The Long, Torturous Road to Being Snatched
The Invasion (2007)
Having gone through one of the best versions of The Body Snatchers, 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to one of the worst. Released in 2007, The Invasion was an $80 production that failed to connect with audiences and only brought in $40.2 Mil despite an all-star cast and decent production values. So what happened? Why did this movie fail so hard.
Well, there's a number of things we could point to, for sure. To start, the title of the film doesn't exactly tell you what the movie is about. The title "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is iconic. People know it. Hell, when the 1993 version (which we'll cover just as soon as I find a copy) decided to shorten the name, it went with the part people know: Body Snatchers. That right there tells people all they want about the film. It'll be about pod people, and aliens, and it'll be creepy as hell. But "The Invasion"? That sounds like a generic movie title that could be about anything. It doesn't really sell the film in question.
This leads to the greater issue with the film: it feels like it was engineered by studio suits to be a "four quadrant" film that appeals to all demographics. It can't been too scary, or too creepy, and it has to have a super happy ending (which required extensive re-shoots). It was tooled, and retooled, over and over, to try and get a perfectly acceptable product. Which, in the end meant they had a bland and unappealing film that entertained no one. The heart and soul of the film is missing, as if the executives at the studio managed to replace it with its own pod person. Ironic, really.
The film stars Nicole Kidman as Dr. Carol Bennell, a psychiatrist whose patients start coming in, complaining about how their significant others, or other important people in their lives, are suddenly acting weird. Not like themselves. Cold, distant, emotionless. This comes after a space shuttle crash that Carol's ex-husband, Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam), investigates. Tucker gets infected by an alien microbe and, overnight, becomes one of these replacement people. Cold and soulless and looking to spread his new disease far and wide.
As this infection spreads, Carol notices more and more people acting weird. Thankfully she has a friend to confide in, Dr. Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) who works for the local Health Department, and together they begin to investigate. Soon, they realize just what is going on, that an alien microbe has come to Earth, that it infects people quickly and takes them over when they sleep. Now they just have to find a cure because, otherwise, everyone on the whole planet is at risk.
The Invasion, despite having a similar concept and following some of the same beats of the previous films, makes a bunch of changes that, in the end, suck all the fear (and fun) out of the film. The first, and biggest, change is that the movie doesn't go with alien planets, or pods, or pollen, that just drift to Earth. Instead the inciting incident is specific -- the shuttle crash -- and that means it's also localized. That, in turn, means both that the heroes only need to escape the city to survive, but also that the invasion, such as it is, can be easily contained if it's caught within a matter of days.
Bear in mind this is an invasion that has to spread via direct contact. The alien infection doesn't go via pods this time and is instead transmitted by an excretion that infected people spray out. One night of sleep and you're gone. Thus, you have to transport the actual infected all over if you want to spread the infection around. This seems like it would be easier to pull off than pods transported around the country, but the vector is smaller. One-to-one for each person infected, instead of being able to row huge fields of pods and send them off in all directions via trucks.
That also means that the invasion is harder to quantify and understand as a real threat. When you see loads and loads of pods everywhere, the human brain can accept that as "a lot". But when it's just a small group of people running around in a city, that doesn't feel like much of an invasion. The scope is way off, and the threat never really materializes like it should. There are moments where the film is able to raise some action and get a little life into itself, but the real dread of the situation never truly settles in like it should.
Of course, part of that is because, almost from the get-go, the film goes out of its way to illustrate a possible solution. Carol catches one of the weird infection vectors and passes it off to Ben, who then takes it to his lab buddy, Dr. Stephen Galeano (Jeffrey Wright), and they start working on ways to cure it. The cure is always looming over the film, and as the story progresses, they find ways to actual cure the people and set everything right. This isn't like in the previous films where, once you're taken over by the pod person, you die; nope, this is a simple infection that can be erased like it's nothing. No worry, no fear, and nothing permanent. Not really.
Now, sure, some people do die. Hell, Carol shoots more than a few people coming after her despite the fact that a possible cure has been discovered. She doesn't kill any named characters, no, and in fact shoots Ben in the leg when he gets infected. Can't have her doing anything unheroic, I guess. But none of that really feels like it sticks. Anyone important gets to live to the end, cured and healthy once more. It's a cop op, a super happy ending tacked onto a story that, in the past, at least tried to sell the mounting dread of the situation. It just doesn't work.
It just feels like a bland and boring corporate product. This is the kind of movie the previous versions would have raged against (and that's even considering the 1956 film tacked on its own "maybe everything will be okay" ending as well). The cast is solid, and the production design is decent enough, but there is so much lacking from this story. The film feels empty and devoid of thrills. For a movie that is ostensibly supposed to be a sci-fi horror film, the lack of thrills absolutely is its death sentence.