After watching The Invasion, I sincerely hope that Nicole Kidman becomes the next test case for the new Jim Carrey-style Hollywood deal, where talent receives no money up front and must live or die by the quality of the film they make. An actor with her star power, while not in a position to challenge the Warner Bros. decision to replace director Oliver Hirschbiegel and remake large portions of this film after what they deemed to be an unacceptable first cut, could certainly have taken some kind of stand for basement-level quality control that doesn't exist here at all. The Invasion is a borderline-unreleasable mess, with unfinished scenes, absurdly rushed exposition, and a plethora of random bad decisions that could only be the product of a hugely stressed production. Whose idea was it, for example, to embarrass Kidman with a Carmen Electra-sized Wonderbra that she totes around for most of the picture? Also, this has to be the first time I've ever seen an adrenaline-syringe-in-the-heart scene filmed with the casualness of a blocking rehearsal.
The set-up: A returning space shuttle explodes upon re-entry and the pieces are scattered over Nowhere, America, leading to a montage of the great unwashed reporting the crash to the news media. I'm not sure if the body snatchers crashed the shuttle on purpose or if they were just hitching a ride and something went wrong, but either way their mission is accomplished -- they are now extant on Earth and can get down to their business, which is infecting all of us through liquid contact and turning us into Democrats. You see, we're told repeatedly that body snatchers are peaceful and that once they rule the roost, there will be no more war and violence. As they begin to turn more and more people, we start to see 'positive' news on television screens -- President Bush warmly meeting with Hugo Chavez, for example, with Bush having presumably been turned. By the last act, the recurring visual of a smartly-dressed Kidman being chased through D.C. parking garages by the aggressive peaceniks plays like a reel of Ann Coulter's nightmares.
Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright are also trapped in this thing -- Craig is Kidman's quasi love-interest and Wright is just some scientist -- and one of the few times all three actors appear on screen together is for a shopworn 'scientist-detective' scene. Do you know this cliche? It's the one where the main characters stop running long enough to hastily assemble -- one of them has a microscope and a 'sample' of some kind -- and the three of them put their heads together to interpret the scientific data. They correctly put the pieces of the puzzle together in about three minutes. It's the most cheap, rote kind of exposition imaginable, and the kind of thing you'd expect to see in Decoys 2, not a big-budget science-fiction blockbuster. I have no doubt that the scene was dreamed up by the studio executives in charge of the film's re-make/re-shoot/re-cut. You can almost hear them saying 'If we only had a quick scene here where A explained X to B and C, that would solve Problem G!'
Still, this scene doesn't compare in badness to the afore-mentioned adrenaline-syringe scene that comes late in the picture. On the run from the snatchers -- wouldn't that have been a better title, by the way? -- Kidman and her son have barricaded themselves in some kind of grocery store and Kidman is trying to resist falling asleep. You see, one of the snatchers has recently vomited in her face, which means she's already infected with the body snatcher gene, and her transformation will occur as soon as she goes into REM sleep. Of course, the whole point of this 'rule' is to set up a scene where she will be put into peril by falling asleep, but before she finally does so, for reasons that make no sense whatsoever, she gives her son an adrenaline syringe to jab her with, as if she's going to be overdosing on sweet lady H. Aside from not making sense on an intellectual level, this scene is shot and acted so poorly that it elicited belly laughs from the crowd I saw the film with.
The adrenaline-syringe scene is also used as a framing device -- the film opens with it and then returns to it in the third act, and as you might expect by now, even the framing shot contains its own special weirdness. Two times, we're forced to watch as Kidman, having just arrived at the store, stops the movie in its tracks so that she can avail herself of a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. The bottle is carefully positioned so that when she grabs it, the label is completely visible to the camera, and then, in a long, unbroken take, she drinks from it like she's just walked through the Sahara. Are you kidding me? Did Mountain Dew pick up the entire bill for the re-shoots? It's the most embarrassing product placement I've ever seen, period. What else can I say? I've always been vocal about the fact that Kidman is my favorite actress -- check out my three-part retrospective of her early work here -- but after watching The Invasion, I'd appreciate it if you'd keep that information just between us.