Monday, August 19, 2013

The 200th Review: Box Office Purgatory: "The Invasion (2007)"

      Yes, after nearly 2 and a half years and over 400 posts, I have written 200 whole reviews. That's 199 films (X-Men:First Class counts double!) and nearly 350 hours of cinema. And how do I celebrate? By once again introducing a new series that will run for a long time here on Cinema Won (Awfully Direct isn't dead...  mostly). So, now, I proudly introduce Box Office Purgatory! Each week (Give or take) I will look at a notorious box office bomb, many from the list of the 50 biggest bombs of all time (From the "always untrustworthy" Wikipedia). I will give them a review, explain how badly they failed, why I think they failed and if they deserved better. Plus, on the Box Office Purgatory page, I will rank the bombs from best to worst. Now, let's kick things off by not falling asleep!

Invasion of the Money Snatchers

      I had never seen an Invasion of the Body Snatchers film before now, with this the fourth and most recent film, behind the 1956, 1978 and 1993 versions of the story. I always liked the idea of them and I knew the basics of them, so the idea of a modern remake seemed like a good starting point. Yeah, I'd think other people would disagree too. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall- the movie where the Hitler yelling meme came from) and written by David Kajganich (Potentially the upcoming It remake), the film follows Carol (Nicole Kidman), a psychiatrist who begins to notice people acting strangely. With the help of doctor friend Ben (Daniel Craig) and scientist Stephen (Jeffrey Wright), she learns that people are being taken over by an alien parasite when they sleep. Carol struggles to stay awake when she learns her son Oliver (Jackson Bond), who is in the hands of alien-controlled Tucker (Jeremy Northam), could be the key to stopping the alien invasion.

The Failed Invasion

      So just how big a failure was The Invasion? Critically, the film was a failure, gathering a meager 20% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics saying that "lacks insight and thrills" Metacritic isn't much kinder with a 45. The box office reflected that. Working off of how losses are calculated (Worldwide Gross, divided in half for what goes to the theater, minus the budget), the film grossed just over 40 million on an 80 million budget, making a loss of nearly 60 million dollars. Before box office bomb list newcomers The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D., White House Down and Turbo bumped it off the list, it was the 50th biggest bomb of all time. If that doesn't bode well for the movie then I don't know what does!

Dance party!
 Slick and Slide

      I won't deny that The Invasion has quite a few major problems. But I will also say that I enjoyed it more than I was expecting too. Maybe I was in the right mindset for it at the time, but I did have a lot of fun with this film. Granted, I enjoyed it on a very basic level and all the people I watched it with found it to be thuddingly boring. But there were things that did work well. Hirschbiegel's direction was strong and the film looked good and kept at a slick pace. I personally was never really bored and I was always interested in what the film was going to do next. Maybe it's because it was my first time watching the interesting Invasion story, but I was hooked from the beginning. Kidman, an actress I normally don't like, does a pretty good job here. Her and her "son" do have good chemistry and Bond, though his character acts nothing like a kid, does a good job in the role. The rest of the cast is fine, though Craig does seem to be bored. The film also has a pretty good sense of scale. Even though we followed the relatively small adventures of Carol, you do get a sense that this is actually a global invasion and that there are actually some pretty big stakes on the line. Unfortunately, that where all the honest good stuff ends...

Campy Fear

      A lot of The Invasion was fun, but on a mostly campy level. Yes, there are some truly awful scenes. When Kidman and Bond start randomly listing off types of pickles any other viewer would be in the right to shut the movie off. The film also loves it's close-up and it doesn't help that a lot of the makeup and effects in this film aren't particularly good. When the aliens take over in a person's sleep the bodies get encased in an awful looking film. Besides the fact that it does make much sense, it  leads to a narmy scene in which Carol touches one of the infected and he starts wiggling his way on the ground and down the stairs. The film does also suffer from some poor writing, with a few plot holes during the film. And naturally the film also goes for an "interesting" moral question about who's right and who's wrong, but it's introduced so late in the film and introduced so poorly that it just feels tacked on to give the film a little more "adultness".

Blond. James Blond.
The Reason Why

      Have you seen the trailers for this movie? It promises that "You won't feel a thing". Besides that, it's dull and doesn't give a particularly good example of the story. Body Snatchers is also not the most beloved franchise in the worlds and I don't know many people outside of sci-fi fans that know the series. And since sci-fi fans usually don't take kindly to remakes... yeah, it didn't bode well for the film. After the critics ravaged the film, it seemed like the final nail in the coffin for the final. And with no cult following or really any memory of the film, it looks like The Invasion was destined to be forgotten.

A Simple Yes

      Did this film deserve better? Yeah, I'd say so. Look, it's nowhere near a good film. It's got plot holes, bad special effects, some poor acting, a not terribly original story and some laughably bad scenes about pickles. But I did enjoy it on a campy level. The story was effective, Kidman was good and the direction was slick. I wanted to know what happened next and I did catch myself smiling at the campy elements. So, sure, it's didn't really deserve to be a worldwide smash hit, but it didn't deserve to fail as bad as it did. The Invasion gets 4 stars out of 6. 

Thanks for helping me get to 200 reviews and here's hoping for 200 more. New episodes of Box Office Purgatory will be released every Thursday starting this Thursday with Flushed Away!

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