"It's either an expensive fake, or cheap skin."
– Dr. Galeano
There's just something weird about Nicole (Sparkling Diamond!) Kidman being in another remake of a genre classic. She did it with The Stepford Wives, and now with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Both films involve a loss of yourself to an emotionless imitation. I wonder if she's trying to tell us something? (Insert obligatory Tom Cruse marriage/Scientology joke here.)
This is the fourth film adaptation of the book, and much like the copy a copy of a copy, The Invasion has some of the important bits, but gets very fuzzy in the details.
Kidman stars as psychiatrist Dr. Carol Bennell. She's a divorced mom who loves her son Oliver (Jackson Bond), tolerates her ex-husband Tucker (Jeremy "Gosford Park" Northam) and dates the dashing Dr. Ben Driscoll (Daniel "Bond, James Bond" Craig). Dr. Bennell carries herself like any working mom, but moves in some pretty high-level circles. Her ex is an administrator for the CDC, and Ben is friends with diplomats. This is good, as it gets her involved with the plot swiftly.
Said plot kicks off with a shuttle disaster. The team examining the debris call in Tucker because they've found odd spores on the wreckage. The spores survived the crash, and are unlike any spore seen before. Of course, we all know what these little guys are here to do: take over the world!
This is one of several changes from the book, and previous adaptations. Instead of weird pod-plants, we have these spores that infect people and rewrite their DNA. Instead of sleeping next to one of the strange plants to be taken over by pod copying, it's spread as an infection by way of nasty phlegm/slime secretions. So the invaders constantly spit at you, or in your food. It's different. And disgusting.
So Tucker is infected, and he passes it on to other government people, and they infect two friends, and they infect two friends, and so on and so on.
From here, the movie pretty much is in line with all the other versions. People talk to Dr. Bennell, tell her their husband/ friends aren't who they were anymore. There's the creeping feeling of things not being right, then the desperate attempt to not be turned into one of the persons of pod persuasion.
Where the movie is different from the others is that there's the possibility of a cure for the podding. It also heavily stresses the "aren't we all better off as a hive-mind" message, with background news reports of various conflicts coming to a close, such as Darfur and Iraq. Aside from those bits, and the copious amounts of phlegm, it's pretty much the same as earlier incarnations.
The direction is mostly well done, except the director seems fascinated with flashbacks and overlapping scenes. The first forty or so minutes are actually a flashback, as we start the film in the midst of the invasion and then cut back to the shuttle disaster.
In the writing department, the movie wants to make sure you get the "message." To be human is to be emotional, confrontational and mostly violent. We get a ham-fisted speech to this effect, and hear it again near the end just to make sure we got it. We also get a very impassioned speech from one of the converted about how much better it is when we're all emotionless drones.
That character gets shot.
The last flick to hit me this hard with its message was Lady in the Water, and I didn't like it then, either. I think I still have that bruise.
Acting wise, Craig is great, as are most of the supporting cast. Kidman, however, isn't. I think she's a great actress. But she sleepwalks here, either screaming about finding her son, or being disconnected from everything. I don't know if it was trying to give the movie a dream-like feel, or something else. But she needed more fire in her performance. Without it, the dangers never feel real.
The Invasion could have been a great movie. The original is a classic, and the people behind this one tried to put enough new twists in it to make it interesting. Instead, it's just a pale imitation without enough emotion.
I wonder if that was on purpose?