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Hollow Man Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 April 2008
ImageCocky scientist Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) and his group have been commissioned by the Pentagon to develop a means of making soldiers invisible.  Caine and company have successfully made some animals invisible, but can’t make them visible again; each time they try produces gruesome results.  Workaholic Caine has a breakthrough one evening and creates a serum stable enough to safely return their invisible gorilla to visibility. 
At a presentation of their work, called for by concerned Pentagon officials, Caine neglects to tell them about his recent breakthrough, putting him at odds with his cohorts, Linda (Elisabeth Shue) and Matt (Josh Brolin).  Caine rashly decides to test the invisibility/visibility formula on himself, forgoing any of the standard human trials and tests.  The group protests but Caine argues that the trials will take too long; if they let him do this, the group and the project will achieve complete success within a week.  All of them would reap enormous rewards.

They succeed in making Caine invisible, in a grueling, agonizing procedure, but are unable to turn him back.  Through the next few days, they burn the midnight oil, trying out formulas that might work, but none of them are stable enough to bring Caine back without disastrous results.  After days of being cooped up in the underground lab, Caine begins to use his invisibility to spy on and surreptitiously molest his female team members.  Eventually he leaves the compound to make use of his invisibility for increasingly darker purposes. Director Paul Verhoeven follows up the subversive and irreverent  “Starship Troopers” with a tale that’s smaller in scale but nevertheless a groundbreaking achievement in visual effects.  It’s an odd film; Caine moves from arrogance to homicidal violence so quickly the film is missing the motivations for his dark descent.  The progression from mischievous playfulness to sexual assault and violence is a bit forced and unconvincing.  There’s a feeling that Verhoeven is trying to subvert the material here, particularly with the limited amount of sympathy one feels for the two supporting leads, Matt and Linda.  “Hollow Man” partly seems as though some anti-vivisection/animal experimentation message is being conveyed, but unlike “Starship Troopers,” the script doesn’t play as if its themes or undercurrents of criticism have been fully developed.  As a thrilling entertainment, the film succeeds, but as an artistic work, its achievements are almost entirely technical.  Early on, Caine tells a lewd joke involving Superman, Wonder Woman and the Invisible Man, and it almost feels that the entire inspiration for the film is contained in that joke.  The film is an exciting, thrilling, and intensely violent at times, but it’s a bit insubstantial.  It’s not as hollow as the titular character, but it’s more like junk food than an actual meal.

The Blu-ray release of “Hollow Man” presents it in a director’s cut that runs around 4 minutes longer than the theatrical release.  Reportedly, this material consists of a more explicit version of Caine’s attack on his neighbor (which is now clearly a rape), a scene where Sarah (Kim Dickens) discusses the possibility that Caine fondled her while she was sleeping, and another one where Sarah confronts Caine with her suspicions, after he kills one of the lab dogs.  Visually, it’s impossible to distinguish which scenes have been added to the film—all are fully finished and are presented in as pristine a format as the rest of the feature.  The high-definition transfer is exemplary; the print source is extremely clean, imagery is stable, crisp and filled with fine detail.  The colors are accurately conveyed, and occasionally bold and intense.  The visual effects are still extremely impressive and the additional detail present on the BD, enhances one’s appreciation of this benchmark achievement in visual effects.

The uncompressed PCM track makes excellent usage of the surround channels in indicating the presence of Caine as he moves through the scenery while invisible.  The increased surround usage is extremely effective in the climactic sequences and the tangible presence of the raining water caused by the sprinkler system is particularly effective, as is the crispness, vibrancy, and bass that’s present in the flamethrower scenes, as well as during explosions and other violent sound effects.  Dialogue is clean and balanced well in the mix.

“Anatomy of a Thriller” is an average promo/behind-the-scenes piece, featuring talking-head interviews and making-of footage showcasing Verhoeven at work.  “Fleshing Out the Hollow Man” is comprised of 15 featurettes, totaling just over 30 minutes, which break down each of the film’s special effects sequences into single featurettes.  Each of them allows a glimpse into the work that needed to be done as research and preparation, the on-set technical requirements, and the post-filming compositing and animation.  The picture-in-picture comparisons allow one to see what was filmed on-set along with the finished work.  The bonus materials offer only a one-sided view of the production.  The visual effects deserve special consideration, given their level of accomplishment, but one feels the absence of materials that document the genesis of the project, what Verhoeven’s and the screenwriters’ artistic goals were, the experience and insights of the actors, and what the film’s initial reception was like.  The cover art uses a new piece of crap Photoshop art, rather than one of the original one-sheets, making it look as cheap and cheesy as the film’s direct-to-video sequel.

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