WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
What potential this project had! Try to reach back in time, before Hollow Man disappointed you with its hollowness, and re-imagine your reaction to the news that Paul Verhoeven (the schlocky genius behind such classics as Robocop, Starship Troopers, and Showgirls) would direct an invisible-man thriller in which the unseen dude would get into all kinds of nasty, horny trouble. I can still conjure goosebumps at the possibilities.
Instead, heart-breakingly, Hollow Man turned out to be one of the great disappointments of 2000. I have no problem with the direction in which Verhoeven decided to take his story—essentially, a scientist discovers the secret of invisibility and under the influence of his newfound power becomes a mad rapist/slasher, victim to his most base desires. That's all well and good, and Verhoeven even plays with the totally plausible notion that invisibility might conjure up the vanished man's dastardly id and wreak all kinds of havoc. No, my problem with Hollow Man is simply that it doesn't go anywhere. It doesn't do anything. The invisible man discovers his inherent evil and spends the rest of the film wandering around his lab, killing his coworkers.
Kevin Bacon plays Sebastian Caine, the scientist in question, a dark genius who has conquered invisibility. The film's first-billed heroine is Linda McKay (played by the insanely gorgeous Elisabeth Shue), who will end up terrorized—much like Ripley in the original Alien—in the bowels of the cavernous laboratory. Throw in a jealousy triangle between Caine, McKay, and fellow lab rat Matthew Kensington (Josh Brolin), and you've got all the ingredients for a soap opera filled with state-of-the-art special effects.
And therein lies the movie's saving grace. These are some of the most astonishing special effects I've seen on film. When the invisibility potion is injected, you watch the subject disappear from the outside in, from the skin to the muscles to the organs to the bones. It's a startling and icky effect that really works. The invisibility effects themselves are peerless. We've seen nothing like this before.
Which makes this undertaking all the more disappointing. I only wish Verhoeven had had the balls to go all out with this effort, throw Caine out into the world, show us some serious kink, dive deeply into the true nature of this man's id.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Columbia/TriStar presents Hollow Man in a reference-quality anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Colors are incredibly warm and accurate, and detail reaches deep into backgrounds.
This Superbit presentation is exquisite, although when compared with the original release (which boasted excellent image quality), I noticed only subtle improvements on my 65-inch rear-projection monitor. True, this Superbit presentation bursts with lifelike depth, but the 2000 release comes close to the same. I did notice an improved level of detail and resolution, but the differences aren't as noticeable as with the Patriot release.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The original release's Dolby Digital 5.1 track is very impressive, offering a wide soundstage, active surrounds that thrum with even the tiniest aural detail, clear and accurate dialog, thundering bass, and a soaring delivery of the Jerry Goldsmith score. On this Superbit release, Columbia/TriStar ratchets up the audio with a Dolby Surround EX track that subtly betters the original Dolby track—at least in the surround arena.
Hollow Man's already active surround channels are beefed up on this track, offering a more engaging sense of envelopment.
The disc also contains a DTS 5.1 track. As per usual, the DTS track offers some audio subtleties that result in a more pleasing sound experience. It's a more elegant track, offering a richer top end and a tighter bottom end. (Don't we all wish for that?)
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
On this Superbit Deluxe edition, Columbia/TriStar has placed all supplementary material on a second disc so that Disc 1 can devote all its space to the video and audio tracks. All of the supplements that were on the original disc are present here, except for the audio commentary from director Paul Verhoeven, actor Kevin Bacon, and screenwriter Andrew W. Marlowe, and the isolated score, both of which has been chopped in favor of the DTS track, presumably.
First up is the HBO special Hollow Man: Anatomy of a Thriller. This 15-minute featurette is a slick little piece of promotional almost-fluff, which nevertheless contains some interesting cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
Next is a selection of 15 (!) featurettes called Fleshing Out the Hollow Man: Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes. These short pieces focus on the film's groundbreaking special effects.
In VFX Picture-In-Picture Comparisons, you can take a look three scenes (Kramer's Death, Sprinkler Attack, and Sebastian's Demise) before and after the visual and audio effects were added in post-production.
Verhoeven provides commentary over three Deleted Scenes (Was It a Dream?, Sebastian Attack, and Sebastian on the Prowl) which are actually extended versions of existing scenes. Verhoeven's video comments over the kinky Sebastian Attack as well as Sebastian on the Prowl are actually intrusive.
Finally, you get Filmographies for Verhoeven, Bacon, Shue, and Brolin, and the film's Theatrical Teaser and Theatrical Trailer.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
This Superbit release of Hollow Man is a must-buy if you value high-end presentation. Although it doesn't provide a dramatic improvement over the previous release (as The Patriot does), the image and audio improvements are noticeable.