The people have spoken. They had shunned the thought of another cinematic universe when Universal Studio tried to reboot the shared monster universe in the form of “The Dark Universe”. I was all for this idea because I felt it was important for people to rediscover these films, but Universal set about it in the wrong way completely. Now that idea has been canned, they can continue as standalone films like The Invisible Man. If this film showed anything is that the smaller the number of shackles and demands there are on a creative project, the more the creator can…well, create.
I had a formula in my head about how I though The Invisible Man would play out, well director Leigh Whannell has taken my expectations, attached them to a brick and thrown it at my window with a note that says “NO”. This film is unlike any monster film I’ve seen before because it doesn’t feel like one. There’s no mad scientist wanting to play god, there’s no Egyptian legends, just plain old realism with a sprinkle of science fiction tossed in for good measure. The story of The Invisible Man is a very personal story to our lead Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) who is escaping an abusive relationship from her ex-boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and whether it was the film’s intention or not, it speaks a lot about these kinds of manipulative relationships and for someone in the audience, it can be either too much or something therapeutic, so it’s quite multi-layered.
Elizabeth Moss carries this film. This is one of her best performances to date because her character Cecilia, in keeping the film grounded in realism, is very believable. It is made crystal clear in the earlier stages of the film that this character is going through a painful moment in her life and you go through all the emotions early on. You’ve got her going through torment, release and mental manipulation in quick succession, so you know where this character is psychologically with ease.
With a psychological focus on understanding Cecilia, the film finds intriguing ways to give us a better understanding of how to reach a deeper connection with her. No more so is this the case than with the opening sequence, which is done with two lines of dialogue. The scene packs some fantastic cinematography elements that crank up the tension and mystery surrounding the situation, tracking shots provide the opportunity for the audience to move with the character increasing intrigue as well as showing every piece of methodical planning in the scene. It sets the tone for the film as a whole and it never deviates from the initial shock that comes with the release, a well-timed pace increases the audience’s emotional tension.
The film messes with your mind a lot, making you believe that one thing is happening but suddenly it goes in a completely different direction. It is an extension of the previous point I made about it not feeling like a monster film because you think you know what you’re in for but it’s something completely different and when that realization kicks in, you’re pleasantly surprised and quick to accept the change in perception.
I think though, in some places in The Invisible Man, the film takes its suspense-building elements to the extremes which are where you get distracted from the moment. The soundtrack is one of those elements. I notice a few places in the movie where the built-up tension will be accompanied by those loud, sharp sounds that you would normally get to signal shock (like seen in jump scares). However, these sounds come when there is nothing that could make you jump out of your seat, for instance, Cecilia turning her head. The Invisible man needed to manage the volume of its soundtrack better, although it does know how to use silence to great effect.
I also feel that the film could have done more to explain the science fiction element that came with the background of Adrian. Of course, we’re not completely in the dark, there are a few nods to his line of work, wealth and a lot of information on his power, but I felt that a bigger explanation was needed when we enter the sci-fi elements.
The Invisible Man marks an interesting transition away from the classic monster film formula and turns it into a personal, smart story. Elizabeth Moss’s performance is something that everyone can admire and take away from this film as well as the commentary on manipulative relationships like the one here. I encourage Universal’s new method of individual storytelling; this is what is needed for classic monsters to come back. The Invisible Man is the kind of film that over time and with multiple viewings is going to get smarter and smarter, which will be easy for itself because of how compelling it is.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen The Invisible Man? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Onward