When I first saw "Hollow Man" 7 years ago at the theater, I remember coming out disappointed. I was huge fan of Verhoeven's work (especially "Starship Troopers") and I was sad to see his talents wasted. Now, 7 years later, I am watching "Hollow Man" for the first time since it's theatrical release. Unfortunately, my opinion of the film has only worsened.
The story: In an underground facility, Sebastian Cane and his team of scientists are working on an invisibility formula for a Government project. At first, the team tests the formula on a Gorilla, which turns out to be a success. Shortly after, Sebastian takes it upon himself to have the formula tested on himself. Predictably, something goes wrong and Sebastian is stuck being invisible. Sebastian is depressed at first, but he soon realizes his power poses endless possibilities. As Sebastian becomes consumed by his powers he starts to lose control and becomes not only dangerous, but murderous. Can he be stopped? Note: The Director's Cut contains an additional 8 minutes, but I couldn't even tell what was added.
The most aggravating aspect of the film is the clunky script written by Andrew W. Marlowe. The main problem is that very few of the character's actions are believable. Why aren't people constantly putting on their thermal imaging goggles when Sebastian is running around invisible? Why is Linda being careless about her relationship with a co-worker? Why doesn't Sebastian leave the facility and never come back if he's worried he'll be turned in? He can go anywhere and do anything, yet he comes back to the facility by choice! Marlowe could have done much more with the premise, but instead he keeps the story centered mainly in one lousy location.
The cast contains many fine underrated performers (Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin, and Greg Grunberg), but they are all given little to do. Aside from Bacon, the cast's roles are all bland and one-dimensional. As for Bacon, he seems to be having a blast playing a character who gives in to his dark side and evil urges, but once again, the F/X overshadow his performance.
As you can assume, the outstanding visual F/X are the highlight of the film. The F/X are really ahead of their time. How "Gladiator" beat out "Hollow Man" in the 2001 Oscars for Best F/X remains a mystery. The meticulous human (and sometimes animal)/ invisible transformation scenes alone are better than anything in "Gladiator." The f/x with water, smoke, and fire are equally notable, although it's kind of sad that scenes seemed to be written around various ways Sebastian could appear visible when he is invisible.
I have no complaints with the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen as it is nearly flawless. I'm sure the Blu-Ray disk looks even sharper.
Again, I have no real complaints with the English 5.1 Dolby Digital. The dialogue and score are as clear as day.
* Previews for "Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud," "Wind Chill," "Kaw," "Resident Evil/Resident Evil: Apocalypse," "Rise: Blood Hunter," "Hostel Part 2," "The Company," "Seinfeld-Season 9," "Ray Harryhausen In Color," "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind- Ultimate Edition."
* English and Korean subtitles.
* A 4 ½ minute "VFX Picture Comparison" of Kramer's death, Sprinkler Attack, and Sebastian's Demise. Basically, this extra shows the final version and how they shot it (without f/x) side by side.
* The 15 minute HBO featurette titled "Hollow Man-Anatomy Of A Thriller" focuses on interviews with the cast and crew talking about characters and f/x accompanied by clips from the film. Yawn.
* "Fleshing Out The Hollow Man" is a collection of 15 short featurettes that run a little over 40 minutes total. The featurettes are as followed: "Paul Verhoeven- Hollywood's Mad Scientist," "The Invisibility Formula," "The Muscle Man," "The Human Bubble," "Thermal Imaging," "The Smoke Guy," "The Gorilla Suit," "The Mask," "Flaming Sebastian," "Elevator Finale," "Ape Reversion Storyboards," "The Underground Lab," "Reversion Progressions," "Invisibility Progressions," and "Digital Body Parts Montage." I have to say that these featurettes are very thorough in depicting how most of the f/x were done and how much work went into them. Then again, it just goes to show how the f/x took precedent over everything else. My favorite featurette had nothing to do with the f/x. Paul Verhoeven- Hollywood's Mad Scientist is a fun look at Verhoeven's directing style. It's especially amusing to see him scream.
Aside from breathtaking visual effects, "Hollow Man" is a typical empty Hollywood Blockbuster. I can't even recommend a rental. You're better off watching the original "The Invisible Man."
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.