…of the Body Snatchers, 2007 style. This is a remake, though of course they don’t make a big deal of that. No one ever really expects remakes to be as good as the original, somehow, even though in this case, just the fact that they can actually have special effects should make it better right there. It doesn’t, but it should.
This version and the three before it are all based on a story by Jack Finney (as was The Faculty, and maybe also others I don’t know about), so most people know the gist of the plot: an alien organism ends up on Earth and starts taking over the inhabitants. This was one place where the 1956 movie version (still the best, in my opinion) didn’t quite make sense — at the beginning of the movie, it seemed like people were being physically replaced, as the aliens grew exact replicas of their victims; but at the end, it seemed more that the victims’ existing bodies were simply taken over by the organism. This version smooths that out; the organism basically rewrites the genetic code in its own image, just like a virus, only on a much grander scale.
The 1956 version didn’t pretend to be anything but a B movie — the effects were practically nonexistent, the acting was solid if a little over the top for modern audiences, and the dialogue was nothing remarkable — but it worked, and has become a cult classic, and I’ve seen it many times. So that’s the one I kept mentally comparing this film to while I was watching, and 1956 kept winning, strangely. Nothing against Nicole Kidman, she can act up a storm, and Daniel Craig is no slouch. I didn’t even mind the kid in a relatively major role, which usually makes me cringe. But something just didn’t click.
Kidman is Dr. Carol Bennell, psychiatrist in a large city, I think New York. Originally, the lead was Dr. Miles Bennell, family physician in the small California town of Santa Mira. Miles’ girlfriend, Becky Driscoll, also gets a sex change for the new flick, becoming Ben Driscoll, M.D. (Craig). And strangest of all, the local psychiatrist from the first film, Dr. Dan Kauffman, apparently gets turned into Carol’s ex-husband, Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam, Gosford Park, and that new cable show The Tudors), now a doctor for the CDC, and the lucky first victim of the invading virus, brought to earth by a shuttle crash.
Like the original, much of the story is told in flashback, which I’m guessing is supposed to explain why sometimes it falls out of chronological order for a little while, but that was just faintly annoying as far I was concerned. Carol, ever the observant shrink, is pretty quick to realize something strange is happening. Suspicious, she goes to retrieve her son, OIiver (Jackson Bond), from his father’s house, but that’s when everything starts to go wrong and the projectile vomiting begins. Yeah, it was unpleasant, especially watching them do it into coffee urns.
|Don’t show fear. They can smell fear…|
But that’s how the virus spreads. Once in the bloodstream, through drinking tainted coffee or being vomited on directly — or, cleverly, by getting the CDC-recommended “flu shot” — all it needs is for the victim to enter REM sleep so it can jump in there and rewrite the genetic structure. That seems to me like a lot to accomplish during the relatively short period of REM sleep, but apparently this virus is good. As in the original, though, it’s also pretty stupid in other ways… as long as you don’t show any emotion, even when watching two people jump off a building, the infected people can’t tell who isn’t infected. You’d think they’d have a password or secret handshake or something.
Anyway, after a rather tedious scene about man’s inhumanity to man, blah, blah, it starts to turn into an action movie, with wild car chases and guns, and I think maybe that’s where this version went wrong. Not in having action, exactly, but it was almost always really jarring to see. Maybe that’s because the closest the original gets to an action scene is when Miles stabs one of the alien pods with a pitchfork, but it really shouldn’t be an action movie in any way — it’s all about the psychology of it, about what makes people people… or should be, at least. Maybe the various lectures about how animal the human animal is made everyone take the whole thing too seriously, because something just doesn’t click, as hard as everyone tries.
Two and a half idols here. It’s annoying, because I can’t point to any one thing and say, ‘this was really bad’ — though I also can’t pick out any one thing that was really good, either. Everything’s there to make a good movie, at least if some of the heavier moralizing is taken out, but it never quite turns into a good movie. It lacks the sense you got from the first movie about families being torn apart, loved ones being lost — the human angle, I guess. It becomes too global too fast, and ends up being about trying to save the world instead of trying to save individuals who the audience really gets to care about. You somehow don’t get much chance to care about any one character, so at least you won’t have to worry about not showing any emotion.