If you don’t remember, in 2017 Universal tried to reboot one of the first cinematic universes; their classic monster movies in what was briefly called the Dark Universe (taking after the Marvel Cinematic Universe).
Unfortunately, Tom Cruz’s “The Mummy” was supposed to lead the charge, and it fell so hard on its face that it led to the cancellation of all Dark Universe projects, one of which was an “Invisible Man” film starring Johnny Depp.
However, for “The Invisible Man”, death was only the beginning.
Depp-less and without a Dark Universe, the film morphed into what would become 2020’s “The Invisible Man”, directed by Leigh Whannell, thanks to Blumhouse, who worked with Universal to give it a microscopic $7 million budget that it would be guaranteed to earn back, even if it was bad.
So was it bad?
“The Invisible Man” is a curiosity when we talk about what happens after cinematic universes fail. Like DC’s superhero films post-“Batman v. Superman,” “Invisible Man” focuses on a one-off story not connected to any of Universal’s other monster movies, and because of that, it works.
The film follows Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass, the ex-girlfriend of an abusive millionaire scientist named Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who is all about doing whatever he can to control her. “Invisible Man”‘s monster is not some hideous supernatural monster, but that of a man with toxic masculinity and a sick obsession with control.
Kass stays at a friend’s house for two weeks, after which her sister (Harriet Dyer) visits her unexpectedly to tell her that Adrian allegedly killed himself, and left her with $5 million, to be given to her monthly in installments of $100,000, contingent upon her not committing a crime. After the sister’s visit, she notices strange happenings around the house, which leads her to believe that Adrian is still alive, followed her sister to where she is staying, and created a way to make himself invisible, which he might’ve been able to do, seeing as he was a leader in the field of optics. These happenings become more violent and obvious to the viewer as the film goes on, but The Invisible Man (we never get 100 percent confirmation who he is, given a later twist) always makes sure that the supporting cast can’t discern if he’s really there, or if Kass is making everything up.
So it’s basically Gaslighting: The Movie.
The movie does a good job of escalation, as the Invisible Man’s antics start out with him doing some mildly annoying things, like taking the blankets off Kass or turning the stove up high, and later ramp up to him hitting the daughter of the friend she’s staying with, Sydney (Storm Reid), which turns said friend, James (Aldis Hodge), against her, which spirals the plot into insanity (see the spoilers section below).
** Spoilers** The insanity begins as such: He then kills a major main character, and blames it on Kass, which makes her forfeit the money he left her, and sees her imprisoned in a mental hospital. Only then he reveals his endgame: Turns out he got Kass pregnant, and all this was to corner her into having his baby. Instead, Kass tries to kill herself, which throws The Invisible Man in a rage that allows Kass to reveal him, which ultimately leads to his death. And the person under the mask is …
Adrian’s brother, Tom (Michael Dorman), who is the lawyer who set up Kass with the $5 million and originally communicated Adrian’s will once she was in the hospital. And in true Scooby Doo fashion, he has no motivation or connection to Kass. The real Adrian ends up being found locked up in his basement, which Kass suspects is a ruse to get close to her again, and she’s 100 percent right. Thankfully, Adrian convenitaly made a second Invisible Man suit that Kass picked up previously, and she uses it to make it seem like he committed suicide on camera. ** Spoilers**
This movie is pretty unbalanced. The first 3/4ths of the film are very average, and are just about what you’d expect from a film with this premise. I’d give it a 6/10.
However, the last 1/4 of the movie is where things get interesting, as the movie plays with the question of: Who is controlling who? And once the movie develops beyond the obvious twists, that last quarter elevates the film to a 7/10. Really, it feels like the first three quarters of the film was written by someone just going through the motions, while the last fourth of the film was written by someone with genuine talent.
Moss is absolutely fine as the film’s lead, even though her character could have been written better, as she makes some classic horror mistakes, but that’s not the fault of the actress. Reid and Hodge are fine as the main supporting cast. Dorman does a fine job, but is underutilized. Jackson-Cohen should have been in the film more, and the few scenes he is in feel like he’s trying to make up for lost time. He comes off as a mustache-twirling villain, rather than a real person.
The film is very memorable visually, and it has great use of sound to create suspense. All around, it’s a pretty OK film, elevated by a great finish.
“The Invisible Man” gets a 7/10