Release Date: February 19, 2008
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam and Jeffrey Wright
Based on the book The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
Screenplay by: David Kajganich
Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel
The Invasion is the latest film to adapt Jack Finney’s story of aliens insidiously taking over the world and replacing all the humans with emotionless “pods”. The initial idea of making this film was clearly to update the story past Philip Kaufman’s noted 1978 version to address the world today and see the story from a more ironic perspective. To this end, much of the earlier parts of the film are a fairly creepy affair, punctuated by a few moments of grossness that surprised me for a PG-13 film. (If you have an issue with seeing people vomiting on screen, as I do, you may want to consider that before watching this film.) The film takes on a different persona at certain points, with bigger and louder action sequences suddenly being interposed in the film. As a result, the film comes across as a hybrid between an action film and something trying to be more thoughtful, with neither idea truly winning out. There are interesting moments throughout, to be sure. Veronica Cartwright is given a substantial cameo here, as a touchstone with Kaufman’s film. There are also some truly disturbing images and descriptions in the dialogue that are a bit more intense than what one might expect in a PG-13 film. But the film doesn’t bear close scrutiny, and the more complex and disturbing ideas give way to a simple chase with a shockingly simple ending.
The Invasion has already been released on standard definition DVD and Blu-ray. This release is a combo-disc, with the HD-DVD version on one side and the standard definition version on the other. The HD-DVD side has a 1080p VC-1 transfer with Dolby True HD 5.1 sound and the special features in 1080p. The standard definition side has the same 480p transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound as the previously released DVD. For simplicity’s sake, my review will only cover the contents of the HD-DVD portion of the disc.
VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5
The Invasion is presented in a 1080p VC-1 transfer that smoothly shows off a variety of colors, textures and environments. The flesh tones of the cast come across accurately, as do the textures of the mostly dark wardrobe. The detail of the transfer is fine enough to clearly show the affected skin on characters as they are being taken over from within by the pods. (In one scene, a character tries to wash the affected skin from their face and hands, and the transfer makes the condition easy to spot.)
AUDIO QUALITY: 3 ½/5 ½
The Invasion is presented in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix in English, along with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mixes in Spanish, and French. This is actually a more subdued mix than I would have expected from this kind of film, but the subwoofer does get more involved as the scares and action sequences become more overt. One subtle area that works well is the use of the surround channels to create atmosphere. In the early sequences, we can hear the music from various car stereos booming out into a crosswalk as Nicole Kidman walks across the street. As the aliens begin to take over more people, this music is pointedly not present when Kidman repeats the same action later in the film. On the other hand, a later sequence plays with car stereo sound again, contrasting the sound between what we hear on the outside of cars with the windows up and what we hear from the inside looking out.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 1 ½/5 ½
The Invasion contains very little in the way of special features. Essentially, we get three quick featurettes that total just over 9 ½ minutes and tell us very little about what happened during the making of the film, and there is an additional featurette that runs nearly 19 minutes that is apparently supposed to cover the versions of this story over the years but instead discusses multiple scientists’ opinions regarding epidemics, pandemics and our fear of them. The HD-DVD portion of the disc presents these featurettes in 1080p with simple stereo sound.
The Invasion: A New Story – (2:57) - This is a very quick featurette that includes some brief discussion of the new ideas writer David Kajganich and director Oliver Hirschbiegel were thinking about as they made the film back in 2005. There’s very little substance here, and a chunk of the running time is taken up with quick behind the scenes shots or clips from the film.
The Invasion: On the Set - (3:23) – Here is another very quick featurette that shows a little more footage from the set, including a brief behind the scenes look at one of the more disturbing stunts seen in the film. Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig are interviewed about the film, as are various members of the production staff, but it’s all in very quick bites, and nothing of substance is really covered. More specifically, this footage clearly comes only from the initial shooting of the film – with nothing here to discuss the considerable reshoots or the differences between the original version of the film and what was eventually released. On my A2 player, this featurette froze at the 1:10 mark and could not play more than a minute of this material, even after I cleaned the disc. This is likely an anomaly that only applies to the specific disc I reviewed, as I have heard no other mention of this problem. I was able to watch the standard definition version of the featurette on the other side of the disc with no problems.
The Invasion: Snatched - (3:15) - This final quick featurette spends a little time covering the makeup effects involved in the alien takeovers. There’s a little behind the scenes footage of the special effects makeup testing and then using their tricks to fairly disgusting ends on camera.
We’ve Been Snatched Before: Invasion in Media History – (18:53) - The title of this featurette is misleading. Ostensibly, this should be a featurette covering the other versions of the film, and how they differ from the current one. Instead, after some brief mentions of the original Don Siegel version and the 1978 Kaufman version, the remainder of the time is spent intercut between film clips and interviews with modern scientists regarding avian flu and other epidemics and pandemics. There is some discussion about human fears regarding diseases, and a little discussion about how the original fear of communism from the 1950s has morphed into a different kind of fear in the modern world. This is sporadically interesting material, but it has little to do with the title of the featurette or even with the film itself.
Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, and in French for some of the featurettes. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference, along with the usual pop-up menus while the film plays. There are no trailers included either in a menu or when the disc is first started.
IN THE END...
The Invasion is an unfortunate example of what can happen between idea and execution. There are some interesting and disturbing moments in the film, as well as some incredibly disgusting moments, but the film simply doesn’t hold together even on the first viewing. The special features are primarily EPK material and do little to shed any light on what was happening during the making of the film. It is therefore hard to recommend the film, even though the high definition video and sound are well done. Even fans of Nicole Kidman or Daniel Craig may be hard-pressed to find much here to enjoy. The one audience I can recommend this to would be the fans of the original story and the earlier films, simply because they may be interested in the modern twists given to the material. For anyone else, I would recommend a rental before any purchase.
February 20, 2007.