First published in 1955, Jack Finney's novella The Body Snatchers enjoyed a five-decade run in which it seemed incapable of inspiring anything less than haunting films. Don Siegel's 1956 attempt, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, echoed anti-Communist paranoia but muddied the message by making the bad guys take the form of bland '50s suburbanites. In 1978, Philip Kaufman used it as an excuse to look at Me-Decade myopia. Abel Ferrara's little-seen 1993 version (called simply Body Snatchers) channeled the unquestioning nationalism stirred by Desert Storm. Even Robert Rodriguez's unofficial high school remake The Faculty wasn't bad, and each film had something cutting to say about the times that inspired it. The new The Invasion at least acknowledges this tradition of timeliness, filling its backdrops with footage from 24-hour news channels and letting grim reports crackle over radio speakers. Unfortunately, that's little more than set dressing for an unchallenging film.
Originally scheduled for a 2006 release then yanked for additional shooting (reportedly at the hands of the Wachowski brothers and longtime associate James McTeigue), the Oliver Hirschbiegel-directed The Invasion yanks Finney's story into the modern age without really updating it. This time the virus arrives via a crashing space shuttle and quickly spreads across the world, transmitted via alien vomit and a good night's sleep (kind of like an identity-sucking strand of hepatitis). As a not-easily outwitted psychiatrist, Nicole Kidman decides to take drastic measures to protect herself and her towheaded son Jackson Bond, even if it requires consuming mass quantities of prescription drugs and Pepsi products. (The high-profile product placement practically suggests that Coke is in league with the aliens.)
Though Hirschbiegel, or whoever, never teases it out, Dave Kajganich's script has within it the makings of the grimmest Invasion yet, suggesting that, hey, maybe the body snatchers have the right idea. After all, humanity's not doing the greatest job running the planet. A better film might have pushed this conceit into Strangelove-ian territory. Instead, The Invasion just tries to ratchet up the action, and the less-than-thrilling results don't bear out the wisdom of that decision. Opting for car chases instead of the thought-provoking ideas of its predecessors, the film looks like the work of, if not pod people, folks who gave up any kind of passion for the material long before the cameras started to roll.