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Memoirs of an Invisible Man

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // August 19, 2003
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Mike Long | posted August 25, 2003 | E-mail the Author
The Movie


John Carpenter first made his mark in 1978 with the horror classic Halloween. During the 80s, he continued to work in the realm of horror and science-fiction, making more memorable films, such as The Fog, Escape from New York, and The Thing. But, during the 1990s, Carpenter begin to slip and his work began to suffer, both in terms of box-office success and the acceptance by his fans. This trend can be traced back to 1992's Memoirs of an Invisible Man, which has recently appeared on DVD.

Chevy Chase stars in Memoirs of an Invisible Man, as Nick Halloway, a securities analyst. Nick is a shallow man who enjoys the finer things in life while doing the least amount of work possible. He visits a company called Magnascopics, to investigate the possibility of investing, when an accident at the site renders him invisible. Now, fearing for his life, and on the run from government agents, led by the ruthless David Jenkins (Sam Neill), Nick must learn to cope with being invisible and find a way to life freely.

At its core, Memoirs of an Invisible Man has a great idea in the updating of the invisible man story by dealing with a Yuppy whose charmed life goes out the window when he can no longer be seen. However, the movie is full of problems that keep it from being either an exciting sci-fi flick, or a political commentary. For one thing, the script bites off more than it can chew. The movie jumps around from the espionage angle, to Nick's experiment with coping with being invisible, to his infatuation with a blonde beauty named Alice (Daryl Hannah). The film never spends enough time on any one of these subjects, leaving the viewer just as restless as the script. The other major problem with the film is Chevy Chase. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Chase in his comedic roles, but he simply wasn't the right choice for this film. The movie attempts to deal with the "serious" issues that one would face if invisible, but these moments are short-lived as there are too many attempts to have Chase say or do something funny. (Which typically isn't funny.) I admire Chase for giving this role a shot, and he does have some good moments (such as when he picks North Carolina to go all the way in the NCAA Tournament.), but the movie could have been much better with another actor.

The biggest loser in all of this was John Carpenter. Given a reported budget of $40 million and the artists at ILM for the special effects, Carpenter could've made a sci-fi blockbuster. Instead, the movie is riddled with cliches and despite the fact that it deals with a lone character and their personal struggle, it never, ever feels like a Carpenter film. Nor does this look like a Carpener movie, as director of photography William A. Fraker gives this the high gloss of a Spielberg film. (Fraker worked with Spielberg on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 1941.) The special effects in the film, which combine optical and CGI effects, were cutting edge in 1992, but they look very dated today. Memoirs of an Invisible Man could have been a great film, but the result was a lackluster thriller that would probably go straight to cable today.

Video

Memoirs of an Invisible Man materializes on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Entertainment. The disc contains an anamorphic transfer, and the film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1. The image looks very solid, as there is only a fine amount of grain in some of the daytime scenes. The picture does show some mild artifacting at times, but this won't detract from the viewing experience. As with many of Carpenter's film, there are some very dark scenes here, but the action is always visible. The colors look very good, and the framing appears to be accurate.

Audio

The primary audio track on this DVD is a Dolby 2-channel surround mix. This track delivers clear and audible dialogue, with no indication of hissing or distortion. The stereo and surround effects are plentiful, most easily identified whenever a helicopter flies across the screen. The track adds much needed ambiance to the film, and the score by Shirley Walker, in her first collaboration with Carpenter, sounds fine.

Extras

The DVD contains only two extra features. First, we have a brief segment entitled, "How to Become Invisible: The Dawn of Digital FX". In this 4-minute featurette, FX artists from ILM explain how the invisibility FX for Memoirs of an Invisible Man were done, with examples of how CGI effects were combined with elements from the movie. The disc also contains a section labeled "Outtakes", but instead of being a gag-reel, this is actually five deleted scenes. Unfortunately, none of them are of any real consequence and don't add anything to the story.


As a John Carpenter fan, it's tough to look back and see just how disappointing Memoirs of an Invisible Man was. The movie only made back 1/3 of its budget and further sullied Carpenter's attitude towards major studios. While the movie isn't terrible, considering the talent involved, it could have been much, much better.
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