The Invasion's troubled path to theaters - in which German director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) apparently submitted an unacceptable cut of the film to the studio, leading to covert additional script-work and shooting by the Wachowski Brothers and V for Vendetta's James McTeigue - have at this point been well documented. Yet while it's easy to pinpoint such issues as the explanation for the mess that is this latest version of Jack Finney's classic sci-fi novel The Body Snatchers, it's much tougher to see how Dave Kajganich's screenplay could have ever been turned into something great, what with its near-total lack of character development and downright embarrassing stabs at injecting its tale with modern political subtext. Hirschbiegel's film is simultaneously cursory and heavy-handed, a lethal combination compounded by a pervasive disjointedness seemingly brought about by endless post-production re-configurations of the material. Labeling it a mess would be to understate the case; a more apt description would be that it's chaotic to the point of being anarchic, a handsomely photographed pulp fiasco that squanders its strong cast as well as any modestly intriguing ideas rumbling around in its head.
In a set-up so quick it's liable to give one whiplash, The Invasion outlines the origins of its alien incursion: a space shuttle explodes upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, and its debris is contaminated by an extraterrestrial organism that enters human hosts' bloodstream and then, when people fall asleep and enter the REM cycle, combines with night sweat to do something or other to their DNA to make them act like stiff, detached robots. Self-serious scientific mumbo jumbo spreads throughout the film like a contagion, corrupting any fun that might be had from the patently supernatural proceedings - or, at least, any intended fun, as there are a few mean-spirited pleasures to be had at watching a project flail about in such patently absurd and incompetent ways. Such as watching Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig (as a psychologist and doctor, respectively) pretend to be infected by showing no emotion, a state that seems no different from their normal comportment. Or trying to figure out why Craig's doctor, who works at a hospital, is close friends with upper-crust foreign diplomats. Or how, with one laughable cut, Kidman goes from fleeing a group of pursuers on a quiet suburban street to running - still at full speed - through downtown D.C.