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The Invisible Man is best left unseen

Elisabeth Moss stars as the lead in Leigh Whannell’s newest film.
Photo courtesy of IMP Awards

Poor writing crams multiple genres, adding to the failed dark universe

The Invisible Man makes a valiant attempt to tell a story about the effects of abusive relationships, but it comes up short in the process due to its lack of a clear focus. Plainly put, the film is kind of a letdown.  

The film stars Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia, a woman who narrowly escapes the clutches of her abusive husband Adrian. Later, she learns that Adrian has killed himself, which relieves her. As time goes on, she comes to believe that Adrian never really died but is now invisible and tormenting her even more. Leigh Whannell, best known for Saw and Upgrade, wrote and directed the film based on his own original concept. But what exactly he was going for is confusing when factoring in the “Dark Universe” element behind this whole project. 

The Invisible Man was originally a part of Universal’s attempt at making their own extended universe, which they dubbed the “Dark Universe.” It was supposed to contain all of the classic horrorsmonsters like The Mummy, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, etc. But after the first film of this project, The Mummy (2017) flopped, Universal had to re-strategize. So, they called in the help of Leigh Whannell to make this smaller-scale project to revitalize the extended universe.  

Despite this being an original story from Whannell, it’s unclear how contained he wanted this film to be. Does it exist in this extended universe, or is it a stand-alone story? The fact that this question isn’t answered by the end of the film is a bit of a problem. 

The film’s flaws go beyond its confusing context. On the surface, it has an interesting premise that could have been a great metaphor for the trauma that abuse victims endure. But despite Elizabeth Moss’s good performance, it’s hard to attach to her character. It’s hard to attach to any character for that matter because they are all so flatly written.  

On the subject of writing, this is definitely where the film fails the most. This film is trying to be a horror film, an action film, and a thematic drama all at once. This results in somewhat jarring tonal shifts, and by the end, it’s hard to determine what the film wants to be. 

Another disappointing aspect of this film is that there are some genuinely great scenes that get overshadowed by the rest of the film’s mediocrity. It’s hard to say anything about these scenes without spoiling the film, but they do highlight the exceptional talent that Whannell possesses as a director. There’s a particular fight scene towards the end of the film that displays so much talent on Whannell’s part. But the fact that these scenes feel like a completely different movie makes the whole experience underwhelming. 

To say that The Invisible Man is bad is not necessarily true. There are things to get out of this movie, like its solid lead performance and occasionally great directing. But considering the film as a whole, it’s best left unseen.

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