I feel as though I should start this with a bit of full disclosure. I am a huge fan of the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s one that has ranked extremely high on my personal all-time favorites list ever since I first saw it back when I was a teenager. So I’ve always had a bit of a snobbish attitude towards this remake. It’s one that I’ve always been rather dismissive of in that too easy to adopt “There’s no way the remake could be anywhere near as good as the original” way that, while not inevitable, certainly comes as part of the baggage anytime one approaches a remake of one of one’s favorite movies. As a matter of fact, I’m fairly sure that this was not a first time view of this version. I know I’ve at least watched parts of it before, but this time around I decided I’d try to view it completely separately, and try to judge it on its own merits. Was I successful? Well, I don’t think there’s any way I could completely dismiss my previous experience with the title, but let’s just say I did my best.
So how did this version of Invasion come out? Pretty darned well, actually.
Of course, I’ve long been a fan of both Mr. Nimoy and his lead in this, Donald Sutherland, and with Jeff Goldblum along for the ride, well, I figured at least I wouldn’t be bored. What I didn’t expect was a movie that actually managed to update the themes of the original, while at the same time expanding upon them and bringing in just the right amount of late 70s paranoia, along with using the newer special effects techniques available at the time to give the movie a fresh gloss without it feeling overblown or simply an exercise in “See how much better we can do this now?’.
Actually, I realized fairly quickly, that though I certainly could have continued my attempt to “forget” the ’56 version while watching this, that didn’t necessarily fit with the creator’s intent. As a matter of fact, in many ways, this version could be considered as much a sequel to the original as a remake. First, there is the early-on appearance by the star of the ’56 version, Kevin McCarthy, reprising his role from the earlier take, thus directly connecting the two. Also, since this Invasion is taking place in the much larger city of San Francisco, it’s easy to see it as an expansion upon the other – kind of a “what happens next” as the action – along with the pods – moves from the smaller, more encapsulated town of Santa Mira to the big city. Yet at the same time, those little bits of allusion, along with a few other points, don’t really require one to have seen the earlier version, as this film stands very well on its own as a nicely paced sci-fi thriller.
Overall, I found this a very entertaining watch, and while I don’t see any way that this version will ever take the place of the original in my heart, I can easily see why it has been so solidly embraced, and why, especially for those who are younger or who encounter this one first, it would be their Invasion of choice.
My recommendation? Watch them both. Enjoy them both. And whichever way your own tastes fall after having done so, just remember: Don’t fall asleep. Plus, you might just want to keep an eye on that guy or gal next to you. After all, they may not turn out to be quite what they seem.