I have now watched all the “Invasion of the Body Snatcher” movies, including the 2007 release “Invasion” with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. (The best thing about this one to me was you get to watch Kidman and Craig, never a bad thing.) Despite my abiding fondness for the 1956 original, set in the small (non-existent) town of Santa Mira, and what most people consider the definitive remake, the 1978 version set in San Francisco starring Donald Sutherland, I agree with my movie-watching companion Jack that the story ultimately isn’t believable.
Oh, and here are Jack and I practicing being pod people, offering a pure, emotionless existence to Jack’s wife Nancy and their little dog Cosette. Neither Nancy or the dog accepted our offer.
Unlike the “The Thing,” where people on an arctic (or Antarctic) base are taken over by an alien plant from outer space (a space carrot is the most common description), “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” plays out on too broad a stage to generate the same kind of intimate paranoia. The Thing also has a satisfying, and believable to me, ending — whether it’s the original “The Thing” where the creature is killed, and humanity saved, or in Carpenter’s excellent version where everyone dies, and humanity is saved. Because of the narrow scope, I found both solutions convincing.
While most of the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” opt for a ‘we are all doomed ending’ (except for “Invasion” where a vaccine is developed against the pods), the original has two endings. In one, Dr. Bennell screams his terror along the highway as trucks carrying pods for other locations drive by. The standard bleak ending for this film. In the second ending, he is rescued, examined by a psychiatrist who has doubts about this crazy story, but a truck carrying pods overturns, and Dr. Bennell’s story is proven.
I think the second, optimistic ending is the most realistic, and here’s why. Nothing goes perfectly. Accidents happen, and the bigger the project, the more that can go wrong. I simply can’t make the leap of faith that this alien invasion will proceed flawlessly, or successfully. War of the Worlds, people! And for the alien pods, what a nightmare planet they’re trying to invade. We’ve been destroying plants for thousands of years, and have become extremely good at it. If I were the pods, I’d launch back onto that solar wind and try again.
Finally, my roommate grew up in Mill Valley, CA, the original setting for Jack Finney’s book, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I’ve been observing him carefully for the past few days, and while he does occasionally exhibit pod-like emotionless behavior, it also happens most commonly around 6:30 am when he gets up. Honestly, I can’t fault him for that, and have come to the conclusion he is not a form of plant life. Yet.
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