Written and Directed by Leigh Whannell
February 27, 2020 (Australia) / February 28, 2020 (United States)
A woman escapes her abusive scientist boyfriend only to come to believe that she is not as free as she thought she was.
When going into this I expected something more than a Lifetime movie style plot with a decent budget. It seemed like a logical assumption, but I did not think a studio would go that route with a major release. I was wrong because we got the most basic plot possible stolen from that network. This is just a woman in jeopardy film with better production values and bigger stars but that is all. The original film and the book upon which it was based was really something different for its time but here we get nothing new and nothing remotely special. This is not an updating of elements but rather slapping a name with nostalgic value attached to it on something only related by the common name.
The film has virtually nothing in common with the original film or even the book. They took the concept of invisibility and the name and slapped it on something else entirely. I wasn’t expecting a one for one remake or whatever of the film or the book, but I wanted more than what I got.
During the story it felt like I waited forever for something that moved the story forward to happen. We all knew from the start the boyfriend was going to be invisible in the film. The marketing let us know her boyfriend was involved and it is called THE INVISIBLE MAN after all. In short order Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) escapes and her abusive boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is found dead and then we wait. And wait. And wait some more. And then a dash more waiting. A few little odd things are seen onscreen but nothing impressive or intriguing while she is hanging out in the safehouse provided by Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) who has a spunky teenage daughter named Sydney (Storm Reid).
Here is something to think about while watching this film: how fragile were Cecilia’s relationships with those around her? She just gets out of an abusive relationship which they are all were aware was occurring (at least after the fact when it came to her sister) but her sister cut her off completely after an email and her cop friend kicked her to the curb after an incident with the daughter. I am not expecting any of the characters to say, “We believe you that your boyfriend is somehow alive and invisible.” What gets me is that nobody thinks maybe she might have had a psychological break or something like that after years of physical and emotional abuse. They are supposed to care but drop her faster than a dirty diaper left in the hot summer sun.
I do draw a special issue with what happens between Cecilia and her sister. Was their relationship always strained? Did they even have a relationship to really speak of? Based on a few lines in the film it did not appear as if they had any animosity between them yet Emily (Harriet Dyer) cuts all ties because of one email.
While we in the audience knew the guy was going to be invisible somehow it felt that Cecilia coming to the conclusion that Adrian was still alive and able to turn himself invisible seemed a little abrupt. There is no buildup in the story to it. We just got the article that her sister flashes on the phone to her about him being a dead optical expert and then she makes a proclamation that he must have turned himself invisible when things start getting a little hairy. Obviously because he knew about light refraction and stuff he built an invisibility suit and is terrorizing her after faking his death. Duh!
And was the ending of the film supposed to be empowering? After the reveal that Adrian’s brother Tom (Michael Dorman) was at least in part responsible for what happened during the movie, Cecilia kills Adrian using the invisibility suit (or a similar one at least) and the cop doesn’t even try to stop her from leaving after he watched the crime on a monitor even though he sees the evidence of the suit in her pocketbook. He had a pretty solid reason for an arrest given that the authorities had already conceded to an extent that an invisibility suit was possible and they had a non-functioning version in evidence.
The film definitely looks good. No doubt there. I cannot knock its production values nor the effects. It is well directed and visually appealing but in the end it is just the story of a guy that has the Predator suit with the apparent fighting skills and strength of the Predator. In the cool scenes which are all backloaded, Tom beats the heck out of everyone with one punch. Then again at the end the security guards come at him one at a time like cannon fodder in a videogame.
Despite some potential the script itself is mediocre. Whannell has some really good stuff to his name but his work here just felt half-assed it here. The acting is fine, but the script is only just okay. The film looks better than it actually is. There is no tension or scares sprinkled along the way. No surprises. There are just clever visuals in terms of the way the invisibility suit’s failure is shown. That I really liked.
One of the bigger sins is there is no effort to establish the assorted relationships between the characters. Cecilia is close to Sydney and that is it. They are instant best friends from the moment the girl appears on the screen to her final moments in the story. Why Cecilia feels close to the police officer is perfectly understandable. He is after all the individual that helps her escape from her abusive boyfriend, but when it comes to the other characters we have no context. There is no context given to any dynamics between anyone.
The film lacks characterization or anything deep. It adds no new twists to the story or genre or even looks as if it was trying to do so. It is not a thrilling thriller or a frightening horror film nor is it anything special in the realm of science fiction. There are no strongly crafted scenes which will stay in your head and you would be hard pressed to talk specifics when it comes to the movie.
The Invisible Man is a passable woman in jeopardy film, but it is nothing special. Skip it!