Hollow Man (2000)

9 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: *1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Hollow Man” is a science-fiction film that is truly a missed opportunity, considering that a film about a man becoming invisible can be very interesting. Invisibility is a common fantasy for some people and “Hollow Man” would like to be the new adaptation of “The Invisible Man.” But instead, it starts out promisingly, but only gets worse as it continues, and ultimately results in an unnecessary and very silly action climax that shows that the screenwriters have given up trying to tell a compelling story and just decided to go for the throat. This is one of those scientific-experiment-gone-wrong movies, which can either be very effective or very campy. “Hollow Man” doesn’t fall into either of those categories.

It’s a shame too, because the film has some really great special effects. But effects don’t make a movie—if they did, there’d be more appreciation for the “Star Wars” prequels (but I digress). While the effects are eye-popping, they can’t excuse the film for its flaws.

“Hollow Man” starts out in an interesting way. There’s a startling shot in which an invisible predator eats a rat (since we can’t see the creature actually eat the rat, you can imagine a disgusting sight). And we learn of a top-secret experiment run by a six-member scientist team. Most notable is the egotistical, intelligent Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon), who plans to be the first human subject to be turned invisible. But it can be tricky, because if it doesn’t work, he could die. (This has only been tested on gorillas so far. By the way, don’t ask me how this invisibility formula works—there’s a great deal of technobabble that I didn’t get.) Luckily, the formula does work. After much eagerness, Sebastian is invisible.

This is a scientific breakthrough that can change the history of the world as we know it! Or at least, that’s what someone was supposed to say in a movie like this.

Sebastian takes a great deal of pride in his being invisible, and is constantly stalling on being changed back to his visible form. He’s having way too much fun and letting everything go to his head. What you can know for sure is that he is not going to give this up, and he has also become a sex fiend that his prey can’t see. The other scientists—including personality-deprived heroes Linda (Elisabeth Shue, who very rarely turns in a bad performance) and Matthew (Josh Brolin, equally wooden)—realize that Sebastian has transformed into a transparent monster and try to figure a way to change him back without him knowing, but Sebastian is one step ahead of them…

So you know the drill—big climax, transformation into a different movie (a practical slasher movie only the killer is unseen), heroes try to escape from an elevator shaft, and they improbably save the day. This final act of “Hollow Man” loses the film its dignity. When it isn’t boring, it’s laughable.

Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian is the only interesting character in “Hollow Man,” but only in the first hour. When he goes psycho and starts to kill off people, he becomes as ruthless as Jason and just as dull. The movie loses track of his plight and just gives him scenes of mindless violence to take over. Bacon does what he can with the role (that is, when he’s Sebastian’s disembodied voice after his character is invisible), but it’s just not enough.

I want to say more about the effects in “Hollow Man.” They’re incredible. When a gorilla is tested for the formula early in the movie, you actually see the layout of its skeleton, nerves, organs, muscles, and skin as it transforms. It’s not a simple task—most movies about invisibility just make the character disappear like that; but not here. We see what looks like a legitimate painful process and it’s repeated once Sebastian has undergone the procedure. These effects are outstanding, but it’s just not worth waiting for them to show up on screen.

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