Film Review - The Invisible Man

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Elisabeth Moss in a scene from "The Invisible Man."

Now you see ‘im, now you don’t. But it’s not what you see, it’s what you don’t.

That’s Griffin, a man who has developed a cloak of invisibility.

Based on the famous novel by H.G. Wells, this is the story of a scientist who develops a method for changing the body’s refractive index to render himself invisible. Published in 1897, the novel helped establish Wells as “the father of science fiction.”

This new movie is horrormeister Jason Blum’s first attempt to reboot the Universal Classic Monsters franchise. Universal Pictures was an early purveyor of monster movies. You probably saw them at your neighborhood theater as a child or the drive-in as a teenager. Frankenstein, The Wolfman, Dracula, The Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Invisible Man.

In the 1933 version of “The Invisible Man” the part of Griffin was played by Claude Rein (Louis in “Casablanca”). This time around it’s filled by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. A British actor, you might not recognize him unless you caught the NBC TV series ”Dracula” or the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House.” He can deal with scary.

Joining him as co-star is Elisabeth Moss. You will easily recognize her from her turns on HBO’s “Mad Men” and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“The Invisible Man” is a contemporary take on the scientist who goes mad because he renders himself invisible and can’t change back. This time around he spends more time harassing his wife, kind of a twist on “Gaslight.”

You can see (or not) “The Invisible Man” this week at AMC Classic Towne Crossing 8, 925 W. Andrew Johnson Highway.

This release was supposed to be part of Universal’s Dark Universe, a new cinematic universe that was set to star Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Javier Bardem as the Frankenstein Monster, and Luke Evans as Dracula. They would join Tom Cruise in his take on The Mummy.

Something went awry. This “Invisible Man” reboot was initially planned around Johnny Depp … then the casting shifted to Armie Hammer, then to Alexander Skarsgård. Now we have Oliver Jackson-Cohen, not exactly an A-lister. Can co-star Elisabeth Moss provide the necessary marquee appeal?

Universal is betting on neither Jackson-Cohen nor Moss. The studio is putting its chips on producer Jason Blum.

Blum is the Abby Normal brains behind such modern horror flicks as “Get Out,” “Us,” “Ma,” “Halloween,” etc. He knows how to SELL a horror film.

This marks Universal’s shift back to standalone movies, shucking plans for creating a Marvel-like inter-connectivity.

It’s been said that H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Robert Louis Stevenson “essentially wrote boy’s books for grown-ups.”

This is a boy’s movie for grown-ups.

If successful, will we be seeing remakes of other Universal monster films? Probably. But “Creature from the Black Lagoon” has been neatly redone as “The Shape of Water,” but not by Universal. “Frankenstein” has been done to death, peaking with “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” And “The Phantom of the Opera” morphed into an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

Can Jason Blum pull off this rebirth, like a latter-day Victor Frankenstein animating the dead?

Likely so. We love a good scare.

Shirrel Rhoades is a film critic and former media executive. He previously served as executive vice president of Marvel Entertainment and has produced several movies and documentaries. He was also a senior faculty member of New York University’s Center for Publishing. He lives in Key West, Florida, and Lake Lure, North Carolina. Contact him at srhoades@aol.com.

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