What’s the first thing you would do if you were invisible? Would you go rob a bank, sneak into someone’s house, or just walk the streets? It’s so fascinating to think about these concepts and their history throughout the existence of our civilization. However, I’m getting ahead of myself, we should start this movie recommendation properly. Hollow Man is a science fiction thriller featuring phenomenal special effects and a familiar story. We will be following a scientist who after a failed experiment becomes invisible. And while this sounds like a plot for a casual and commercial blockbuster, there’s a fascinating character study underneath this familiar frame.
An exploration of not just a single man with this unbelievable new power but also our society as a whole. An exploration of our drives, morality and subconscious desires. This is why Hollow Man might not be as scary as it should be in a conventional sense. It’s this weird but highly effective blend of genres that just works. This is also one of the first movies featuring believable CGI special effects. I remember watching the trailer for this movie and not believing what my eyes were seeing. Long gone were the days of men in bandages and elaborate but also quite good practical effects.
I mean, they’ve basically created a digital version of Kevin Bacon’s body. They even scanned his penis and added it to this working 3D model. Since it is so detailed, featuring veins, organs, and all other parts of human anatomy, the 3D model of Kevin Bacon’s body was donated to scientific research. Wouldn’t it be funny if they accidentally discovered a serum that makes people invisible during this research? Apart from this model, you can also see a very detailed 3D model of a gorilla early on in the movie. It’s also interesting to see the early days of video chat, something that’s now commonplace.
Hollow Man was unapologetically grand and willing to set new landmarks when it comes to visual effects. I still believe this is the movie that should’ve won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and not Gladiator. We’ve come a long way from the original movie about the man who wasn’t there, The Invisible Man, released in 1933. It quickly became one of the Universal Pictures classics spawning several sequels. I would also like to mention the ill-fated John Carpenter’s take on the subject, Memoirs of an Invisible Man starring Chevy Chase. And, of course, we have the latest iteration, The Invisible Man 2020 edition starring Elisabeth Moss.
Sebastian Caine is a scientist who’s willing to push the boundaries of what’s possible. With a little help from the military, he’s currently working on the invisibility serum. With infinite military and other applications, he and his team are working hard to make this happen. After finally creating a stable formula, Caine decides to test it out on himself and prove that it works. What follows next is nothing short of a nightmare…
Right from that bizarre and quite gory opening scene, Hollow Man tells you it’s not going to hold back. It’s not going to hold back despite the fact that the director of the movie, Paul Verhoeven, said he wanted to make a “conventionally commercial blockbuster”. I just love his movies, especially the science fiction ones like RoboCop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. I guess I was too young to appreciate Basic Instinct back then but I will tell you that I’ve grown up since then. Although Showgirls hit me just at the right time if we’re being honest. Verhoeven had a $90 million budget and it fucking shows.
The CGI in Hollow Man still looks excellent and more importantly believable, more than 20 years later. The production values are excellent and every location looks authentic especially the laboratory. However, it would be all for nothing if the movie didn’t have a good lead. And this one did in dependable Kevin Bacon. Elisabeth Shue and her doppelganger Kim Dickens were also excellent along with Josh Brolin. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the hot girl from the next building over is Rhona Mitra (Doomsday). The pacing is excellent and all of this is topped off by one hell of an ending.
Finally, if you’re looking for something similar, I recommend the eighties classic The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum. It follows another scientist who decides to try his invention on himself with disastrous consequences. However, unlike Hollow Man, The Fly features effective and oftentimes gross practical effects.
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writers: Gary Scott Thompson, Andrew W. Marlowe
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg, Mary Randle
Fun Facts: Kevin Bacon is present in all those scenes in which we cannot actually see him. The other cast members found it difficult to act without him present. Although since he was wearing different colored suits to be keyed out afterward, his appearance was a bit funny.