Having discovered they could turn animals invisible, a group of scientists test the subject on a human. Head of research, Dr. Sebastian Caine decides to use himself as the subject. After the experiment can't be reversed, it takes a toll on Caine's personality, causing him to hunt down and kill his colleagues
Hollow Man takes an abundance of fantastic special effects and narrative possibilities and reduces it all to an expensive but cheesy horror movie.
Ever since the original Halloween was released in 1978, there have been countless imitation films that desperately, although primarily unsuccessfully, attempt to feed off of the success of that film by copying its premise of a faceless and unstoppable killer. In the late 90s, there have been a resurgence of these films, such as the Scream movies, which started off good and then went sharply downhill with each additional sequel, Urban Legend, and I Know What You Did Last Summer (as well as, God willing, it's only sequel, I Still Know What You Did Two Summers Ago). Hollow Man is a film that takes a fantastic premise and reduces it to yet another of these cheap imitation slasher films.
Sure, the whole invisible man thing has been done before. Done to death, if you include literary examples. But let's face it, the possibility of human invisibility is one of the most fascinating premises that you can possibly tell a story about. The unfortunate thing about Hollow Man was that no one involved with the making of the movie seemed to realize that. What you have here is the development of an invisibility serum (as well as a reversing visibility serum) by a brilliant scientist, who successfully uses it on a gorilla in some of the best special effects scenes to date, and then uses it on himself. Well, of course he uses it on himself, what scientist could possibly resist? And why would any scientist WANT to resist? Well, the reason may be that, evidently, invisibility serum turns even the most intelligent scientists into raving madmen.
The absolutely infinite amount of possibilities for an invisible character are completely ignored here in favor of turning him into yet another bland faceless killer. This time, we may know who it is that's trying to kill people, but what we don't know is why he completely ignores the outside world. This is the greatest scientific discovery of mankind, and this bonehead decides to use it to become a peeping tom and to spy on his girlfriend. This vast and hugely unfortunate simplification of the potential for the story of an invisible man is both bitterly disappointing and more than a little insulting. As Roger Ebert mentions in his review of Hollow Man, it seems that director Paul Verhoeven, who directed such great films as RoboCop and Total Recall, seems to think that his audience is so intellectually dim that they prefer a mindless killer to the incredibly imaginative villain (or protagonist) that Dr. Sebastian Caine could have become.
Hollow Man is an absolutely fascinating display of brilliant special effects, which seem to map out internal anatomy just as good as any medical textbook, and is also a great deal of fun as the visible characters desperately try to make Dr. Caine visible again, but it is a dismal failure on the story level. The film starts out with a gigantic amount of intelligence, both that required for the development of an invisibility serum and that involved in the brilliant premise of the story, but winds up in the end as nothing more than yet another mindless thriller, completely lacking in thought and intrigue.
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