Short Attention Span Review™
Want to see great special effects? Fine, go see Hollow Man. Wanna be entertained? Then stay away. The film does have its moments, but I found myself awaiting for the credits to come up. I was really hoping that this film would be something different, but it’s not. It’s just another Paul Verhoeven film gone bad.
The text below the break is part of a theatrical review originally published on August 7th, 2000.
Here are some updated thoughts: Wait, Battlefield Earth had good SFX?! Who knew?!
Aside from that bizarre part of the review below, the most disappointing aspect of this instantiation of The Invisible Man is they turned him into a slasher and sexual predator. Really? Is that the best you can come up with Hollywood? Sure, humans often revert to their base selves when faced with temptation. But why not do something different? Why not elevate the characterization a bit instead of diving straight for the gutter every time? Not all humans revert to their base selves when tempted, especially those with elevated intellect and rationale as we’re lead to believe a brilliant scientist would possess.
Hollow Man isn’t a movie about exploring human nature and the human condition, it’s a movie about exploiting those things for cheap and lame thrills.
I remember seeing the trailer for Hollow Man a few weeks back. The trailer looked great, but I was still worried about this one. I remember telling myself, “Sure, the film does look like it has great special effects, but does it have a story to sustain them?” All too often, we see big-budget films with huge stars that have great special effect, but with very little story whatsoever. Case in point: Battlefield Earth. I hate to see a story that looks good on the outside, but is empty on the inside. Unfortunately, Hollow Man is just that.
The film stars Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Caine, a scientist who dreams of finding a way to turn a solid body invisible. He does find a way to do this, but now the tough part is finding the way to put this translucent body to solid form once more. Of course, Caine does find a way to do this. He finds a way to turn a translucent gorilla back to normal. But now Caine wants to take this to the next level. He wants to “Play God” (his exact word) and turn himself invisible. So he finds a way to coax his fellow scientists into making his unethical plan come true. This groups of brainiacs include Elizabeth Shue, playing an intellectual that never seems to suit her (e.g. The Saint); and Josh Brolin, being his regular passive self.
Caine becomes invisible. And that’s good. But now, the team isn’t able to bring him back to normal. The whole experiment starts going to Caine’s head. And slowly, he turns against everyone that he knows, even against his ex-lover Shue.
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin
Genre: Science Fiction / Thriller
Media: Film, 112 minutes
Budget: $95 million
Box Office: $190 million, worldwide
Year: Auguest 4, 2000
I do admit that I enjoyed the first part of the film. Although their experiments are so far-fetched they are never fully believable, I found myself liking it as much as I would like a good B movie. The film had nothing special, but it did feel like good summer fun. But the moment Caine turns invisible, the film takes a tumble for the worse. The film turns into just another typical slasher flick with too much blood and too much stupidity (and don’t even get me started on the dialogue, it’s just horrendous! At one point, a Pentagon general is awakened in the middle of the night to learn that Caine has gone insane. After that, his wife comes to see him and asks him what’s wrong. His answer: “Something big enough to wake up a few generals.” Come on!).
That’s a shame, because the film does have some wonderful special effects. This year has been groundbreaking in the special effect field. Those waves in The Perfect Storm were just wonderful. The effects of X-Men were innovative and fun. But I think that Hollow Man tops them all. It’s great to see the invisible Caine’s silhouette appearing inside a pool of water or inside smoke. The film does present us with something we’ve never seen before. We’ve come a long way since the years of the original Invisible Man movies, where the title character walks around with a face covered in gauze. This character that was created for the film REALLY IS invisible, and as the audience, we never doubt it.
If I had been the filmmaker, I would have made a film where the invisible man runs away into the city. It would have been fun to see a city-wide chase for an invisible man. But the film never goes out of the scientific compound. Instead, the film becomes a where-is-he, who-will-he-kill-next type of film. The film could also been better with a main character you can sympathize with. But Caine is such a stuck-up and egocentric character that you dislike him from square one . . . he’s hollow from first to last frame.
In the end Hollow Man does bear its title well. On the exterior, the film looks good, but on the inside, on closer examination, the film is nothing more than a typical experiment-gone-awry film. Hollow Man never breaks the boundaries of the average slasher flick. Special effects aside, the film doesn’t have a fun summer bone in its body. It’s simply a bore.
Want to see great special effects? Fine, go see Hollow Man. Wanna be entertained? Then stay away. The film does have its moments, but I found myself awaiting for the credits to come up. I was really hoping that this film would be something different, but it’s not. It’s just another Paul Verhoeven film gone bad. Oh well. . . Maybe he should go back and do another Robocop, the only remotely good film he’s touched during his Hollywood career and then only because of its satire.
Note: I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant. These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.