The Invasion [DVD]

By Clint Morris

A ‘dash of this’ and a ‘dash of that’ usually works when cooking – but not when making a Hollywood movie, and especially when doing a film version of the timeless sci-fi novel “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. The recipe should always read “one part science-fiction, optionally add horror for spice”.

The all-knowing minds at Warner Bros – or more so, producer Joel Silver – didn’t much care for tradition when putting together their “Invasion”. When the powers-that-be got wind that chosen director Oliver (“Downfall”) Hirschbiegel was piecing a straight-up sci-fi fest that wasn’t so much about action as it was antibodies, they removed him from the building.

As payment, they kept the first 80 minutes of his movie in their final cut.

The rest?

Definitely not his movie.

What starts out as an unhurried and slightly intelligent science-fictioner suddenly – and I say, SUDDENLY! – turns into a multi-million dollar action film as soon as there’s no more Hirschbiegel stuff to show. To save – or destroy, you make your own mind up – the film, Silver hired his “Matrix” and “V for Vendetta” team, Andy and Larry Wachowski and James McTeigue, to rewrite and reshoot the final act of the film. The result? Well, it’s “The Matrix meets Dawn of the Dead”. Some over-the-top car chases, chopper stunts and gun battles might have otherwise worked in another Wachowski film – “The Matrix” being the obvious example – but to throw them onto the tail end of a film that built itself up as anything but a Matrix-like action piece? Absurd.

In the film, Nicole Kidman plays a Washington DC psychiatrist who quickly comes to the conclusion that her ex-husband (Jeremy Northam) and others have come down with some kind of killer ‘flu’.

Carol Bennell (Kidman), and her colleague Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) discover that once infected, a transformation which robs the victims of their humanity is triggered by hormones released during REM sleep.

Now, the two have to try and stay awake whilst finding where Bennell’s young son – who may know of a cure to the virus – has gotten to.

Would Hirschbiegel’s movie have been good if Silver and Warner Bros simply let him be? Good question. And I think the answer is…. um…. Hard to say.
For a start, Nicole Kidman was always wrong for the lead role – she’s not an ‘every woman’ – and you don’t waste 007’s Daniel Craig as a dull doctor – he’s an action-man! And those body-snatched villains leave a lot to be desired too – they’re not a bit scary, and the ‘projectile vomiting’ they partake in is ‘off’ rather than clever.

On the other hand, the production design of the film is superb. Is obviously a top brass director – he’s shown great flair and slickness here; just needed a movie more suited to his talents. Additionally, the film’s pulsating score and visual effects are top-notch. They’re a couple of signs that had the film had a few less cooks in the kitchen – and some minds that thought a little more alike – and a script without so many plot holes (don’t even bother turning your brain on – the reshooting of the film has made the storyline almost incomprehensive), “The Invasion” could’ve turned out a lot, lot better,

Is it the stinker that everyone says it is though? No, it’s not. It has its moments. Check it out on DVD (where perhaps it should’ve went initially in the first place).

I’m actually surprised there are DVD extras on this thing – largely behind-the-scenes featurettes – but there are! Funnily enough, no director’s commentary though.

DVD EXTRAS
Behind-the-scenes featurettes. Yawn.