A flaccid futuristic dystopian morality tale about Collectivism vs. Individualism. Another kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If it were not for the phenomenally talented acting of Saorise Ronan, this movie would be terribly boring and tepid. As it is, it is only boring and tepid. How the heck do you say that name? “Seer-sha Ronin.”
Okay, the wonderful Saorise plays Melanie, one of the last people left on earth who have not been taken over by a parasitic alien population that gives you shining blue irises. Evidently, these aliens are called “souls” and they are ethereal but physical glowing tentacle little things that you insert into a human by making a cut in the back of their neck. The alien then embeds itself in the human host and takes over the consciousness. The human soul is still there, but it becomes dormant as the new being takes over.
But these are not the evil malicious soulless beings of the traditional Body Snatchers fame. These are actually nicer than humans. In fact, the narrator at the beginning of the film states that “the earth is at peace, no hunger, no violence, the environment is healed, and everyone is courteous to all. Our world has never been more perfect.” There’s just one problem it isn’t our world anymore. So no matter how nice they are, they are still invaders who are stealing our home. AND they are without emotion and physical passion. In other words, this is the worldview that believes that we can only find harmony by using reason and denying the passions of humanity. Maybe a metaphor for the Enlightenment.
Melanie gets caught and has a “soul” implanted in her. But she is a rascally independent spirited individual, who is not easily suppressed, and she fights in her mind with the being that has taken her over, named the Wanderer, or Wanda. The government or collective or whatever it is, has agents who seek to hunt down all the last remnant of humans in order to finalize their colonization of the planet. So they want to use Melanie to track them down by exploring her memories, not accessible to the Wanderer Wanda. Melanie fights back and is able to touch something in the heart of this “soul” being, and Wanda decides to escape the compound and find the humans to help them. Or something like that.
A small group of humans are hiding out in a secret cave in the desert led by a strong leader, Jeb, (William Hurt), who says, “This isn’t a democracy, it’s a dictatorship. A benign dictatorship.” So the obvious comparison is that human society is the opposite of the aliens, it is individualistic but led by strong leaders and has passion and emotion. It’s messier and more dangerous, but it is our humanity and we cannot deny it. Messy freedom is more desirable than safe control. Which is the same theme as the director’s other films The Truman Show and Simone. This is an important theme to him obviously.
But this is a deliberate parable about the danger of collectivist thinking (like socialism, leftism, communism). At one point, an alien says to a human, “You think the loss of your will is too great a sacrifice, but we have to think of the common good.” To which Melanie responds, “Call it what you want, this is murder!” Murder, that is of the individual soul, the freedom of the individual as it sinks into the collective.
Melanie finds the secret human group and they divide over wanting to kill her or keep her alive. Since she might be a spy or she might betray them. So the whole thing is set up to be a moral dilemma that wrestles with our identity as humans. And this is the problem with the movie: Because so much of the struggle is an interior dialogue between Wanda and her host Melanie, you have long lingering shots of Melanie’s face contorting through the inner debate as we hear it in voiceover. This kind of inner monologue does not work well with movies in such an extensive fashion, because it becomes less dramatic and more mental. HOWEVER, as I said, Saorise is such a talented actor, that she made it tolerable.
Wanda begins to prove herself by helping the group, saving someone who tried to kill her, and falling in love with one of the human guys. So the whole thing is about learning to love and accept the “Other.” From fearing them as hostile to seeing they are just like us capable of the same loves and fears and goodness as well as badness. But the moral problem comes when they realize that to release the aliens from humans, they can’t seem to keep either alive in the process. So how do they free Melanie? Are they any different from Wanda’s colonial race by slaughtering her people? It’s a good moral dilemma that carries interest despite the otherwise lame drama.
The whole thing looked pretty low budget with cheesy TV action. I’ve seen better TV action actually. And there were a lot of goofy holes that made me cringe. Like the humans putting on sunglasses at night to hide their pupils after they have been pulled over – like they’re not going to be told to take them immediately off. And then there’s the fact the Melanie does not want to tell the humans that she is inside with the alien still. You see, they believe that the old person is totally gone and taken over. But they aren’t. Then why the HECK would she not want to tell them that she is inside still? Especially if they might kill her because they believe she is not there anymore!!! Argh. Obviously to keep the plot going or there would be no moral or dramatic tension. And then there is the kissing. Obviously written by a woman because it is through the kiss that the inner Melanie is brought out. When she kisses her old boyfriend, she gets angry for him kissing the body that is in control of by someone else. Oh, it’s all a bit too silly. But kinda cute. Chicks will like it.
The silliest of all is the liberal mindset at the end when we discover that you cannot remove the alien from the human “by force. It can only be captured by kindness and love.” In other words, if they just coax the little things out, they’ll come out and everyone lives! Oh puhleeze. And then when the evil alien Seeker who has been trying to find the humans becomes violent herself, but is captured, rather than killing her, the good alien says, “There has been too much death. Not death, exile.” So they send her to another planet deep in space – WHERE SHE CAN “VIOLENTLY” TAKE OVER ANOTHER SPECIES OF CREATURE. And it is violence, even if you do it nicely and softly. Because the point is that it is violence against the individual. This is the stupidity of liberal thinking about judicial punishment. Liberals think that if we just treat evil and violent offenders with understanding and “put them away,” in exile of jail, we will fix the problem. But the reality is recidivism, repeat offenders who are simply released to commit their violent crimes on someone else. And that is exactly what this movie was unwittingly affirming is to release evil upon someone else other than “us.” THAT is barbaric cruelty. The barbarism of unintended consequences of liberal thought.
The cure in this story unfortunately is worse than the disease. It perpetuates the very violence it seeks to decry by not fighting evil with force.