From the classic Claude Rains ‘Invisible Man’ in 1933 to Hollow Man, the latest entry in this type of film, morality has always been tied to being seen, to accountability
"Its amazing what you can do when you don’t have to look at yourself in the mirror". This about sums up a classic theme in science fiction films, the invisible man films. From the classic Claude Rains ‘Invisible Man’ in 1933 to Hollow Man, the latest entry in this type of film, morality has always been tied to being seen, to accountability. It appears (no pun intended) that we act in a moral fashion only because of the possibility of being seen or caught. Fundamental to almost all invisible man films is the concept that madness follows the loss of visibility since the person cannot handle the moral dilemma of unrestricted actions. Such is the case of Hollow Man.
Doctor Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) is a genius. He is working for the Department of Defense on a way to make a man invisible and bring him back. After a success with primate studies he lies to the DoD for the sole reason of being in control. Caine is also shown as a bit of a pervert, spying on a beautiful neighbor as she undresses near a window. They show Caine as a manipulative, ego-centric, megalomaniac. Working with Caine is the usual assortment of laboratory personnel. Well, at least usual for a film like Hollow Man. There is Dr. Linda McKay (Elizabeth Shue), Caine’s former girlfriend and second in command at the project. Then there is Matt Kensington (Josh Brolin) Linda’s current lover. Also present is Sara Kennedy (Kim Dickens) the beautiful veterinarian.
I’ve worked in medical research for many years and never saw such a brilliant, attractive lab team. The first thing Caine does when he becomes invisible is to unbutton the blouse of Sara and cops a feel. From this his move to the rape of the beautiful neighbor is only a short leap for him. Of course, murder is then easy for him when his reversal is unsuccessful and his team is about to turn him in. These puerile actions are out of place in a character that would have the discipline to discover how to make a living creature invisible. This part of the story line just doesn’t play out as believable. In the last 35 minutes or so of Hollow Man the story degenerates into the people trapped and being picked off one by one film. This technique in a movie is bad enough when the killings are spread out through a whole movie but when crammed into the end of the film it comes across as a forced ending.
The group of actors assembled for Hollow Man is far more gifted in talent than the scriptwriters. Elizabeth Shue, Oscar nominee for Leaving Las Vegas, is the bright, shining spot in all of this. Beautiful, talented and focused on her role, Shue shows that a true professional can breathe life into any script and make her part work. She is completely believable in her role as the scientist second in command to Caine. Unfortunately, the other actors, although very good, have far too little to work with. Their characters are rather two-dimensional. It would have added a lot to the dramatic tension if we got to know a little bit more about the characters. There was also a scene in the deleted section that I have to wonder why it was cut. It was after Kim Dickens’ character Sarah is fondled by Caine. She speaks to Linda and Matt about it expressing doubts that it could have been a dream but still it left her uneasy. This would have added to the growing concern the lab team had about the mental state of Caine.
Director Paul Verhoeven is excellent when it comes to off beat films. Although they sometimes just miss the mark they are always interesting. After all, he did direct Basic Instincts, Robo Cop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers and the much-lamented Showgirls. In Hollow Man he falls back on a ploy he over uses, gratuitous nudity. Like the locker room scene in Robo Cop or the shower scene in Troopers, the nudity in Hollow Man sets up the premise that Caine is reduced to a man without the normal checks on his morality but again the scenes seem forced. What Verhoeven has done is hire the very best in special effects. I took out my old Gray’s Anatomy and the scenes showing the bodies disappearing or reappearing are good enough to train medical personnel.
Unfortunately the science in the rest of Hollow Man is beyond sloppy; it was awful. For example making nitro glycerin from Sulfuric acid, it should have been nitric acid. Little mistakes like this detracted a lot for me personally. The audio was nothing less than spectacular. You hear the animals all around you in the lab. You can hear Caine moving around the room. There is amazing attention to detail in the sound mix. The extras were also worth while. There were deleted scenes as well as several making of features that detail how the incredible special effects were done.
Hollow Man is another film I place in the beer and pizza category. Have some friends over, open a couple of beers and order a pizza. Not a serious movie but it works well enough for a good evening’s entertainment. Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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