The Invisible Man (1933) vs Hollow Man (2000) 2-in-1 review
The Invisible Man (1933) vs Hollow Man (2000) 2-in-1 review
H.G. Wells’ novel The Invisible Man, published in 1897, follows a scientist who has developed a means to become invisible, but as he searches for a solution to cure his sanity begins to decline into madness. The novel was famously adapted in 1933 into the Universal film of the same name, becoming one of the iconic Universal Monsters along with adaptations like Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931). However unlike Dracula and Frankenstein, The Invisible Man has seen scarce remakes until the new film coming this weekend, and the film’s sequels are generally unrelated. So, like I did for The Wolf Man, I thought I would look at my absolute favorite Universal Monster film, The Invisible Man, compared to easily the other best known adaptation of Wells’ novel, Hollow Man (2000).
First of all, yes I know there was more I could have done here, but I’ve reviewed most of the Invisible Man sequels that you can find in the comments, I haven’t seen the comedy Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), or really any others for that matter, and I can have a book-to-movie up next week! For now though, you are just stuck with what is less a 2-in-1 review and more a look at why The Invisible Man works and Hollow Man doesn’t. Now, I’ll begin with a reign of generalizations, a few details here and there, details of great aspects, details of little aspects- well just to show we make no distinction. I might even spoil a plot-point or two… just these fingers lashing out at Kevin Bacon’s film, that’s all. (That’s a quote if you don’t know. I’ll probably make a few, since I have all the power here and there’s nothing you can do about it! Nothing!)
The story in both films follows the general structure of the novel, with both following a scientist who discovers a means to become invisible, tests it on himself, and attempts to develop a cure before descending into madness, eventually changing his goals to wipe out the evidence of his own existence. However there are a few major changes in Hollow Man in particular. For one, The Invisible Man starts with him already being, well, invisible, where Hollow Man uses its first act to build to the choice he (Sebastian Caine) makes to test it on himself first. Hollow Man also confines its setting to one location for its third act, where The Invisible Man sees an entire town run mad by Jack Griffin. Sorry, I forgot to introduce the names earlier. I am facing quite a bit of distractions you see? After all, I came here for quiet and secrecy. I’m carrying out a difficult review. I must be left alone. It’s vital! It’s life and death that I should be left alone! You don’t understand. Goodness, I’m losing touch with my purpose here. I apologize, all these monster films are certainly affecting me. There’s a way back. God knows there’s a way back! If only they’d leave me alone! These accursed monsters!
Anyway, my issues with Hollow Man don’t stem from the story, as I find the build up rather interesting. However the confined setting in the finale of Hollow Man does lead to a serious issue with its tone, making the film feel more like a typical slasher film than a hunt for a mad scientist. While Hollow Man definitely wants to transform the story into a thriller in the end, The Invisible Man’s respect for the original shows exactly how strong Wells’ mastery of crafting a tone through story is. Hollow Man feels just generic in the end. I do admire the smaller scale, and the attempt at making the story feel more personal for the character. However due to the misfire the writing of the character too, this is again shut out by the original film, which manages to craft a strong and compelling character in what must amount to almost half the screentime. Do you get it? Screentime? Because you can’t see them! They’re invisible! And an invisible actor can rule the screen! Nobody will see him come, nobody will see him go. He can hear every secret and last-minute change to the script. He can sleep, and hide in his trailer, and steal from crafty, and- my gush I’m turning into someone willing to blindly misquote the original film for the sake of writing something moderately amusing! I’m going mad! Mad I tell you! AHAHAHAHAHAAHA!!!
So what is so wrong with the character in Hollow Man? Well for one, Caine starts the film twice as evil a person Griffin, and Griffin is already invisible! The film’s attempt to make Sebastian Caine a complicated character are undermined by the attempt to also make him the idea of cool in 2000, which is a leather-jacket wearing prick who only cares about himself. It is certainly different than a typical mad scientist approach, but boy does the 86-year-old film hold up better than the 19-year-old one. So Hollow Man’s attempt at character progression simply becomes a one-note character that you start by wanting to slap in the face and end by wanting him dead. Not a normal death of course, a good death. A glorious death. Maybe flying off the side of a cliff in a fiery wreck, or- Something like that. <ah-hem> My point is, you start the film not liking him, never feel bad, and end the film absolutely hating him. What about that is compelling? Compare that to the original, which presents Jack as a jerk for sure, but one you can at least feel bad for early on. Throughout the film he devolves, but you also get more glimpses of humanity. His friendship with Arthur Kemp and his love for Flora are both genuine, while Sebastian hates Matthew and is hung up on Linda in the creepiest way possible. (Sure I know Arthur totally has a thing for Jack’s love interest Flora in the original, but that’s what subtext is for!)
Now I know this is going to be worth mentioning, but it’s not something I care about in either film. Yeah the science and blah blah blah. Both films make things up, and I appreciate The Invisible Man for treating us like we don’t need to know the details, while I appreciate Hollow Man for treating us like we do. Both are fine, and science is not necessarily something worth picking apart in either. However I absolutely have to stab at Hollow Man for just the worst scientific procedures I’ve seen. (Maybe not of all time, but certainly for the time.) It gets to the point where, if the characters had any sense, the film wouldn’t happen. Maybe they want it like that to feel more like a 2000s horror film, but- why would you? I do appreciate in Hollow Man how they update the technology to make it more of a challenge for Sebastian though. I’d even give the film an extra point just for its cleverness! And I’ll take it right back for every single time the characters don’t use the means to catch him easily. I mean honestly, how did the protagonists from the 1930s version have an easier time against an invisible man than the 2000?
Okay one thing that I would actually give Hollow Man praise for are the visual effects! Sure the original film’s effects are so good and ahead of their time that they still look good, but credit where credit is due, Hollow Man’s effects are also pretty great! (Which rightfully earned the film an Oscar nomination.) You could argue that Hollow Man focuses on them too much actually, but to you, I would argue that it’s at least more enjoyable than an invisible Kevin Bacon running around being as awful as he can to women and dogs. Oh that reminds me, I’m absolutely deducting another point for both the senseless violence that comes from its horror choices, and the over sexualization and objectification, which probably also come from its horror choices. Man I miss classic horror. In an attempt to give Hollow man one last positive point though, I did think Kevin bacon was a solid casting choice. The character is written so despicably, that I can’t imagine anyone less charming playing him. In the spirit of comparison though, Claude Rains’ unhinged performance is absolutely brilliant. He’s the ultimate performer! The quintessential invisible man! Equally terrifying, but with a layer of understandable sympathy that only fools could ignore! Fools like the entire supporting cast of Hollow Man! What? We are trapped in a station with a psychotic, invisible killer? I know, let’s split up! That’ll show him!
I started this review with the intention of really boiling down what makes a good Invisible Man movie, and ended up spending roughly half the time making jokes from the 1933 film? But now that I am wrapping up, I want to hit on the main thing that really makes one of these films twice as good as the other: the titular character. Sure you can have a weird horror tone in a silly and rather inconsiderate film that devolves into cliché writing, but with a compelling central character, it could at least be interesting. Hollow Man just isn’t. For its flaws, which are few by the way, The Invisible Man is still a thoroughly compelling watch. So if you are one of the poor souls who have seen the 2000 adaptation Hollow Man, a film with 4.3x more ratings on IMDb than a truly fantastic classic that I think surpass the classic Dracula and Frankenstein, than maybe what I am saying is: Go WATCH THE INVISIBLE MAN! It’s great. I’ve seen it four times now, and my opinions have not changed. 8/10. Hollow Man on the other hand… even on a second watch, it’s barely watchable by the end. Maybe it’s worth it for the visual effects, but that’s it. 4/10.
So The Invisible Man and Hollow Man? Have you seen them? What did you think? And are there any Invisible Man movies you liked better? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And be sure to check out our full reviews of the original Invisible Man series below! Also if you enjoyed this review but with we had a few more for the other Universal Movie Monsters, well you are in luck! Check out the links in the comments for even more!
-review by Ryan Prince