I'm an artist, a writer, a director, a film critic and occasionally I cook. Here I will be mainly focusing on film critiquing.
The highly anticipated remake of the Universal Pictures monster movie classic, The Invisible Man, has just hit theaters this past weekend. Looking to be one intense thrill ride and a unique take on the 1933 black and white production.
With that in mind, how about we take a look back at when we previously witnessed another visionary masterclass director who took the reins to bring The Invisible Man to the big screen… in the early 1990s starring Chevy Chase.
No, I’m not talking about the original Universal flick that many remember fondly. This is my chance to bring up what many even forget exists quite frankly: 1992’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man… Directed by John Carpenter… Yes, THAT John Carpenter.
Twenty-Eight Years Later…
Does anyone actually remember this movie? I almost rarely hear from anyone who knows that this movie exists and hell I even forget that this was directed by the same man that brought us some of the greatest films of all time; such as Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, Escape From New York, The Thing, Christine, They Live, and Starman! Yes, I don’t care what anyone says, I f*cking love Starman and I’ll defend it ‘til my dying breath as being one of Carpenter’s greatest works. I mean, come on! Jeff Bridges as a weird alien man forming an adorable and heartwarming romance with Karen Allen while they are on the run from the evil government. It’s awesome and makes me cry and I’m not ashamed to admit it… Moving back onto Memoirs of an Invisible Man though… This more or less feels like a retread of Starman with a similar premise of a “unique” man who winds up going on the run from a secret organization of the government with a loveable girl as they fall deeply in love. The end basically.
Audiences have seen this type of movie for years in several different variations, whether it be in the form of romance or friendship that the premise hinges on. For example has anyone heard of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial or Splash? Put together practically any type of “fish out of water” story crossed with a road trip flick and we will have what Memoirs tries desperately to channel. Unfortunately for Memoirs though, it does nothing out of the ordinary to truly stand out as something worthwhile to watch while simultaneously never being all that bad either. There’s nothing exciting enough or terrible enough to draw all that much investment in enjoying or despising the picture, as it is a basic narrative that meanders its way to the finish line with the occasional admirable touches of good humor and remarkable special effects. Sadly, the rare highlights were not enough to keep a generic adventure like this in the public conscience before being lost in time.
After a freak accident occurs at a science lab… of sciencey science stuff… a hungover Nick Halloway (Chevy Chase) is rendered completely transparent. Totally invisible to the naked eye, he has to go on the run from a treacherous CIA official (Sam Neill), while trying to figure out if there’s a way to reverse this horrible defect placed upon him. Oh, and he falls in love with Daryl Hannah.
Playing out akin to a classic noir, detective-mystery where our hero narrates in a past tense in order to catch the viewers up to speed by the time the third act hits. Structurally speaking, there’s nothing adherently wrong about the story, but the pacing and tone really doesn’t flow as seamlessly as one would hope. Carpenter is known to make even a slow burn into some pure intensity and entertainment in his past works, yet somehow Memoirs struggles to capture that same spirit. It’s obvious that the screenplay yearns to be intense and fun while shedding a bit of a light on what would likely be the realistic tribulations of if a man were turned invisible in the real world; from time to time, there are glimmers of potential that shine with Chase’s difficult predicaments as he has to think quick on his feet often or even a romantically beautiful moment that happens between him and Hannah manages to delight sometimes. Other than that, it’s as though the narrative keeps stalling out before we can get anywhere with the material; with the characters quite literally going on vacation in the middle of this “suspenseful circumstance.” Simultaneously trying to be two genres at once, a slow and methodical thriller along with a wacky romantic comedy where rarely either side making all that much of an impression.
When the movie delves into some of the questions of what life would truly be like if someone were invisible in our modern age, that’s when my intrigue peaks and I can even muster up a laugh or two. One particular standout moment that tremendously shined for me was when Chevy Chase’s character was newly transparent, needing to figure out a way to get home when he comes across a drunken man that he knocks unconscious in order to hail a taxi while poorly portraying this lifeless man’s body as being fully awake. That to me easily got the biggest laughs out of me and is one of the few times the movie got into a subject that really isn’t explored all that often on the topic of invisibility. Then there was a pretty great scene involving Chase and Hannah going out on a date while Chase was practically painted in order to appear normal until a small mishap occurs with his makeup during dinner. Other than that, the film drags when it should be constantly on the move either with our characters actually being on the run or tackling humorous/interesting directions with their relationship being out of the ordinary. A missed opportunity to say the least in those departments.
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Chevy Chase is hands down one of the funniest men alive. I won’t sugarcoat it, if I were to meet Chevy Chase in a bar late one night, I would do things for him. Many, many things. In all seriousness now, I love this man’s work as a comedian and actor, I think he’s one of the greatest talents to hit the big and little screen in the last fifty years. Over my formative years, I grew up with this sharp witted snarky fella alongside my dad and absolutely loved every second of his hilarious antics. Hell, the man is so funny that he somehow managed to make me laugh in Caddyshack II, which is easily one of the worst comedy sequels ever made. From what I understand about this actor however is that he seems fairly difficult to work with onset, according to several sources on the matter anyways. Carpenter himself proclaimed Chase as impossible to direct as Chevy seemed to mostly follow his own directions instead. Regardless of that, I still find this guy to be a one of a kind star.
With all that said, I wish that there was more for Chevy to sink his teeth into in Memoirs as this was intended to be more of a serious role for Chase at the time. While his acting is never bad by any means as he handles the drama, suspense, romance, and comedy to the best of his capabilities, there’s still nothing to this character. It’s simply a less funny Chevy Chase role. Personally I would have loved to have seen Chase really go all out in either the thriller or the comedy direction, but the movie itself seems to try settling for both and for the most part compromises too much so we are given neither. I will say that Chevy’s chemistry with Hannah is fairly charming and when he has to be serious, he clearly does his best, but the material isn’t there enough to support his performance. Which is somewhat peculiar seeing how Memoirs of an Invisible Man was actually a passion project for Chevy Chase over the course of five years or so before finally being put into production. One would think Chase would have provided more personality into his own lead character if he cared so much. Then again, who knows what really went on with studio notes and such.
As I said before, I adore Chevy Chase. Oddly enough though, one of my biggest problems with the film is the fact we see Chevy way too much. For a movie starring an invisible man, we really do wind up seeing an awful lot of the guy. Don’t get me wrong, Chevy is solid in his performance, however because we see a “point of view” where the character is still visible to the audience but no one else around him, the dramatic weight of this guy actually going through all these troubles of not being seen loses a lot of its potential impact. Not going to lie, there were several occasions where I legitimately forgot that the character was actually supposed to be invisible, then something strange would happen to remind me of the little tidbit that no one is supposedly able to see him. Which in turn also ruined some of the more emotionally driven scenes where it’s really supposed to mean something to the audience when there are glimmers of hope or beauty within a moment, yet we go back to being completely capable of seeing Chevy in the flesh again like there’s nothing going on. I will at least say that the special effects team did the best they could to convey that this man is definitely invisible and they do a great job at crafting some cool imagery. Ultimately though, the experience becomes mostly tainted because we constantly see the “invisible man.”
Sam Neill in this movie… How do I put this? Alright, I’m pretty sure that he is trolling this movie because it always seems as though the movie wants to convey Neill’s villainy as more subtly conniving while his performance resembles that of a Saturday morning cartoon baddie of the week. In most cases, this specific antagonist trope can come off as lame and uninspired, but because Sam Neill is so clearly relishing in this smarmy snake of a role, this results in some pretty fun moments with his character. At no point did I find Neill’s villain to be complex by any stretch, but he is seductively over-the-top in how much he is so obviously not a man anyone could or should ever trust. Any time Neill’s character is “trying” to appease the protagonist and convince them that “he has their best interests at heart” I can’t help but crack up as if it would be like watching an alligator luring their prey into his mouth and telling them that he is “totally trustworthy.” It’s quite funny in that regard and for that, I have to commend the legendary actor for providing some much needed humor; even if it seems that the film didn’t quite intend for that approach in the writing.
As pedestrian as the script may be, I have to give credit where credit is due that the special effects are quite astonishing. Especially when taking into account the time period this movie was produced being the early 1990s where we were still in the extremely early stages of computer generated imagery for use on the big screen. For the most part, many of the effects are achieved through practical means, however there is very select and clever use of CGI and blue screen techniques that are honestly quite ambitious for a picture such as this. Most, if not all, of the special effects seen throughout the movie are no less than perfect with the masterful blending of practical and computer generated effects that surprisingly continues to impress after all these years. If there is anything about Memoirs of an Invisible Man that I am confident in recommending, it’s for people to see the terrifically well done special effects that hold up wonderfully to this day. Besides the one or two questionable visual flubs, the movie looks flawless.
There isn’t a single part of me that can say I hated Memoirs of an Invisible Man or even call it a bad movie necessarily, but the story is significantly uninspired and unfocused for long stretches that I can’t help being disappointed when I think to myself that this was directed by the great John Carpenter and it stars one of comedy’s biggest icons, yet it’s doing absolutely nothing for me. From what I’ve gathered, Carpenter basically had no creative control over the production and he only agreed to direct the movie just to get paid. Which is undoubtedly a shame because I couldn’t think of a better director at the time to remake The Invisible Man and give the audience something special if he was given some form of freedom on the film. This is not special. Aside from the cinematography and homage elements presented, probably anyone could have directed Memoirs and we would have gotten the same exact result with very little differences. That is how apparent it is that Carpenter was not putting his heart into making this movie. A true tragedy if someone were to ask me since I know John Carpenter is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to remaking horror flicks.
Out of curiosity, if someone simply wanted to watch Memoirs, I doubt they would have any sort of vile reaction, but I also doubt there’d be much love either. Someone could probably pop this up in the background, gain a laugh or two and marvel at some cool special effects every now and again while they’re busy doing anything else in the house. That’s the extent of my recommendation for Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Watch it while you’re busy with other stuff, you’ll have a blast. Yippee. All joking aside, the movie isn’t without its merits, but it fails to leave much of an impression when all is said and done. The performances are fine, Sam Neill is a treasure, and the special effects are pretty incredible. The story is just dull as it can’t choose between being a comedy or a thriller, so it does neither and both at the same time. Take that for what it’s worth I suppose.
Your Favorite Invisible Adventure?
That’s All Folks…
Memoirs of an Invisible Man… I just call it the ‘Chevy Chase Invisible Man movie’, I won’t lie. What do you think of it though? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Wonder how easy it would be to get killed while being invisible? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves an undetectable day… I looked up synonyms for the word ‘invisible’ and that’s the best I could do. Lay off.
- 'The Invisible Man' (2020) The Unseen Movie Review
Writer of 'Saw', 'Insidious', 'Dead Silence', and 'Upgrade' now brings us a whole new reason to be afraid. Or maybe just me. Either way, let's take a look at the stalker-thriller to change all stalker-thrillers.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 John Plocar