October 25, 2007

DVD Review: The Invisible

The Invisible has aspirations of being something deep and thoughtful. It is based on a high concept that is well worth exploring. The problem is that this movie goes in the wrong direction. It takes the concepts that were used to much greater effect in The Sixth Sense and Ghost and twists them into an emo soup populated with a cast of characters that I cared nothing about. The end result is a near complete dullard of a film. This is the kind of movie that makes one wonder if the creative team actually stopped to look at what they were making. I get the feeling they were so in love with the concept that they were blinded to any of the problems that cropped up, an over confidence in the material.

The story concerns high school student Nick Powell, who is attacked, left for dead, and now exists in a state of limbo. It is up to Nick to solve his murder in order to live again (as explained in the trailer through a scene not appearing in the film). The concept is definitely of the high variety, but is one that holds a lot of promise. The problem is the character development is too weak to truly carry the concept anywhere. The story never really takes off, and never comes together in any logical fashion. The characters are mere sketches of people, there more to propel the plot then to inhabit the world. Plus, none of them are all that likable and are painted in rather broad strokes.

We are introduced to Nick, an apparently gifted poet who makes money on the side by selling term papers to the school jocks. He is an angst-filled rich kid whose father died when he was young and who has a standoffish, cold mother who doesn't listen to him. Why should I like this guy? Is it because he stuck up for his broke friend who bought a stolen cell phone from the school underachiever? Because his mommy doesn't listen to him? He is just an annoying kid that I have no reason to connect with, much less when his limbo-land adventures begin. Sure, the murder (or attempted murder) of a young person (or anyone) is tragic and the exploration of this next stage is fascinating, but couldn’t we at least have someone we like?

Not all films need to have likable characters, but they have to have interesting ones. All of those in this film are not all that interesting, much less likable. Nick is annoying, there is not one reason offered to like or identify with him. Then there is Peter, his supposed best friend who sells him out to save his own skin. Finally we have Annie Newton, the young woman who does her darnedest to kill our “hero.” Why? She thinks he sold her out to the cops on charges of robbery. They try to make her likable by showing her rough home life and her little brother whom she protects.

I have heard that people have had a hard time “getting” this film because you had to pay real close attention. I have to sat this was not hard to get at all — the hard part was trying to like it. Besides the unlikable characters, the script went through some gymnastics to get everyone into place and fails to explain, or give adequate surrounding information, why some things happen. I am mainly speaking of the climactic scene involving Annie and Nick; it seems to change the rules, or at least skip a few steps along the way.

As poor as the story is, as hurry up and wait as Mick Davis and Christine Roum's script is, Goyer makes a valiant effort at making it at least visually interesting. Now Goyer is still a rather inexperienced director, and while he does show potential, his writing still leads his directing ability by a wide margin. I would have liked to have seen what his script may have been like, proving his worth, to me, with work on films such as Dark City, Blade, and Batman Begins.

There are many scenes throughout that I really liked. I liked the long single takes where we see Nick interacting with the environment followed by the reveal that all was just as it was, showing that he actually did nothing. They are all done in a single take, although I presume that cuts are hidden in the swish pans; still they are interesting, if perhaps overused, scenes. I also liked the reveal of the Annie beneath her all-black wardrobe in the club scene, with Nick looking on. Also, the whole sequence with Annie and her boyfriend on the cliff was visually arresting. Justin Chatwin did a decent job in the reveal of Nick's nature, the scene with the bird. Until the final line, that was a very good example of "show, don't tell" filmmaking.

The Invisible is a remake of the Swedish film Den Osynlige, which was based on the novel of the same name. I can only wonder how successful the original film was at creating a sympathetic hero, and how the reveals are made there. I guess I am going to have to track down the original film now.

Audio/Video. The technical side of the release is quite good. There is a nicely washed out palette that is accurately represented here. The widescreen presentation is nicely detailed and free of any digital artifacts. The audio is also fine, nothing to complain about.

Extras. The single disk has a couple of bonus features.
  • Deleted Scenes. Thirteen minutes worth of deleted scenes with optional commentary. None of them would have added all that much to what is already a lackluster production.
  • Commentary. There are two commentary tracks, the first is with director David S. Goyer and writer Christine Roum. The second track is with writer Mick Davis.
  • Music Videos. Two videos round out the set. 30 Seconds to Mars with "The Kill" and Sparta's "Taking Back Control."

Bottom line. I had hopes for this one. I liked the trailer, I liked the concept, and I liked the director. However, the story execution is poor, supporting cast is poor/underused, and everything did not come together in a satisfying conclusion. Still, there were a couple of things to like about it, but nothing to make it a must-see. Might be worthy of rental for the curious.

Not Recommended.


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