‘The Invisible Man’ movie review: Contemporary twist on a classic gone wrong

Elisabeth Moss in ‘The Invisible Man’

Elisabeth Moss in ‘The Invisible Man’  

Leigh Whannell’s vision for a feminist angle doesn’t quite make the 2020 adaptation of H.G Wells’ novel too cohesive

Long has the lore of H.G Wells’ The Invisible Man fascinated folks. With its 2020 adaptation, director and writer Leigh Whannell (Saw and the Insidious series), gives the film a marked feminist twist. Instead of focusing on the actual man in the story, Whannell emphasises the consequences of control and a chauvinistic erasure of the female identity.

Initially, the film was supposed to be a part of Universal Pictures’ grand scheme to revive the Dark Universe properties. Sadly, The Mummy’s reboot in 2017 put quite a large wrench in the works with its dismal box office performance. The studio then focused on remaking The Invisible Man as a stand-alone low budget feature with Blumhouse Productions. In its second feature of the year after the underwhelming Fantasy Island, the production house sticks to what it knows best with horror, including a science fiction-themed feminist angle.

The Invisible Man
  • Director: Leigh Whannell
  • Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen
  • Storyline: An optics genius uses his suit of invisibility to stalk and harass his ex-girlfriend

Whannell’s contemporary take is evident from the get go. His heroine, Cecelia (Elizabeth Moss) is seen tip-toeing around a beach-front house, fear bulging in her eyes. She’s drugged her boyfriend, optics genius Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in order to escape. Her attempt to fly the coop is only partially successful when weeks later news of Griffin’s suicide surfaces, but mysterious harassment ensues. It’s evident Griffin has returned but Whannell insists on the inclusion of twists and turns that are more futile than surprising. Moss’ turn as a broken woman, who is mentally tortured in spite of leaving an abusive situation, could be triggering for its authenticity. It definitely helps that Whannell spotlights gaslighting, forced isolation, dominance and male power.

But the director’s well-intentioned or probably opportunistic vision — to capitalise on a necessary subject — doesn’t quite realise into cinematic excellence. While Cecelia’s situation elicits due empathy, Whannell is unable to craft a screenplay with originality. The Invisible Man is derivative, merging classic literature with any Hollywood revenge film. That said, there are moments, albeit fleeting, of pure horror when the Invisible Man teases his presence. But when the cat is out of the bag, in this case, a technological marvel of a suit, there’s not enough drama, horror or excitement to grip waning audience attention. It’s a shame that The Invisible Man’s fragmented positives can’t merge into a fulfilling whole, only because awareness about gendered violence is still sorely needed.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 8:03:40 AM |

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