When Tom Dunn (Simon Haycock) was a young boy, his days were filled with daydreaming about the adventures he was having in his head, inspired by his favourite science fiction television programme, Kaleidoscope Man. He was a cyborg who travelled around outer space, righting wrongs, exactly what an imaginative boy like Tom would like to grow up to be, but real life does not always go to plan, and somewhere along the way he ditched his big dreams and became a psychiatrist instead, married to Mandy (Lucy Drive) and trying for another baby since they lost their first child in infancy. Life can grind you down, but what if current events were about to drop a literal bombshell? It all starts when the citizens of the globe experience a simultaneous vision of an absolute firestorm...
Do these current events involve the outer space adventures he yearned for as a child in some crazy kind of parallel? If that does not tell you something about the motivation for the writer and director of Invasion Planet Earth then nothing will: this was a real labour of love which took the best part of a decade to complete, and was inspired by the kind of science fiction he used to enjoy when he was growing up. Basically, all that seventies stuff, Star Wars obviously, but more blatantly Battlestar Galactica and the earlier, apocalyptic efforts laying waste to Planet Earth and spelling doom for humanity that littered the cinema screens and television screens alike in that decade, informing the trends of the coming decades in ways we can still see major evidence of now, from the blockbusters to the tiny budgeted works like this.
For that reason, this film came across as more than the realisation of a childhood dream, it was also as if Cox had channelled his inner seven-year-old to write the script and come up with the storyline and setpieces. Mind you, if he had been like most little boys, the eventual reveal about what was going on would have featured a lot more violent death to go along with that mass destruction, yet maybe that was a signal of his maturity in middle age, no matter that the first four fifths were pure escapist fantasy for a big kid whose play with Star Wars action figures and Six Million Dollar Man dolls were guiding his imagination in later life. As Orson Welles pointed out, a film can be the best train set a boy could ever have, and Cox was simply carrying on in that tradition of turning games into his actual job.
With a cast more televisual than more obviously suited for the silver screen, Invasion Planet Earth did have straight to DVD written all over it, but all power to the filmmaker, he did manage to secure a cinema release for his brainchild, which made this at least as nice a fairy story for the movies as the actual picture was in the fictional realm. No matter that it barely made a dent in the movie charts, it was an achievement that other comparable efforts which rely on the odd dedicated festival showing to generate publicity were not able to pull off. If it had something of the home movie writ large about it, especially in its visual effects that veered from the really not bad at all to the comedy YouTube video level, then its heart was in the right place, and if you stumbled upon it on a late night scouring of the streaming services it would certainly be up to the job of diverting you for a while. With lapses indicative of one-man vision, low rent efforts (weird concepts of mental illness, excessive sentimentality aiming for resonance), it was no classic, but it was likeably shonky. Music by Benjamin Symons.