Thomas Dunn always believed that he was special, that he would be the one who could make a difference, who could help those in need. Brought up watching the science fiction action adventures of Kaleidoscope Man, half man, half robot, and imagining himself part of the action, life didn’t quite turn out the way he hoped but he never lost the dream.
A doctor working at the Livermore Care Centre, helping patients deal with the everyday challenges of their lives, it is a smaller ambition than defending the Earth but it is more real and equally important, for Tom and his problem trio of Floyd, Harriet and Samantha, respectively suffering from schizophrenia, narcissistic personality disorder and manic depressive illness, as well as the urge to paint angels.
Tom’s wife Mandy a teacher, she tells her pupils the story of Noah’s Ark, of redemption and hope, and her best friend that she is pregnant, but Tom is hearing another story, that the centre is to be closed down, a disaster on any other day but trivial when he has an apocalyptic vision, a premonition of an alien attack which will devastate cities and destroy whole populations.
Directed by Simon Cox and co-written by Cox and Simon Bovey, Invasion Planet Earth is a low-budget science fiction action film funded partially through a number of crowdfunding campaigns via Kickstarter and Indiegogo over the extended production period which from original conception to eventual release has lasted years.
The ambition of Cox and the time he has invested in the project is undeniable, so it is thus doubly disappointing that Invasion Planet Earth is nothing less than terrible in every conceivable way, a towering folly which is actually embarrassing to behold, the production values of a mockbuster presented without a hint of leavening irony.
The opening scene of Kaleidoscope Man – the original title of the film – anachronistically created with digital effects even though it was ostensibly broadcast in the eighties, as indicated by the vinyl albums of Wham! and Duran Duran, that quality is reflected in the rest of the film, graphics more suited to a decades old videogame or an early episode of Lexx.
Had the effects been limited to an occasional punctuation of a dramatic scene such as with the largely peripheral additions to Monsters, not only would it have been a more judicious use of the limited budget but the shortcomings might have been more easily overlooked, but with the second half of Invasion Planet Earth almost entirely shot on digital sets strafed by equally insubstantial attacking ships it is somewhat unavoidable.
Led by Simon Haycock, the cast do their best with soap opera dialogue as the aliens test their abductees in traumatic scenarios and Cox attempts scenes from …28 Days Later and Independence Day, but while Tom and Mandy may have God on their side – the film actually pauses in the final act for a priest to deliver a sermon – Invasion Planet Earth is as relevant to the state of science fiction cinema in the year 2019 as Songs of Praise.
Invasion Planet Earth is on limited release from Thursday 5th December