Reviewed by: Brett Willis
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
A major test of a person’s inner makeup is: What would you do if no one could see you do it? The title character in this film, based loosely on H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, fails that test and meets a fate similar to that of the character in the original novel. The film title may be more a reference to his nature than to his invisibility.
Dr. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon), a brilliant, but arrogant and self-centered scientist, heads up a research team pursuing the secrets of invisibility. As the film opens, we see (graphically, as a rat is eaten by an invisible lab animal) that they’ve already perfected an invisibility serum; what they still need is a stable antidote. After Caine—in a flash of genius—has apparently found one, he hides that fact from the military researchers funding the project because he wants more time to do research his own way. He also lies to his team, telling them that they’ve been given clearance to do human testing, and volunteers himself for the test. The rest is standard formula Sci-Fi; and with modern Computer-Generated graphics plus direction by Paul Verhoeven, it won’t be pretty.
The profanity and sexual language are extreme. There’s a reference to God being displeased with the team’s research, which would probably be correct although they’re joking when they say it. After Caine becomes invisible and the antidote fails, he begins to act erratically (that is, more erratic than he did before). He’d previously been fascinated by a woman in the apartment across from his, who’d begin to undress and then pull her blinds at the last moment. Once he’s invisible and witnesses this same spectacle, he argues with himself: “Don’t even think about it.” “Who’s gonna know?” After sneaking into her apartment, he doesn’t just watch—he assaults her. Using his invisibility, he commits other sexual assaults as well as several murders. And of course there’s the crowning mark of a movie villain: cruelty to animals. Caine explains: “It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have to look at yourself in the mirror anymore.” There’s partial female nudity in some of the assaults. Caine and his CG double are sometimes shown frontal nude (including when he’s only partially visible, or is seen through infrared goggles). The last section of the film is scary and filled with graphic violence. Although the subject matter is completely different, it manages to borrow heavily from “Aliens”, with Caine’s former girlfriend Linda McKay (Elisabeth Shue) taking the part of Ripley.
We can’t tell how much of Caine’s behavior is something he always would have done if he’d thought he could get away with it, and how much is a side-effect of the serum. But based on his actions and inappropriate comments earlier in the film, it seems that he was always an accident waiting to happen. Bacon combines in this role the renegade scientist character from “Flatliners” and the on-edge criminal as seen in “The River Wild” and in some of his more recent films.
There are perhaps three pluses to this film. One is the amazing show of CG animation: as the invisibility serum or its antidote are injected, we see the test subjects disappear or reappear one blood vessel and one layer of tissue at a time; there are also the various ways in which Caine’s invisibility can be compromised, such as motion trackers, infrared goggles, leaving footprints, or being coated with water (or blood). The second is the point that someone like Caine is not a good role model, and the kind of research he’s doing is dangerous (as if we needed to be told that). The third is that the more films Bacon makes, the easier it is to play the “Three Steps Removed from Kevin Bacon” game. My primary reason for seeing it was the animation graphics as shown in the previews. Was that a good reason? Looking back, I’d say it wasn’t good enough. I didn’t really need to see an invisible hand unbuttoning a woman’s blouse, and neither does anyone else.
The answer to Caine’s rhetorical question “Who’s gonna know?” is of course that he would know and God would know. What we do today affects what we are tomorrow. And in the last judgment, God will be able to replay anything from our lives—even our thoughts. Jesus (Matt. 5:28) said that when a man lusts after a woman, he’s already committed adultery in his heart. Caine should have kept his own blinds shut; and those thinking of seeing this film need to ask what it might do to their own hearts.