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The track record for screenwriters turned directors is not all that great. Usually, a trip behind the lens is nothing more than a reward, a studio suit wink and a nod to a previous penning job well done. This is clearly the case when discussing David Goyer. A trip over to the IMDb indicates that, over the last 17 years, he's been responsible for the scripts to such cinematic successes as Dark City, Blade, Batman Begins and the upcoming Dark Knight. Of course, he probably won't fess up to such flops as Kickboxer 2: The Road Back, Demonic Toys, and The Puppet Masters. Still, for reestablishing Bruce Wayne's alter ego as a viable motion picture moneymaker again, as well as keeping Wesley Snipes in undeclared income, Goyer gets the chance to flex his often very fallible filmmaking skills. His first feature, ZigZag is all but forgotten. His next effort killed off that vampire's comic book franchise once and for all. Now, before he stains the legacy of the X-Men (he's "attached" to the Magneto movie), Goyer has a ghost story to tell you. It's called The Invisible, and if the title hasn't hinted, that's the way audiences treated it when it hit theaters back in April. Now on DVD, it's time to see if it can stir up some home video interest. All indicators suggest 'No'.
Nick Powell is not a problem child. Not really. He's just messed up inside and hurting since his dad decided to take a dirt nap when he was 13. About to graduate from high school, and angry at his distant mother for keeping him in a rather lonely lap of luxury, our only slightly troubled teen is off to jolly old England to become a writer. Oh course, mom and his mensch buddy Pete have yet to be informed of this fact. After helping his pathetic pal stand up - financially - to the gloomy gang gal Annie, Nick is ready to fly. All he has to do is stop off at a pre-graduation party, and it's Virgin Airlines all the way. Unfortunately, Annie has other ideas. When she's pinched for a jewelry store heist, she blames the blubbering Pete. Of course, like any true friend, he rats out Nick (who, in truth, had nothing to do with it). Beaten by the babe and her high school hired goons, our hero is left for dead in a drainage ditch. Next day, he's up and around, a spirit stuck between the afterlife and the real world. If he can convince Annie to confess, he may be able to save his battered body and live. If he doesn't, he will remain one of The Invisible for all eternity.
Here's a warning for anyone over 25 - The Invisible is not for you. As a matter of fact, it is clear that it was never intended to be pitched to your particular demographic. Like a juvenile J-Horror version of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, except with more student induced killing, what we have here is Ghost for the G-Unit generation. Helmed by untested director David Goyer, a Tinsel Town mainstay whose yet to craft a decent flick, and based on a Swedish novel by Mats Wahl entitled Den Osynlige (which itself was made into a movie in 2002), it's a narrative that speaks directly to individuals with limited life experience, grudges the size of Hummers on their waifish shoulders, and self-centered and interested adolescents who fail to realize that the world does not revolve around them. It's the pop culture paranormal, a movie that believes its novel because its villain is a hoodlum GAL, and its premise beyond preposterous. In essence, we learn that people who aren't quite dead enter into a kind of unseen state where they float between existence and the ephemeral. Nobody can hear them - except the catalyst she-criminal who caused the near-killing - and they're typically reduced to expository narrator, reminding the audience of what they can see right before their very eyes. In book form, this kind of externalized introspection may have worked, but on film it functions as a downgraded Dead Like Me.
For the first hour of the film, Goyer wants to give us a felonious Ferris Bueller, a heaping helping of high school hokum where our 'golden boy' hero scribbles poetry, sells final exam essays, and chides the cafeteria bullies because...well, because he's just so gosh-darned better than they are. Even after being jumped and reprimanded, he's a bon mot spouting sport, a London bound writer wannabe who hates his widowed mom for...well, for not being his dad. Obviously, Nick's got issues, a big fat rich twitching trust fund full of them, yet The Invisible is not out to explore these problems. Instead, they get a brief buzzword workout when our lead goes on his first post-traumatic haunt. Watching actor Justin Chatwin whine and snivel like a whipped kitten is irritating at best, but it's a pleasure compared to Margarita Levieva's totally unbelievable bit as troubled teen Annie. Fueled by the death of her mother and an ongoing sexual standoff with her paroled boyfriend Marcus, this Tommy Hilfiger harlot dresses in hoodies, wears a cap to keep her copious curls in place, and snarls like a guinea pig nursing its young. She's about as believable a baddie as Mother Teresa with a machete. Instead of being tough, she's talentless, doing nothing to prepare us for her last act change of heart. You'd think that as part of this overlong script, Goyer would find time to provide a little meaningful motivation.
Instead, The Invisible is nothing but ungrateful progeny spouting off at the undead mouth and readily available firearm. With its reliance of oh-so-hip indie rock (Wow - Death Cab for Cutie! How moody and mopey!) and it's stark British Columbia backdrop, you can literally see Goyer going for the gloomy Goth alienated fan base, the kind of kids who cut themselves while listening to outtakes from the latest Panic! At the Disco CD. The sad thing is, you can also hear his viewership swooning at the many moments of ersatz existentialism. When Nick screams at his mother for being an uncaring witch (of course, she can't hear him), the "Hell Yeahs!" rising from the firmament must have been deafening. Similarly, when Annie tells her dumpster Dad that if he does anything to her little brother Vincent, she will come back and kill him, the girl powerful must have gone gonzo. Every beat of this movie is aimed at a PG-13 protocol, more manipulated and micromanaged than the ad campaigns for High School Musical 1 and 2. Unfortunately, someone forgot to program in the thrills and chills. This is a horror movie without scares, and a supernatural actioner without excitement. Clearly created to guarantee maximum monetary returns by slyly avoiding any and all controversy - cinematic or otherwise - and geared to give the tween to tanked age bracket a tragic pair to pull for, The Invisible is actually pretty transparent. If you're old enough to know better, you're far and beyond this film's feeble focus group.
While this critic would love to comment on the quality of this Touchstone transfer, the company pulled a fast one on us here at DVD Talk. Instead of sending out final product, they provided a screener, meaning that copyright warnings are plastered across the top and bottom of the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image. Unlike other DVD distributors, who use an occasional flashing logo to protect against piracy, this division of the House and Mouse purposely destroyed a small portion of the motion picture for the entire running time. Then they expect a legitimate technical review. Well, in general, the visuals are fine. The muted color scheme works well, and the level of detail and contrasts is perfectly professional. But what the actual disc will contain is anyone's guess. Again, this is nothing more than a PR tool passing itself off as a legitimate digital package.
From an aural standpoint, it is also hard to give a fair assessment. The sole English track is purported to be a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, yet the overall lack of immersion suggests something simpler. Granted, the various mock rock songs sprinkled across the soundtrack really stun the speakers, but the general atmosphere of the movie is one note and bland. The back channels are barely recognized, and the attempt at ambiance does little to affect our viewing.
Touchstone does its best to flesh out this DVD package, providing a few semi-interesting bits of added content for those who care. First, there is a selection of deleted scenes with optional commentary from director Goyer and co-writer Christine Roum. The notion that this already overlong movie could have easily eclipsed the two hour mark is depressing enough. There's almost 20 more minutes of footage to be found, and after looking over what's been cut, and hearing the rationale behind the edits, it's obvious some more trimming was desperately needed. Then there are two full length audio discussions - one featuring Goyer and Roum, the other offering co-writer Mick Davis solo. Neither one is very interesting, since there's a lot of self-congratulatory backslapping going on. You know the kind of conversation offered here - rose-colored accolades of how everyone did a great job, resulting in an equally affable film. Right. Finally, we get two music videos - as if anyone over 10 cares about such things anymore. Still, 30 Seconds to Mars provides "The Kill", while Sparta delivers "Taking Back Control". Toss in the mandatory preview trailers and you've got a fair to middling collection of home video marketing materials.
Though it's never quite boring, The Invisible is never quite believable, either. It will cause the more seasoned cinephiles in the crowd to scoff at its narrative naiveté, and frighten only the feeblest of Hanna Montana age horror fans. Goyer may bask in the supposed glory of his screenplay work, but his directorial flare is mostly flash in the panned. The Invisible should earn a Skip It, but because it definitely speaks to a pre-college constituency that still believes it has a future (suckers), it will instead receive a Rent It. That way, no one will feel fully hosed when their fear factors remain at rest. Besides, teens don't collect films. A quick click on Netflix, and the Saturday Night sleepover is set. Maybe if it tackled its many adult issues in a more mature manner, we'd have an acceptable little macabre. Instead, The Invisible wants to wow those that are the most impressionable - and the last thing terror should be is geared toward the gullible.
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