Hollow Man

Don’t get sleepy!

I used to consider H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man to be more fantasy than science fiction, especially since Wells’ villain attained his state via injection. Now I read that biomedical engineers at the University of Texas have succeeded in making flesh temporarily transparent with injections of glycerol. Shows what I know.

Kevin Bacon is separated six degrees from his skin in this latest retread of the old Invisible Man story, this time directed by Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers) and rendered in various shades of visibility by the best f/x money can buy.

Bacon plays a wicked young genius, hard at work on completing a top secret project for the pentagon, while not-so-secretly pining for his associate and ex-girlfriend Elisabeth Shue (LinkBack to the Future 2 & 3). Shue is secretly having an affair with Bacon’s best friend Josh Brolin (Mimic, The Goonies), also a member of their team. So much for the soapy jealousy set-up.

The invisibility formula is now explained as a “phase-shifter” which shifts the subject’s biochemistry slightly out of sync with the universe. It also makes the subject go nuts after a while. The team has just made a breakthrough – they can now make the animals they made invisible visible again. But that’s not enough for Kev, who decides to try the experiment on himself without authorization. Things go okay until they try to bring him back – and fail. Like Claude Rains, Vincent Price, Jon Hall, etc. before him, Bacon turns into a psychopathic paranoiac and goes on a rampage.

Yep, same old story, retold for the modern masses with a screenplay by Andrew W. Marlowe that recycles the same tricks he used so well in End of Days and Air Force One. The Verhoeven touch is evident in the sex and blood categories, as well as the sharp look of the production. A welcome touch is Shue’s heroics (ala Sigourney Weaver) in the last reel, but they ring a little false. Verhoeven would’ve done better by adding a little focus, making either Shue or Bacon more of a main character we can share a viewpoint with throughout the film. As it is – well, I won’t use a cheap shot for once and call the story ‘hollow’, but a little more involvement would’ve been welcome.

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