"The Invisible Man" Is Not Good
Disclamer:This article will include spoilers for The Invisible Man. If you have not seen the movie, I recommend that you don't. If you for some reason have and don't want major "plot" points" revealed, it would be best to close this page out now and check out one of my other 4+ month old reviews and infrequent video game content.
I found myself with a little free time last week and decided to see the movie everyone was talking about...Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man, a remake of a remake of a remake of an adaptation of the 1897 H.G. Wells novel. I had forgotten that I had seen Whannell's last movie, Upgrade, and if I had I almost certainly would not have made this mistake. My expectations were high (again as I had forgotten my last experience) but as time went on I realized that The Invisible Man is a bad movie.
Look, I don't like to dislike things. I go into watching most movies hoping to see them for what they are. Any movie has the potential to have merit, the Fast and Furious movies at least have what I would assume are cool cars in them. What shocks me most is that the general public not only enjoyed this movie, but they seemed to either not notice or not care about the extreme flaws that seem to seep into every aspect of it.
We will start with the characters. Literally every single character in this movie is nothing more than a cardboard cutout. We never find out anything about them other than what is directly related to the plot, which we will get into later on.
Adrian Griffin, the titular character, is basically an overly-obsessive boyfriend who is a "world leader in optics." We never learn anything more about him than that, no explanation as to why he is so obsessed with Cecilia or as to what his work in "optics" relates to. There is nothing that gives the audience a reason to connect with him in any way shape or form, he is evil just for the sake of being evil.
Cecilia also suffers from the same issues. Cecilia is who the audience is supposed to see the movie through but she amounts to nothing more than a tennis ball on a stick. The only personal details that we learn about her is that she works in architecture and went to Cal Poly, which is displayed on her sweatshirt. We learn nothing about what kind of architecture she studies or any of her previous work.
You could write this off to Adrian having controlled her for so long she has lost all personality, but there is a good chunk of the movie where Cecilia has been removed from under Adrian's thumb and she still never shows any signs of having a personality or even being a real person.
Those are the two main characters of this movie, both feel as though they never changed from the first to final draft of this script (which the more I think about, it may be the same thing) and neither of whom feel interesting, watchable, or grounded in reality at all.
The supporting characters are not any better. They consist of Emily, who is Cecilia's sister, James, who is a police officer and apparently the ex-husband of Emily (which I had no idea was the case until I red it on the Wikipedia plot description of the movie), and James's daughter Sydney (presumably Emily's daughter although again, never expressly mentioned or hinted at in the movie that I could see.). Again, none of them have a personality at all and only seem to be in the movie so that there could be as many cliches are possible.
Not to mention Cecilia seems to have no chemistry with any of these people. Every interaction they have together is awkward and difficult to watch. The moments where Cecilia, James, and Sydney are supposed to be "connecting" feel like a first take and have no bearing on the rest of the movie. It's not like Cecilia learns to love and trust again from these interactions, likewise James and Sydney never learn to be more cautious from their interactions with Cecilia.
Moving on from these horrible "characters" we move into the plot which is just as much of a mess. The 2-hour run time feels more like a train ride, stopping briefly at the predetermined stations with seemingly no bearing on the overall story. Nothing new is learned by the characters, no one grows from their experiences and any tension that was built is ruined by the predictability of the outcomes.
I would now like to pause for a moment to discuss what I believe to be the strangest, most unexplainable and poorly thought part of this movie and one that I have not even heard mentioned by anyone else. Why in Spaghetti Monster's name did Cecilia and Sydney sleep in the same bed?
A fully grown woman, sleeping in the same bed as an underage (at worst) or barely legal (at best) girl just seems like a bad idea, especially when it has absolutely no effect on the plot. I am now realizing that Cecilia may be Sydney's aunt but they say most crimes of abuse are committed by family members and people closest to the victim. Not really a critique of the movie, I just found it strange.
With all of that out of the way, we can move into more of my personal gripes with The Invisible Man. Firstly, we will discuss these poor actors having to poorly execute fighting with someone who is not actually there.
There are a few scenes in this movie where characters will have to physically fight with the Invisible Man and there is not one time when it is in any way convincing. Each time it is clearly an actor pantomiming having to struggle with an unseen force. No special in camera tricks or fancy CGI, just actors pretending to be held down or punched and it turns out about as well as you would expect.
I also have a pretty big problem with the way in which the man becomes invisible. In earlier iterations of the story, the Invisible Man is usually pushing science to its limit and makes a fatal mistake which permanently turns him invisible. The horror and fear that a person being permanently turned invisible brings is a crucial part of the story. A man wearing a suit covered in cameras that he can take off at any time and live a normal life loses so much of that tension and emotion that this movie might as well be titled The Sometimes Invisible Man.
Speaking of the theme, this version of the story changes it from the normal hubris of scientific advancement and turns it into a story about abusive relationships. Most specifically men controlling women, even after the woman has gotten out of the relationship.
I do not have a problem with this theme shift. Abuse in relationships is a topic that has been brought into the light more so than ever before and is a nice way to not only differentiate this version of the movie from its predecessors but gives the audience a stronger connection to the story. Unfortunately, like everything else in this movie, the theme is poorly thought out and in fact probably more accurately describes the opposite of what the film makers wanted it to be.
After news breaks that Adrian has killed himself, Cecilia's support system of James, Emily, and Sydney push her to leave her fear of him behind. This is all well and good until Cecilia starts to become haunted by some sort of invisible force. When she tells her support system that she believes Adrian to still be alive and torturing her, none of them believe her.
Even after she explains to everyone that Adrian was capable of something similar to turning himself invisible, she is still treated like she is letting her fear of him control her. As things get more and more involved, her support system begins to abandon her one by one until Cecilia is left alone with her issues. She then must go to extreme efforts to convince everyone that she is telling the truth.
Probably the biggest issue of women not wanting to come forward with accusations of assault is because they believe people won't believe them. This is exactly what Cecilia's support system does to her, furthering the theory that women are not believed when they come forward. The problem is that James, Emily, and Sydney are supposed to be heroes in this story, not part of the problem.
Not only does Cecilia's support system completely bail on her and prove an assault survivor's worst nightmare, they actually are probably right in doing so. A man faking his own suicide, turning himself invisible, and stalking his ex-girlfriend are all a bit outlandish. Not believing real world assault victims is pretty despicable, not believing said victim is being haunted by an invisible man is understandable. Now maybe you can see how this theme is almost as confusing as the choice to have Cecilia and Sydney sleep together.
The Invisible Man is a story that has been told long before H.G. Wells and is one that comes with inherent intrigue. We have all thought about what it would be like to be invisible, but we never think of the horrors that may come along with it. Leigh Whannell threw his own spin on the story and brought all of the great things that come along with it crashing down. The Invisible Man is not a good movie. It's not a terrible movie but one that could have been so much better.