Monday, August 20, 2007

A Very Botched Invasion

Jack Finney's 1954 novel INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS has had a pretty phenomenal run on the screen. Originally adapted in 1956 as still one of the most resonate Science Fiction films of the fifties and then bettered by Philip Kaufman's masterful 1978 film. Abel Ferrara's flawed but interesting BODY SNATCHERS (1993) might have been the weakest of the three but it was still a noble experiment. Now we have a new version called simply THE INVASION.
To call THE INVASION the weakest film based on Finney's original work is an understatement. It is a bland, confused and empty film that is made all the worse by the fact that in a few moments it seems like a good film is trying to emerge from the wreckage.
THE INVASION feels like a very classic example of what can happen when a Hollywood Studio steps in to 'fix' a film. It is hard to say what German director Oliver Hirschbiegel could have delivered had he been allowed to make his film. The screenplay has some interesting ideas about our modern day society's obsession with medicating itself into a hazy nothingness but the film derails itself quickly into an illogical, and very dull, action picture.
Nicole Kidman, a wonderful actress who is experiencing an unfortunate run of bad luck, stars along with a wasted Daniel Craig and an equally underused Jeffrey Wright. There is so much wrong with THE INVASION that it is hard to know where to begin. Underwritten characters wander in and out of the film aimlessly. John McTeigue's re-shoots are painfully obvious as Kidman's and Craig's hair lengths and makeup randomly changes from scene to scene. Perhaps the films biggest flaw is that ultimately the invasion seems preferable to these miserable leads, as it quickly causes world peace and total political enlightenment. The film tries to make some bold statement about human nature in a final scene that feels like it was written in the last minute as an attempt at relevance. Like everything else in the film it fails.
I typically don't write on films I don't like here but I felt particularly burned by THE INVASION and couldn't resist. I'm a huge fan of Finney's original novel and Kaufman's astonishing version, one of my favorite genre films of the seventies. I'm also a big fan of Kidman's and it is depressing to see an actress of such range and depth reduced to working in a film as bad as this one. Finally what upsets me most about this film is that we badly needed a new INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and this film wastes what could have been a really relevant look at our society.
Finney's novel and the first three films based on it were works of bold and brave ideas. They had something to say about our lives and were much more than just routine Science Fiction. THE INVASION is finally a film about nothing, and a failed attempt at even the most basic Science Fiction. Whether or not Oliver Hirschbiegel's original cut would improve matters remains to be seen, but I imagine it would have to be an improvement to the mess that has ended up on our screens.


colinr said...

I'm sad to hear that. There were a lot of fascinating things about the previous three films and I'd held out hope that it would mine some new ground. I'm hoping Kidman gets a good mainstream Hollywood film soon as, after Bewitched and the awful remake of The Stepford Wives, I'm worried she won't be able to make the great films like Dogville and Birth!

Sad also to hear about Oliver Hirschbiegel. I have Downfall in my ever growing 'to watch' pile but I did think The Experiment was a very good film.

The only thing that marred The Experiment for me was that I've got documentaries on the real Stanford Prison Experiment on video and no fictional film can really elict the same reaction as seeing a documentary on the subject.

In the early days of reality TV shows the BBC did a four part series called The Experiment, repeating the Stanford study. While it didn't reach the same horrible ends as the original experiment it came pretty close and also needed to be stopped early. It certainly taught more about human behaviour and group dynamics in extreme circumstances and confined spaces than any season of Big Brother!

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Colin,
I haven't seen his other films but I am curious. I really do think his original cut of THE INVASION is probably a vast imporovement...hopefully that will be the version that hits dvd as the Studio's cut is bombing.
I love Kidman and am very depressed about what has happened to her career in the past couple of years. She was so brilliant in "Dogville" and "Birth" and I can appreciate she needed something lighter after those but Damn she has been having a bad run...hopefully her next film will be a return to form...
as always thanks for the comments

Mr. Peel said...

I put off reading your review until I wrote mine and now that I have I've discovered that we both concluded the film is "about nothing". It's a shame that it had to turn out this way.

Rogue Spy 007 said...

I've been really hesistant about seeing this one. I've heard so much negative reaction to it. I mainly only wanted to see it for Kidman and Daniel Craig. My favorite Invasion movie was the one from the 70's that had Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy. That creeped me out as a kid.