Friday, August 17, 2007

Body Snatchers

I went to see the fourth version of Jack Finney's story today. I didn't think it was too bad. Most people didn't like it that much.

The second version is still my favorite. It was the first one that I saw, so that was the only time I went in without really knowing much of the plot. There are no real surprises after that.

And the second one has Jeff Goldblum worrying about his poetry. Donald Sutherland is worried about a man who was run over by a car, and everyone else is worried about people who don't seem to be themselves, but none of that seems to matter as much as the fact that Jeff Goldblum isn't getting the recognition he deserves. Everything else in the second movie is somehow creepy, even if it's just a janitor cleaning the floor.


If you didn't know, when Jack Finney started writing his story he imagined the scene of a dog getting hit by a car. He wasn't sure where he was going to go with it, and for a time he toyed with the idea of finding out that the dog was actually a robot. Not too far off from where the story went, but not quite it. Dogs play a part in The Invasion too. The dogs are smarter than we are. The dogs know something is wrong, and we're not doing anything about it. The dogs start attacking people who aren't people anymore.

And we still don't get it.

You know, everyone in the movies is dumber than you, except for the dogs. And maybe a cat.

First person who doesn't get it, a scientist from the CDC. Okay, maybe Robin Cook's Invasion isn't required reading in Atlanta, and maybe when you're taken to see the broken pieces of a crashed space-shuttle Jack Finney's Body Snatchers isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But surely someone with his job has at least heard of Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain? Apparently not. Right after being taken to the crash-site to see the spore-like growth on the wreckage and being told that neither the cold of space nor the heat of entering the Earth's atmosphere did anything to slow down the whatever it is, he is handed a piece of the wreckage that has the stuff on it and cuts his finger. His response is to just drop the piece of wreckage and get in a car and leave.


Wash your hands. Cut of your finger. Grab the kid and go back to the quarantined area. Do something!

But no. He goes home, goes to sleep, and wakes up a whole different being.

Second person who doesn't get it is his ex-wife, psychiatrist Dr. Bennell. Veronica Cartwright comes to see her. Poor Veronica just can't get away from the damn aliens, can she? Anyway, this woman has been one of Dr. Bennell's patients for four years. For four years she has been listening to this woman talk about how bad her husband treats her and how depressed she is about the situation and how she's afraid that someday her husband might physically hurt her. So now she's come to tell Dr. Bennell that he's finally snapped and he's killed the dog.

Dr. Bennell adjusts the woman's medications.

Adjusts the woman's medications? Again, even after hearing that "my husband is not my husband" maybe you don't immediately come to the conclusion that Jack Finney's pod people are taking over. But do something! This woman is living with a man who's become violent. Call the police. Call the Marines. Call a locksmith. Call a battered women's shelter. Call a lawyer. Do something!

Can't. It's Halloween. Time to take the kiddo trick-or-treating.

Now we have another dog that is acting strange. But instead of turning off the porch-light or putting up a sign that says "Beware of Dog" or "We've gone to bed, help yourself to candy we've left outside", the dog's owner opens the door and tells the kids that they should look for candy somewhere else. So the dog gets loose and tries to kill one of the kids. It's scary for a bit, but the kid isn't hurt and it doesn't seem to occur to anyone to call the police or anything. But they do find this odd globby thing that wants to attach itself to Dr. Bennell's kid.

Okay, any idiot can see that this is some kind of alien blob, and if you've ever seen a movie you know better than to touch alien blobs. Dr. Bennell puts it in a plastic bag and takes it to her boyfriend and a buddy who work at a hospital. At first, the other doctors tell Bennell that it doesn't look like much of anything and the thing probably came from Walmart. The thing is clearly moving, possibly growing, and has veins.

Not from Walmart.

Apparently, people in the rest of the world are starting to wonder about an alien organism. But the country that's just had a shuttle crash and found alien spores is too busy worrying who gets the contracts for producing the new flu vaccine.

The buddy at the hospital puts it all together and spells it out for everyone. Dr. Bennell gets worried and goes to get her son away from the ex-husband, the CDC guy. Did she have any concerns before this that her son might get a serious illness from spending the weekend with a guy who investigates diseases for a living? After hearing that "the flu" is from outer space does she go to save her son from the zombie-like creatures having a meeting at her ex-husbands house?

No. She's still pretty much doing the mundane I don't like my ex thing. She doesn't grasp that she's in real danger, she doesn't notice that she's outnumbered, and when she doesn't immediately find her son she goes about packing his things.

Yes, what we really need to worry about right now is whether or not the kid has his backpack and some clean underwear.

The ex-husband pushes her to the floor and spits alien goo on her. Then she gets scared. Then we have a lot of chase scenes.

After getting her son back and doing a lot of running and killing the ex-husband, she hides in a drugstore and takes a lot of stuff that is supposed to keep her awake. Then the now alien boyfriend shows up and gives her the speech from The Faculty about the world being at peace after the aliens take over.

But the aliens don't take over. Some people are immune, including Dr. Bennell's son. If they can just get the kiddo to a military base in time, everything will be alright.

I have heard that this started off being a totally different movie, and that parts of it were shot later, after the movie was supposedly finished. Maybe when the DVD comes out we'll get to see the original version or some alternate endings.

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