A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 434 – Hollow Man

Hollow Man – May 8th, 2011

Wow, so, this movie offends me on so many levels. We bought it because Andy said it was a horrible cheesy sci-fi horror movie and it is! But it’s also horrible on more levels than cheesy sci-fi. It’s got a lot of problems and not all of them are the horribly obvious flaws in the science portions of the movie. I mean, I expect there to be some ridiculous science babble in movies like this but wow, this movie’s got more than that. In fact, I think I can just leave most of the ridiculous science flaws alone since they’re so glaringly obvious to anyone who’s ever even taken a lab science class in high school. Instead I’d like to address the rest of the movie’s flaws, and there are oh so many of them.

The plot follows brilliant scientist Sebastian Caine as he and his team work on making a chemical that will make a living subject invisible, then restore them. There’s some babble about it being a matter of making them out of phase with the visible world or whatever. It doesn’t really matter how they manage it because it’s going to be ridiculous and not follow its own rules no matter what. That was a given. So after finally managing to fix a problem they were having with the restoration part of it all, Sebastian convinces two of his teammates, Linda and Matt, to go against their funding committee’s rules and try it on himself ahead of schedule. And then the restoration fails, leaving Sebastian stuck invisible for the foreseeable future. Having already established that prolonged time “out of phase” (i.e. invisible) has nasty side effects on the mental and emotional states of subjects, it’s pretty easy to see where this is going. Which is one problem right there.

I knew from the first moment we met the whole team what order they’d die in. I doubted it a little after Sebastian has some interactions with the team veterinarian, Sarah, because I thought maybe with his interest (his creepy, predatory interest) in her he’d go after her first. But no. I was right and it was poor awesome Janice. She should have shot him when she had the chance. I knew how the whole thing with Sebastian and ex-girlfriend Linda would play out and from the first moment we met Linda I knew she was obviously now seeing another member of the team. It’s not so much telegraphed as just plain lazy writing. Really though, every single plot point in this movie was both obvious and ridiculous. They knew about the behavioral issues! They knew Sebastian was a jackass! So why on Earth would Linda and Matt, who should really have known better since they clearly know Sebastian well enough to know he won’t react well to their relationship, have allowed it? Who knows. But of course they allowed it! It’s full of stuff like that, though the issue of Sebastian’s personality is what brings me to my biggest problem with the movie.

In the trivia for the movie there’s mention of a cut scene where Sebastian rapes his neighbor, but it was cut out because audiences felt it was too early for him to have descended to that level of depravity. Oh, the implication of the scene is still there, but the specifics aren’t revealed. And you know what? I don’t think it’s too early at all. Dude has a creepy sexual predator vibe going right from the outset. The movie implies that being invisible for prolonged periods of time causes emotional instability and increases violent behavior, so it would follow that it’s the invisibility that causes Sebastian to go homicidal. But really, he starts out a total jackass with predator leanings. I didn’t so much feel like being invisible caused something to go out of whack in his head so much as it allowed him to act on impulses he’d never been able to act on before. I mean, it’s not long at all after he goes invisible that he’s sneaking into the observation room and unbuttoning Sarah’s blouse and molesting her. That’s not the invisibility as a cause, it’s just a means to an end. The problem here is that he’s not really a nice guy to start with. He’s a jerk who spies on his neighbor while she undresses and treats his coworkers like crap even when he’s visible. And while those are far lesser offenses than rape and murder, they don’t paint him in a favorable light. His character arc isn’t a tragic or unpredictable one, which is a pity because if it had been it would have been a more interesting movie and less offensive to me.

Had there been more of an arc for Sebastian I think I would have enjoyed this movie a whole lot more. There’s just something more horrifying about a relatively nice person being turned into a homicidal maniac via an experimental scientific procedure than there is about a jackass going through the same thing. I’m not sure if the movie wants me to like Sebastian at all ever but I hope not. While I think it would have made a better movie if I had, the thought that the movie might not see his early pre-invisible behavior as a problem is even worse. So I’m just going to hope he’s meant to be loathsome from the get-go. Being a genius doesn’t make it okay to be a sleazy douche and I sincerely hope the movie was intended to be seen that way.

So, seeing as there’s pretty much nothing that surprised me and a lot of things that disgusted me, this movie would have had to pull out a miracle to make me like it at all. And I think it could go without saying that it doesn’t. The characters are all one dimensional at best, and I’m not just talking about the redshirts who are so clearly destined to die messy deaths at Sebastian’s hands. Bizarrely and disgustingly, Sebastian’s lecherous behavior towards the women actually gives them more time on screen than the men get, but it’s still not enough to give them much to work with. And while Linda and Matt are obviously supposed to be the leads we care about we never really get much about them. All we know about them is that Linda used to date Sebastian and left him and says that Matt is everything Sebastian isn’t. That there is not a hell of a lot to root for. I prefer to like my heroes, not just dislike my villain. The best I can say for either of them is that they do seem to be fairly intelligent most of the time, within the confines of the movie.

I didn’t enjoy this movie. I didn’t hate it in the same way I hated Death Proof and Punch Drunk Love but I also did feel like the movie focused far too much on Sebastian to the detriment of the actual positive characters. And it’s full of unpleasant scenes and moments and not nearly enough triumphant moments at the end to redeem it. I’m certainly not sorry to have it behind me now and I definitely won’t ever be putting it back in again.

May 8, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Hollow Man

May 8, 2011

Hollow Man

We simply cannot resist a cheesy bad movie. This should be obvious from the titles in our collection but I feel I need to point it out to make sense of the fact that we’re reviewing this movie tonight. When we were making our recent mass DVD purchase this movie popped up and we said “a widely panned Paul Verhoven movie? How could we not?” After all, we’ve already reviewed Showgirls, Starship Troopers and Robocop. The thing is – although you’d think after Showgirls we’d know what kind of sleaze Verhoven is capable of; I just didn’t appreciate how his particular brand of depravity would influence this movie.

I can understand the intent of this movie. It’s trying to be a sci-fi horror along the lines of Alien or Predator or Deep Blue Sea where a supernatural killer (here an invisible scientist and not an alien or shark) is picking off people trapped in an enclosed space (here a secret underground lab complex.) It has a couple problems that keep it from working as part of that genre though. For one thing it takes an awful long time to get to the meat of the movie. Easily two thirds of the film involve the creation of the insane invisible killer, which doesn’t leave much time for the actual sci-fi horror plot to play out. Another problem is that is doesn’t have any heroes. The movie is packed with likable victims, but there’s nobody that I really find myself rooting for by the end.

The story here is of the brilliant Sebastian Caine, a scientist who heads a team that has perfected a means of making animals invisible. Of course, as anybody knows, being made invisible drives animals mad, but this slight flaw in his process doesn’t much concern him. Not much concerns him, to tell the truth, because he’s a raging ego-maniac and sleezeball. His ex-girlfriend is part of his team, and she’s come to the realization that she doesn’t like him much – and is sleeping with a different team member without his knowledge. At the start of the movie Caine succeeds in perfecting the means to make some of his experimental creatures re-appear, which means that he is in danger of losing control of his project to the military group that fund it since he’s accomplished his goals. Naturally this means that he must immediately inject himself with the invisibility serum otherwise the movie would end quite suddenly without the plot getting going at all.

In very short order Caine is naked and invisible – which accentuates all of his egomaniac tendencies and removes the necessity to behave himself. Or something. He was pretty sleazy to begin with but no sooner is he invisible than he’s creeping up on sleeping colleagues and taking their clothes off. When it becomes apparent that the reversal serum they’re cooked up doesn’t work on humans for some reason Caine really starts to go crazy. Soon he’s breaking out of the facility and raping his neighbours. (Well it’s implied in the movie that he rapes his exhibitionist neighbour with a penchant for stripping in front of her windows and very fake looking breasts – but according to the trivia on IMDB the rape was actually part of the movie until test audiences objected.)

Okay, so that does a great job of establishing that Caine is an insane power mad bastard who gets off on using his invisibility to hurt others. But nothing is done to establish a counter-weight. When Caine traps his science team in the facility and goes on his inevitable killing spree we don’t really know anything about the people he’s hunting except that they are inoffensively nice and have an asshole for a boss. Even his ex-girlfriend Linda, who would seem to be the heroine of the movie, is almost completely without character or motivation. Her new boyfriend, Matt, is even less of a character and I find that I have no emotional investment in either of them. In fact the only partially interesting character in the whole science team is the first to die, which just sucks the fun out of the whole rest of the movie.

One thing I cannot deny is that this movie involves some simply astonishing special effects. It is packed with clever digital tricks which remove Kevin Bacon from the scene and show us only the impression of him. His face in smoke or water or smeared in blood. There are also the fantastic digital models which allow the effects meisters to strip away his body layer by layer so we have him with no skin, no muscles, no blood vessels. Or any combination thereof. I don’t know if it’s worth watching the movie again just for the effects, but they are certainly the best thing in the movie. I appreciated it for that at least.

As for the rest, well I think I’ve said it all. It’s a sleazy story of an unappealing man turned invisible and the completely forgettable group of people he kills off one by one. It has a very Verhoven feel to the entire thing, but it’s the salacious and voyeuristic Verhoven and not the master of action cheese that I’ve come to enjoy so much over the years. More than anything else right now I regret that we don’t have Total Recall to watch tomorrow to ease the pain of this movie.

May 8, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | 1 Comment