Hollow Man on Blu-ray disc
In Paul Verhoeven's "Hollow Man," one can take the title as a reference to Dr. Sebastian Caine's character as much as it is to this modern invisible man tale itself.
Caine (Kevin Bacon) is a brilliant, driven scientist who, unfortunately, is also ruthless and arrogant as hell. He can certainly back up his brilliance and ego with results, but that doesn't make him any more likable. The guy's a jerk.
With his former main squeeze (Elisabeth Shue) and their support team, he's working on a project for the Defence Department that will allow them to phase shift people so they appear invisible to the naked eye.
Apparently, it isn't nearly as hard to make things disappear as it is to bring them back, and that's been the stumbling block preventing the project from achieving ultimate success.
Then a breakthrough comes with a gorilla - in a spectacular computer-generated special effects sequence. The next step is to try it on a human and Caine browbeats the team into letting him volunteer for these unauthorized tests.
Naturally, things don't go as planned and they can't bring him back. Not only that, but it seems that the longer any creature stays "out of sight" the more it affects its brain, and so Caine's built in God complex begins to take over and he starts exercising his new power in dubious ways.
This is your typical Paul Verhoeven Hollywood film, in that it's a neat yarn told well, with great effects - and more graphic violence than is necessary to tell the story. Still, there are only a few scenes in which the gore is obtrusive and it doesn't really spoil the movie, especially if you're familiar with the director's works and steeled for it.
There are also a few times when your suspension of disbelief threatens to be suspended, but on the whole, Hollow Man succeeds very well.
Bacon is terrific as the brilliantly flawed scientist, and Shue is smart, sexy, and concerned as the Number Two person who has eschewed their relationship in favor of one with a real human being - in this case the Number Three person (Josh Brolin).
The special effects were the main thing being promoted with this film's release, and they don't let you down. As with his "Starship Troopers," Verhoeven has used the state-of-the-art in computer-generated effects, and it shows. Fortunately, there's also a pretty neat yarn to accompany them.
The director's cut restores some eight minutes that had been cut from the original production. It's been a while since we saw the original, so we didn't really notice the "new" footage, but regardless of that it doesn't seem to have created a substantially different and/or better movie. But that's okay; we liked the original just fine, other than our caveats mentioned above.
The Blu-ray disc of Hollow Man looks and sounds great. The 1080p video is ultra clean and the weird blue tint of the lab sequences comes through, well, weirdly (which is good!). Blacks are sold and there's wonderful detail. And you'll love the CGI effects in high definition.
The audio is presented in uncompressed 5.1 channel PCM and it rocks. Dialogue is clear and placed perfectly in the overall mix, and Jerry Goldsmith'score comes through beautifully as well. The many action come through loudly and clearly, but not at the risk of becoming shrill or overpowering. The surround channels aren't used as much as they could be, but when they are they're used to deliver some interesting effects, such as Caine's voice moving around the room as he plays cat and mouse with his compatriots. Of course that's as it should be in a 5.1 system.
Extras include an HBO "Making of" featurette called "Anatomy of a Thriller", and some 15 others. You also get VFX Picture in Picture comparisons, which is kind of neat.
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.