Movie News & Reviews

The Invasion may turn you into a pod-person

From the trailers, "The Invasion" looked like it could be pretty damn cool. Covert alien invasion! People acting all spooky while those who haven't had their bodies snatched have to sneak around and try to stop them! Nicole Kidman's rack on prominent display! That is a recipe for good times.

A couple warning signs put a damper on my enthusiasm with a quickness, however.

Bad sign #1: the Wachowski brothers and buddy James McTeigue are brought in to re-cut the movie. I'll bow low to the perfection that is "The Matrix," and I don't hate their other films the way some people do, but they're hardly a pair of cinema wizards who can conjure awesome out of garbage. More likely, they're just going to add their own flaws to an already-troubled feature.

Bad sign #2: your horror movie falls prey to the dreaded "30-Minute Rule," wherein nothing cool happens for the first half hour, just a bunch of setup and character introductions that could be cut to five minutes by someone competent. Bad people or bad things may be hinted at, but if they have a plan, it's one that requires at least 30 minutes of doofing around before they kick it into gear.

Strangely, "The Invasion" tries to have it both ways, putting its sinister plan out in broad daylight even as Nothing. Happens. For an eternity.

After an infected space shuttle crash-lands across America, the government orders people to steer clear, but when citizens start acting all kooky and robot-like, nobody seems to notice. Kidman starts to pick up on the fact something's not right, and we, the audience who already knows exactly what's going on because the movie's made it painfully obvious, are treated to the wonderfully thrilling experience of her blundering around without a clue while we fidget in our seats and try not to scream "Space-fungus is turning everyone into pod people!"

Finally, Kidman puts it all together in a baffling Google-search and flashback montage that suggests her revelation should somehow come as a surprise. And quite possibly it will surprise the half of the audience that's fallen asleep through all the scenes that've been telegraphing what's going on from the very start, along with a few billion other minutes spent with her heart-stoppingly cute son and best friend Daniel Craig.

By the time the infected, emotionless people come after those who're still free, "The Invasion's" long since lost any tension its premise should have delivered.

Is that the Wachowskis' fault? The screenwriter's? Director Oliver Hirschbiegel's? This is his first American film, but his German works are pretty highly rated.

Really, it's the fault of whoever thought the movie-going public would be too stupid to remember the parts they saw 20 minutes ago, requiring all those flashbacks, and that we wouldn't know what the characters are feeling unless they say exactly what their emotional state is, or the voiceovers at the beginning and ending that also explain exactly what's going on, as if our brains are powered by hamster-wheels and are incapable of understanding anything unless it's crammed into every available orifice.

"The Invasion's" never really outright terrible--the lines aren't cheesy enough to laugh at, the acting's fine, and there's even a couple thematic moments that could be unsettling if they weren't so ham-fisted--it just seems to have been made for a different species. I don't know who, since they'd need to lack all concept of suspense or ability to predict what comes next to enjoy anything here, but if space spores ever rain down from the skies and turn all our brains to mush, at least we'll have one movie to keep us entertained.

Grade: D+