Sci-Fi Releases: Invasion Earth (2016) - Reviewed

When you see the cover to a movie, and it has a giant flying saucer hovering over a big city with a menacing laser beam shooting out of its center as throngs of terrified people run from it, you make certain assumptions about the movie.  Call it Invasion Earth, and it really drives home the expectations.  Be prepared for an action-packed, good old-fashioned alien invasion movie with this one, right?  Wrong.

Invasion Earth defies expectations in all the worst ways possible.  It more closely resembles a Hallmark drama than a science fiction film.  While the film opens with two people discovering Earth is about to be invaded, desperately trying to escape an ominous hot pink light (which becomes synonymous with the aliens being close by throughout the film), the next 45 minutes are spent learning about a vast slew of characters entering rehab with a renowned doctor devoted to helping them in a remote location.

Sure, there’s some “action” that happens between the characters in those 45 minutes: a neo-Nazi ruffles some feathers with his racist comments, and we eventually learn that daddy issues are at the root of his prejudices.  We find out the patients’ fearless leader Dr. Carson has a complicated history with a sleazy talk show host, who is determined to exploit the fact that one of the rehab patients is a famous pop star.  The problem is that none of these side stories help the primary narrative in the slightest.  In most films like this, the character development serves a purpose; you learn that each person has a unique set of skills or knowledge to ultimately save the day, for example.  Here, there is none of that.

Pointless subplots aside, the film fails to deliver on every other level as well.  The writing is cringe-worthy at times, some of the actors seem miscast, and the majority of the special effects are shoddy.  The moments where practical effects are used work somewhat well, but there is some CG blood splatter akin to something you’d see in a video game from 20 years ago.  One character’s makeup job to indicate she’s become possessed by aliens looks like it was drawn on her face with a permanent marker.   Not a good look.  This movie isn’t quite bad enough to make these failures funny, either. 

Worse yet?  There’s a sequence of shots at the film’s climax that is repeated several times in tandem of an alien searching for the humans as they hide in terror.  I’m pretty certain it was a big, bold mistake in post-production that no one caught.  Maybe it was repeated to imply that multiple aliens are searching for these same characters and they didn’t have the additional footage to convey that, but if it was intentional, it was a terrible editing choice to make.

Nobody going into a film named Invasion Earth is going to want to see this tedious drama thinly disguised as a science fiction film.  With a title like that, I want exciting action sequences, less extraneous characters, and some good special effects.  I feel duped.  Had less characters been introduced, it stayed focused on the alien invasion, and a good 30 minutes were shaved off of it, maybe they would have had something mildly watchable.

I should have known when I saw a glaring typo on the cover of this film on IMDB that it was going to be a stinker (they use “it’s” instead of “its,” citing a positive review given from a website whose URL is apparently nonexistent now).  Everybody, save two hours of your time and never watch this misleading nonsense.

--Andrea Riley