‘Casino Royale’, where he helped his brother from the British Empire Daniel Craig out before. Wright plays Craig’s much smarter lab partner, who has it all figured out in, like, minutes, and even has a whole computer animated test designed to prove his point that this alien menace means serious business.
A lot of running around ensues and the film goes from a slow, careful pace to sudden pandemonium in seconds. Kidman has to save her son from Northam’s clutches while looking her best in a tight sweater and even a form-fitting coat. (Seriously who designed the costumes for this movie?) Everyone splits up for narrative convenience and Jeffrey Wright keeps popping up at far-flung locales to call in some new expositional information. At one point, Kidman calls him and he says, ‘I’m in a helicopter over the city!’ with no explanation at all, but just in time since she could sure use one, her car on fire at the top of a building and all.
The film actually goes from incredibly boring to almost great as it turns into a kind of madcap farce, with Kidman terrified at the Evil alien Republicans led by her ex-husband, and as the editing goes bananas showing us fleeting images of action and suspense like a coming attractions trailer. At one point, Craig and Kidman are talking quietly in a dark office as he tells her he won’t let anything happen to her, and suddenly this crosscuts with some kind of action scene in progress where it seems the two of them have stolen a police car. He then finishes his promise to protect her and then it cuts to him screeching the police car to a halt and telling her to ‘Get Out, NOW!’ like a pimp after a hooker shakedown. This kind of editing occurs several times in the film and seems like a way to use some discarded footage whose entirety would be nonsensical in the new form.
Now it turns out that it’s not really a bad thing to be taken over. The only side effect seems to be that you turn into a really bad actor. But the rest of the world is seen to be making peace, not war. It seems that violence and greed and hate were all HUMAN attributes, not the ways of this advanced race that just stole our bodies. See this is the whole point of the film. The whole reason it was made. Humanity is just not worth fighting for. Consult your ‘Idiots Guide to Nietzsche’ for more information. Or just ask the idiots who made this the theme of their film.
Not that I think so highly of humanity, I just think it’s lame drama. If humanity is not worth fighting for then why commit a feature length movie to characters that waste their time doing that very thing? Not to mention that it’s just SILLY trying to say that this alien race is free of violent intentions when everything they do in the film is violent. Now if they had asked nicely to take over your body…
This is barely a film at all, more like a triumph of bad editing or an experiment like the Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’ of crashing two entirely different works into one. This gives the film too much credit, but the effect is crazy, moving from a more moody tone that was probably Hirschbiegel’s, to a mad, mad world of action and shock supervised by the Wachowski brothers. Both films are lame, but perhaps if two lame films were ‘Frankensteined’ into one, the flaws would vanish? Sorry, they don’t. They just become more apparent.
Still, we can be comforted that veteran actress Veronica Cartwright, who was the sole survivor of the 1978 version and appears here in a small role, may have survived the invasion again. Now that’s one tough lady. I’m sure she’ll be ready again when they redo this dusty plot in 2017.
Oliver Hirschbiegel, James McTeigue (uncredited)(director) / Dave Kajganich (screenplay), Jack Finney (novel “The Body Snatchers”)
CAST: Nicole Kidman … Carol Bennell
Daniel Craig … Ben Driscoll
Jeremy Northam … Tucker Kaufman
Jackson Bond … Oliver
Jeffrey Wright … Dr. Stephen Galeano