I recently had a conversation with friends about why the sci-fi thriller The Invasion of the Body Snatchers keeps getting remade (after the original 1956 movie, there was a remake in 1978 starring Donald Sutherland followed by a 1993 remake with Forest Whitaker). Someone pointed out that the movie continues to be relevant, that the themes within it can be interpreted and applied to current social or political happenings at any given time. With The Invasion, however, it seems there was no firm decision made about whether it should be a political commentary or a suspenseful horror film. So, it ends up trying weakly for both and accomplishing neither.
The basic plot is this: A space shuttle crashes on Earth covered in creepy microorganisms which, when touched by humans, cover said humans with a gooey, sticky film in their sleep. Upon waking, the humans are transformed into emotionless shells of their former selves, unaffected by sorrow or love. Psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman), her friend Ben (Daniel Craig) and her young son Oliver (Jackson Bond) are among the few residents of Washington, D.C. who very rapidly figure out the whole deal and struggle to not get infected with the zombie disease (which disgustingly can be passed when one zombie projectile vomits on a non-zombie and then it's just a matter of falling asleep, perchance to congeal). More about this story and my take on it if you read more
In this version of the body snatchers story, it becomes apparent that Oliver is immune and can never become "one of them." So, rather than being simply a choice of whether or not to fall asleep and become a droid, it becomes imperative that Carol stay awake because her son would be killed by the zombies (who "have no need" for an immune kid) if she were not around to protect him.
Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig commit fully to this movie, a stoic and noble move on both their parts seeing as it seems to be a waste of their supreme talents. If it were not for these two, this film might have quickly slid into the realm of campy horror flicks perhaps enjoyed by a cult following. As it is, though, it's just a middle-of-the-road movie — not too scary, not touching, but not utterly boring, either.
With nods to the previous incarnations of Invasion of the Body Snatchers left and right (people in the middle of the road screaming crazily at cars rushing past them, the repeated phrase "My husband is not my husband; my son is not my son"), the original idea behind the work lurks somewhere inside The Invasion. Yet this version tries to modernize the story as well, heavily featuring text messaging between mother and son, for example. Also, Carol's apparent knowledge of how to Google things results in her extremely swift and total understanding of how this new "disease" works. Yet a disappointing new tweaking to this version is a removal of the bleak and chilling overtones. The ending is so neat and tidy it's like nothing happened at all during the previous ninety minutes. Thus, I found myself wondering why I'd spent those minutes with this movie.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.