By Andrew Rodden
One of the many symptoms of the societal shutdown we are experiencing is the closure of movie theaters and the subsequent release of new feature films available to rent digitally. This is how I watched Leigh Whannel’s “The Invisible Man,” a movie released in theaters on Feb. 28, 2020, but dropped online just weeks later. Universal Pictures, along with every other major studio who recently released movies, had no other option but to release theatrical films online and hope for the best. This is a shame, as “The Invisible Man” is a movie that would gain so much from being viewed in a theater setting, where the brilliant tension of the film would shine, and plot holes might be better concealed.
The movie dives straight into the action as Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) narrowly escapes the clutches of her controlling and abusive boyfriend, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). After later finding out Adrian had committed suicide, she finally thinks she has broken free from his control.
But has she?
Strange things start happening to Cecilia and those around her, so not only does she think his memory is still haunting her, but she becomes convinced that Adrian is still alive, looking for revenge.
So far, “The Invisible Man” is one of the most entertaining movies of 2020, and for good reasons. It masterfully creates tension. I was on the edge of my seat for most of the movie. This tension is accomplished primarily with effective visual storytelling — the camerawork and use of negative space convey an eerie and frankly terrifying atmosphere. Moss also provides a gripping performance, helping to bring us closer to the pain and trauma her character had to endure.
The villain in “The Invisible Man” is considered one of the classic movie monsters of Hollywood, and this 2020 film is an installment in Universal Pictures’ Dark Universe franchise, featuring “The Mummy” (2017), another retelling of a classic monster tale.
However, “The Invisible Man” is just that, a man with an invisible suit. What makes him a monster isn’t his gills or an ancient curse, it is the way in which he behaves. This is what I think is the scariest part about Whannel’s film — no matter how murderous or brutal the Invisible Man’s actions are, his behavior is more than possible in today’s world.
There is a lot that goes unexplained in “The Invisible Man” that the audience is presumably meant to dismiss. I understand that explaining every little detail to the audience is absolutely not the answer, but there are quite a few plot holes that could have been easily filled with a quick insert shot or line of dialogue. Characters frequently make decisions that are convenient to the continuation of the plot, rather than what an individual would realistically decide. This is ultimately distracting to me as an audience member, and the veil of disbelief can only withstand a few clerical errors, not an entire script filled with minor holes like this.
The faulty logic of the script fails to elevate this movie to its full potential, but I recommend it based on its strengths, which are reminiscent of well-established movies written by Whannel, such as “Saw” (2004) and “Insidious” (2010). If you need a solid piece of entertainment for your scheduled movie time in quarantine, you can rent this for $20 wherever you rent movies online. Yes, the $20 is a stretch, but that’s basically the amount you would have to pay to see this at the theater (along with a bit of popcorn). Plus you don’t even need to leave the house.