A Body Snatchers movie without pod people?

The New York Times had an item on the various versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers last week, before the newest one, The Invasion, had been screened for the press. Near the end of the article, Oliver Hirschbiegel, the original director of the newest film, “offered a few details” about the film. Among them:

There is also more exposition. And in a modification that for some will verge on sacrilege, there are no pods. “It would be too campy,” he said. “Audiences are too cynical.”

The plot is set in motion by a space shuttle crash. It releases microorganisms that, he said, “can remodel our genetic structure. So it has to do with these tiny spores. We did the research, and we know it’s possible.”

Pods would be “too campy”? Funny, the pods in the previous three films didn’t seem campy when I watched them earlier this week (though in the case of the original 1956 film, you do have to make a few allowances — not that many, but a few — for the special effects of that time; fortunately, the actors do sell those scenes).

One of the reasons the pods work so well in the earlier films is because they are so creepy and mysterious. We don’t know entirely how it is that they do what they do; all we see is the results. But the new film, with its “research” and “exposition”, tries to make everything explicable — and as a result, it devotes too much of its dialogue to pseudo-scientific gobbledygook.

In my own review, I called it “overly technical dialogue”, while other critics have called it “incomprehensible, 30-second bursts” of speech (Chris Knight) and “dialogue that can hardly be spoken” (Roger Ebert). Meanwhile, Rick Groen sympathizes with . . .

. . . poor Jeffrey Wright, whose sole function is to serve as Exposition Man, there to advance the lumbering plot by babbling scientific jargon at a breakneck pace. Be sure to catch him during the tacked-on and absurdly bright ending, when his words defy belief but his speedy delivery shatters the sound barrier. Jeffrey seems in an awful rush to get out of the picture, and who can blame him.

So would the pods really have been all that much worse? I mean, it sounds like moviegoers still found much to be “cynical” about.

And that’s before we get into the various ways that eliminating the pods from the story undermines the tension and suspense. For starters, it was very clear in the earlier films that there was simply No Going Back if a person fell to the pods: The original person died, and the pod took his or her place. But in the new film, people merely undergo a biochemical change, and once the film raises the possibility of a cure… Well, that changes things considerably.

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  • I spoke with some some SFU students, all 5 under the age of 22, and they seemed more interested in renting/downloading Abel Ferrara’s version, Body Snatchers, than going to see this new version. All of them had seen the 1978 version and loved it and a couple had seen the original and loved that as well.
    These aren’t cinefiles we are talking about, they are part of that group that marketers are keen to peg as cynical, hip with short attention spans and too lazy to bother with originality. The truth is that it is the industry that is lazy.