If there's a Hollow Man 3, Judge David Johnson wants to see some invisible ninjas fighting invisible robots. That would be pretty sweet.
You can't see him. But you can feel him.
Was there really an overwhelming desire among the Hollow Man fan base for a sequel? Apparently. So, whether you're ready or not, the follow up to Kevin Bacon's foray in transparency has arrived.
Facts of the Case
The film gets right into the invisibility action. At a swanky party, a scientist meets a brutal demise at the hands of a literally unseen killer. Called into investigate is crack Seattle PD detective Frank Turner (Peter Facinelli). No sooner does he arrive on the gory scene he is intercepted by a squad of big-shot Pentagon types and told his work is done. Upset by the jurisdiction hijacking, Turner is reassigned to protect Maggie Dalton (Laura Regan), another scientist who Frank's boss thinks might be in danger. During the stakeout, Frank realizes that the threat is for real, as he and Maggie manage to barely escape, again menaced by the invisible foe.
Frank forces Maggie to cough up the details: she was contracted by the government to pick up where Kevin Bacon's scientist crew left off X number of years ago. Their goal was to perfect the invisibility serum to create the perfect covert soldier. But there were some nasty side effects to the process, making all the test subjects sick and crazy. Out and about now, wasting everyone is the most recent subject, Michael Griffin (Christian Slater, Alone in the Dark), a former special forces soldier who signed up to be all he can be invisibly.
Too bad he went off the deep end. Running amok through the city, he's been trying to track down Maggie, the woman who gave him the serum, but who also may hold an antidote to prevent him from dying. So Frank and Maggie have the Pentagon, the local authorities, and an invisible maniac all after them, and when the @#$% hits the fan, Frank will do something incredibly stupid, and shoot himself up with the invisibility drug, thus pitting two Hollow Men against each-other, in a battle royale of voiceovers and special effects.
Six years ago we had the pleasure of seeing a non-opaque Kevin Bacon rampaging through a laboratory and harassing the lovely Elizabeth Shue. Director Paul Verhoeven brought us that tale of an invisible man-gone-psycho, and returns to executive produce its direct-to-DVD brethren. Manning the helm of the Hollow Man this go-round is Christian Slater, but instead of us seeing any buildup to his transformation, the film kicks off with him all invisible already. As such, Slater's actual presence in the movie is slightly weightier than a cameo; he lends his voice, sure, but he's on screen for only two scenes, a flashback sequence and the big end fight.
The gimmick of this film is the introduction of a second Hollow Man, played by Facinelli. Truth be told, he only gets his hollowness on in the last 15 minutes, setting up the much-ballyhooed invisible man face-off at the end. Unfortunately, the promise of mano a mano Hollow Man awesomeness fails to live up to the splendor the disc synopsis promises. Actually, what is the promise of this set-up? How compelling could it possibly be to watch two invisible men fight each-other?!? Thankfully, the movie places the two opponents in the middle of a rainstorm, so we are at least able to see something, but in the end it's really just faint special effects swinging at each-other. So the big "two Hollow Men" tease? Not really as dope as the movie wants it to be.
Hollow Man 2 is in essence a road movie, as our heroes Maggie and Frank drive around a lot and hook up with creepy guys with bad skin conditions who issue lengthy expository monologues while being chased by an invisible man. The sequel eschews the moralizing of the first film (rendering the title "Hollow Man" kinda pointless) and aims at putting together a simple conspiratorial mystery/slasher film. Judging the film by that calculus, I do think it's a moderate success.
What the film excels at is creating a tense atmosphere. Through a murky, soft color palette, an above-average score, and a deliberate pacing (which, unfortunately deliberates a bit too much here and there), Hollow Man 2 formulates a tactile sense of dread. And when the punches of action do arrive—chase scenes, attacks, murders—they are lent that much more pop.
Hollow Man 2 isn't an all-out action movie, and there will almost certainly be times when you feel like you're languishing through a particular scene (the interminable talking-a-whole-lot-in-the-car sequence jumps to mind), but overall I think the pace works for the tone the movie is going after. And when the Hollow Man does make his appearances, his presence is effective, conveyed through smoke and mirrors and effects work, though the visual tricks are surprisingly well-done. Those are the good bits.
On the negative end, the story is less than involving. The big reveal is goofy, and the giant chunks of exposition inserted throughout have a sense of being shoehorned in for audience guidance. Maggie Dalton is a complete idiot and Frank Turner isn't far behind, doping himself up with a serum he knows doesn't have a cure and will eventually lead to a horrendously painful death for no apparent reason (other than to fulfill the promise of dual Hollow Men of course). Another bummer: we miss out on a version of the most notorious scene from the first film, the turning-invisible process with the step-by-step peeling away of body layers. We only get a few fleeting shots that I think were lifted from the original Hollow Man.
I suppose my biggest disappointment with this movie is the lack of cool "invisible man stuff." The possibilities are limitless for what a Hollow Man could do! Personally, I'd like to see a film where a solider is turned invisible and turned on Al Qaeda, kicking Zarqawi's ass with a floating shovel or something. Aside from the letdown final battle, there was simply nothing new or exciting here.
This is a solid DVD from top to bottom though. The sound and picture quality are both solid; a loud, active 5.1 mix supports a crisp 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer sporting strong color details. The special effects look great, too. In the bonus bin, you get a hefty making-of featurette called "Inside Hollow Man 2," which takes you through the effects work, the casting, and the general filming process, visual effects and storyboard comparisons and a storyboard gallery.
For its modest aims, Hollow Man 2 largely succeeds. It boasts big-screen quality in the effects, scoring, and production departments, but the story is lackluster and you won't give a crap about the idiot characters. Aren't sequels supposed to up the ante?
Not bad, but it feels kind of…wait for it…hollow.
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Scales of Justice
• "Inside Hollow Man 2"
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