BitDepth 778 - April 19

Whatever happened to the straight up invasion movie?
Specious invaders
Why Supergirl, what a remarkable dental plan you must have. Laura Vandervoort as Lisa in V. Image courtesy ABC Television.

What happened to that great tradition of the science fiction genre, the invasion story?
I get that it’s a little gauche to expect modern audiences to care about guys in rubber suits running around waving waterguns, sorry, blasters, while spunky civilians and heroic troops return fire, but is it too much to ask for some actual conflict when aliens show up with hostile intentions?
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been busy doing a round up of invasion sci-fi over the last couple of years, and things are looking pretty dire.

The benchmark for invasion movies are the following films,
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the exceptional 1978 remake of the 50’s film), Independence Day (the gung-ho gold standard) and Mars Attacks (an hilarious appraisal of the core silliness of alien invasion flicks).
Bodysnatchers got remade a couple of years ago as
The Invasion, a vehicle for the blonde duo of Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman, both capable actors trapped in a bloodless melodrama characterised by lots of running and staring.

In this remake of the bodysnatchers franchise, the aliens take over at the level of blood cells, which may be relevant to an era of virulent diseases like SARS, but really, the in-vein shots may work for House but don’t substitute for hovering spacecraft.
Battle: Los Angeles, the most recent version of the big-guns-assault-alien-attack flick, skips the cerebral entirely for the noise, thunder and violence of a war movie. It doesn’t waffle about with all that character stuff so disappointingly mishandled by the promising Skyline.
It’s all so far from the disturbing balance of global Americanism, testosterone romance and big explosions that fired up Independence Day, but that kind of lightning rarely strikes twice.
Showrunner for the remake of the 1983’s V, Scott Rosenbaum, must have been hoping that running around with a lightning rod would have been enough, but he’s managed to avoid any significant strikes across two seasons of the update.

The show’s currently running on CNC3, so this will be light on spoilers, but there’s no way I can hide my disappointment with what the show has made of almost 30 years worth of special effects advancements.
In its original incarnation, V was a low-budget, thinly veiled allegory for Nazi occupation with heavy helpings of episodic guerilla action – essentially weekly demolitions of the enemy’s gear.

V-1983 was all big hair, soppy melodrama and unfulfilled storylines. V-2009 offers even less than that, if such a thing can be imagined.
V was as much a story of the seductive quality of evil as it was about a stealth occupation and even stealthier resistance, and while the remake delivers hotness in spades in the persons of Morena Baccarin (Firefly) and Laura Vandervoort (Smallville), its good guys are hapless, weak and surprisingly unattractive characters who don’t seem to know what the Internet is for. 

The special effects are doled out sparingly after the first episodes woo the audience with opulence. It’s almost a full season before we see Anna (Baccarin) shows her true face, or at least her delightful mouthful of fangs.
Hollywood hasn’t entirely forgotten how to make a good invasion film. The no-budget
Monsters improves significantly on Cloverfield’s amateur-cam footage with a gritty but engaging story of two people trying to escape invasion mayhem while spooky aliens kill and destroy all around them.

How did this all get so complicated? Aliens invade. Aliens are invincible. Scientists/civilians/supergeniusboy discovers their weakness. Mankind triumphs.
How did we manage to get mixed up in space viruses and blue energy?
Ease me up and just shoot the space dudes nah.
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