A pale imitation of its former cinematic incarnations.

Sci-fi thriller The Invasion is a pale imitation of its former cinematic incarnations – which is ironic given that it’s about pod people taking over humanity.

In this fourth adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers, our heroine is Nicole Kidman’s psychiatrist Carol Bennell, who begins to suspect that something’s not quite right with the world.

Her estranged ex husband, played by Jeremy Northam, is acting stranger than ever. One of her patients claims that her hubby is no longer himself. And on the streets, people suddenly seem devoid of emotion.

This creepy premise is the result of an alien organism that’s come to Earth aboard a doomed space shuttle. It infects its hosts and, when they sleep, takes them over completely.

The first two film versions of this story, made in 1956 and 1978, and both called The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, are rightly considered classics. And in its first half The Invasion shapes up pretty well. It builds a real sense of menace and Kidman and Craig make sympathetic leads.

Previous versions were allegories for the Red Scare and the Me Generation, and this update does come with an intriguing idea. What if an alien collective mind brought peace to places like Iraq and Darfur? This angle is talked about, not really explored in any depth. Instead, about half-way through, the 'pod movie" takes over"¦

The studio decided that acclaimed German director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s version didn’t have enough action. So a lot of new scenes were written by The Wachowski Brothers, who made The Matrix, and then shot by Australian director James McTiegue, who made V for Vendetta. There are clumsy jumps as the mystery of the alien mechanism is suddenly explained.

There’s nonsense computer graphics of infection, some cheap editing tricks and an over-reliance on news broadcasts to paper over plot holes. Even more jarring is a high-speed car chase that belongs to a different movie.

The older versions are famous for their shock endings, but sadly this one fizzles out with a finale designed by committee.

As a film that feels like the hollowed out version of a better movie, this rates two and half stars.