Simply because we had to, Tara and I went to see the film INVASION on Friday night. It is the fourth cinematic incarnation of what is essentially the same story.
The incarnations began in 1956 with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, the best of the series because of its originality and the marvelously understated performances of Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, and a pre-Addams Family Carolyn Jones.
In 1978, Philip Kaufman (director of THE RIGHT STUFF, among other fine films) remade INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. This time around, the strong cast included Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, and Pittsburgh’s own Jeff Goldblum. It too was a good film, one that followed the original story but added enough to it to make the remake worth the time and money.
In 1993, the folks in Hollywood felt that another remake was in order. The result was a cinematic hodge-podge called BODY SNATCHERS, featuring Gabrielle Anwar, Forest Whitaker, Meg Tilly, and R. Lee Ermey (!!), all looking as though they were bored out of their skulls. I would encourage you to stay away from this one.
Which brings me to the film that we saw the other night–INVASION. It would be hard for me to recommend the film. It did nothing to justify its existence as a remake, although Nicole Kidman’s performance was certainly worth watching. Her angst-ridden performance, in fact, was easily the best part of the film.
All of the versions focus on essentially the same story: An alien life form invades earth. What makes the story quite unique, however, is that this alien life form does not invade in spaceships or flying saucers. Rather, it invades as a microorganism or, as was the case in INVASION, a virus. Here’s where INVASION’s storyline differs a bit from the original. In the original, the microorganism produced spores that replicated human beings as they slept. The old body would be destroyed and the new creature would have the mind and intelligence of the alien being. In INVASION, the virus simply takes over the mind of the already existing person (so that it’s more like INVASION OF THE MIND SNATCHERS than INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS).
At any rate, the end result is the same in all the films: zombie-like and soulless creatures who disdain all emotion, who champion the eradication of human passion, and who reject any form of individuality as a stumbling block in the way of a cold and analytical uniformity.
These films, then, represent science fiction with a message. The particular nature of the message, of course, could be debated. Back in 1956, however, I wonder how much of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was a cultural commentary on people’s minds and souls being “snatched” either by the identity-consuming political ethos of Communism, on the one hand, or the heart-hardening paranoia of McCarthyism on the other. Having not lived through that time period, I will leave that for other minds to decide.
Personally, I have always been drawn to the spiritual implications of the BODY SNATCHER films more than I have to their political undertones. In fact, as I reflect upon their content, the films provide for me a new vocabulary with which to speak of a condition that I find myself occupying all too frequently—a condition of being “snatched” by things that have no business whatsoever holding dominion over my soul.
I believe wholeheartedly, for example, that the joy of the Lord is my strength. Why, then, am I so prone to allowing my areas of discouragement in ministry to snatch that spirit of joy?
I believe with every fiber of my being that it is my responsibility to allow God to make me a conduit for the transformational love of Jesus Christ. Why, then, am I so vulnerable to that love being snatched by my frustrations with church folk who relentlessly miss the point of the Kingdom?
I believe in the depth of my soul that the ministry of God’s Kingdom deserves my passionate investment. Why, then, am I so willing to surrender my holier passions to the energy-snatching powers of resentment and discouragement?
I wish that I could blame an alien life form for this kind of snatching! But it isn’t that simple, is it? When I describe the circumstances above, I realize that I have moved out of the realm of science fiction and into the realm of the principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness. I am speaking, in other words, about spiritual warfare (yikes! I said it!). No scientist will put an end to this kind of spiritual snatching. Rather, the spiritual armor of God is our only defense.
Interestingly, on those days when I find myself “snatched,” I start acting like the snatched people in the films—passionless, joyless, dull, and disconnected. Perhaps that is why I have enjoyed the initial INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS so much over the years. Perhaps I have always known that the film stands as an effective metaphor for the kind of spiritual thievery to which all of us are so thoroughly vulnerable.
I’ve mentioned this quote before in one of my posts, but I’d like to mention it again. Halford Luccock, the great biblical scholar, once said that the most dangerous “ism” facing the contemporary church is not racism, sexism, or even Communism. Rather, according to Luccock, the most dangerous “ism” facing the contemporary church is somnambulism—sleepwalking! People sleepwalking from worship service to worship service, meeting to meeting, workday to workday, with no real vision, no real passion, no sense of freshness and vitality in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
INVASION reminded me of how urgent it is to guard against that kind of spiritual sleepwalking. If I am not intentional about putting on the whole armor of God, I may just find that my soul has been snatched by something unholy. And the aliens will not be to blame.