“Hollow Man” has enough strong performances, nice moments, and interesting plot turns to make for an mildly enjoyable film, as long as you don’t think too hard about the plot. Visually, it is quite appealing and effective, and the soundtrack (especially the opening themes played over some effective and atmospheric opening credits) does a great job of adding some “oomph” to the action of screen. Keven Bacon is his usual on-screen self, and carries the film effectively, which is no small feat when consider that half the time he is either invisible or covered up in latex, which deprives him of most of an actor’s most effective tools (his eyes and his mouth).In the scenes where he is covered in bandages, he has to get the character’s emotions and presence out with body language and vocal cues, and even this is filtered through SFX. So I give him kudos for a professional, effective job in a difficult environment.
So why only a score of 5 out of 10? Having admitted that the film is enjoyable if you don’t think too critically about it, I am now going to think critically about it for a minute.
Problem number one is Elizabeth Shue. Don’t get me wrong, I think she is a very attractive woman, and she can hold her own as an actress in most movies. But she is horribly miscast here as a “top level research scientist” (just as she was in “The Saint”). She may come across as more than a typical “dumb blonde”, but she’s a clothes-horse, pure and simple, and I can’t believe for a moment that she could get a PhD in the physical sciences. She’s far more believable fending off Bacon’s advances than she is playing “Pentagon Barbie”. (The other two supporting actresses, who are by no means ugly or haggard, but still have considerably less “Vogue” cover potential, are quite believable in their roles).
Problem number two is a certain weakness in the script regarding how and why Bacon’s character goes around the bend. The movie implies and foreshadows all kinds of reasons: Bacon is already a creep with a God-complex; the serum which turns him invisible is affecting his brain’s neurochemistry; being invisible confers addictive power and opportunity he doesn’t want to give up; invisibility creates an alienation and isolation from society…etc. But the script doesn’t really drive any of these points home, and just flits from idea to idea without doing real justice to any of them. A line of dialog or two is meant to imply a whole series of attitudes and moral values changing, (“It’s easier to sin when you don’t have to look at yourself in the mirror”, etc.), and even a pro like Bacon can’t manage it in the space he is given.
Problem number three is (are) the escalating misogyny and graphic completeness of the voyeurism, molestation, and finally rape scenes included in the movie to convince the viewer that the Hollow Man is becoming a human monster. The first two scenes were bad enough (especially the CGI of a sleeping woman’s bare breast being fondled), but perhaps necessary, but the final full blown rape scene was way too mean and misogynistic for my sensibilities. That scene didn’t need to be there, and its inclusion makes it hard for me to recommend it to my more conservative friends…they would be angry at me if they watched this on my say-so and came upon these scenes unprepared, and they wouldn’t buy or rent this movie if they knew these scenes were in it.
Problem number four is that the movie producers overreached themselves a bit with the invisible SFX…some of them, especially the transformation scenes, don’t quite work. The figure struggling on the table is very plastic and inorganic-looking and doesn’t convince. (Ironically, the first transformation scene, with the gorilla, works much better, possibly because our human eyes aren’t as familiar with the textures and shapes of the simian physique). And here and there the articulation of the shoulders isn’t quite right, or the swing of the hips. These deficiencies seem to be a common problem for 3D computer graphics of the human form, and they dog the animators here. Sometimes the animators get it, but sometimes they don’t. I know it wasn’t easy, but if they couldn’t pull it off, they shouldn’t have used it.
The last major problem was that the movie should have ended when Shue does her wonderful “base-stealing” slide into the elevator and hoses Bacon’s character down with her home made flame thrower. That was a great moment, and should have been the climactic payoff for the film. Instead the movie staggered on for another 10-15 minutes in “Friday the 13th” territory with the Hollow Man popping back up from what should be mortal injuries again and again – who knew that naked invisible men could be so resilient?
So that’s why only 5 out of 10. Too many problems and weakness to score this as a classic. But I do own this movie (bought it used) on VHS, and will buy it (used) on DVD if I find it cheap enough. Enjoy the eye candy and strong supporting performances and the many nice little touches here and there…if you are into that sort of thing.