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In this remake of the classic 50s SF tale, a boy tries to stop an invasion of his town by aliens who take over the the minds of his parents, his least-liked schoolteacher and other townspeople. With the aid of the school nurse the boy enlists the aid of the U.S. Marines. Written by
Keith Loh <email@example.com>
Hooper and his writers seem to want to both parody the 1950s classic and, at the same time, to be a straight remake of it. Trouble is that this simply isn't possible. It looks great throughout, with superb, shadowy photography and generally good production design (though the Martian drones look more silly than anything else). Some of the actors, particularly Karen Black and Louise Fletcher, are very good; some, unfortunately including lead Hunter Carson, are not very good.
But the main failing is that the tone is so inconsistent. Some scenes are played for horror, and work; some are played as if the intent was comic, and they don't work. If the intent was to actually scare us, after being taken over by the Martians, the parents should have acted creepy -- but instead, they act silly, which is hardly the same thing. It's not the fault of Bottoms and Newman -- they could have played the roles however the director and script suggested -- but rather a failure to go for broke. In the original film, after returning from the sand pit, the father brutally slaps his son. Here, the big weird touch is that he fills his coffee cup with sweetener. Doesn't quite have the same impact.
And what's with the frogs? Kids LIKE frogs; they don't regard them as creepy. There should never have been a scene without the boy in it, but there are several. There should have been some touches of surrealism to fit the all-a-dream scenario. Dream logic isn't like waking logic, but it's stringent nonetheless; this film ignores logic. In the original, the Martians take over the parents, the neighbor kid, the cops and the military -- exactly the targets a boy would expect. Adding a teacher wasn't a bad idea, but the other targets here, including a busload of kids, don't make any sense. Why would the Martians want to control a bunch of children?
The effects are good but not as well-conceived as they might have been. The sand funnel that captures people is fancier in this remake, but much eerier in the original. And Christopher Young's score is a disaster.
The opportunity was here to make a technologically-improved version of a much-loved classic original, but for the most part, the film doesn't live up to its potential.
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