Modern day tales of the ring of Gyges
August 12, 2020 5:19 PM   Subscribe

"Meanwhile, as both an effects film and an indictment of toxic masculinity, Hollow Man has only improved."

"All of that effects work would be for naught, however, if it weren’t for Bacon’s tour-de-force performance. As Sebastian, the arrogant scientist leading a military-funded lab team to develop an invisibility serum, he offers an alienating portrait of male entitlement, seething about the lack of validation he’s received from his peers and superiors, despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s oddly prophetic of the Silicon Valley tech wizard mentality, i.e. “innovation” as the ultimate goal, no matter the sacrifice nor the ends to which the tech will be used. Moreover, Sebastian’s anger toward ex-girlfriend and fellow team member Linda (Elizabeth Shue) because she commits the dual cardinal sins of no longer sleeping with him and shacking up with their handsome co-worker Matt (Josh Brolin) reeks of misogyny. Bacon persuasively weaponizes his charm, previously established in films like Footloose and Apollo 13, organically shifting from “run-of-the-mill workplace asshole” to “deranged mass murderer.”"

Revisiting Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man and its straight-to-video sequel:

"As does the way the director keeps uncomfortably aligning the invisible cinemagoer’s intrinsic voyeurism with Sebastian’s own, showing us to what depths of depravity the male gaze can lead.

Sebastian is initially presented as a pioneering, maverick, cocky male figure of identification/aspiration – familiar from, and celebrated by, any number of Hollywood movies. In the end, Sebastian has been reconfigured precisely by those qualities as the film’s unambiguous villain. Verhoeven, ever the subversive filmmaker, leaves it up to us at which point we part company with this type of the great American hero."

Rotten tomatoes is less kind, compared to the more recent inspiration of the Invisible Man starring Elizabeth Moss.

The Invisible Man on fanfare.
posted by Carillon (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine was a VFX artist on this many years ago. Apparently Bacon's contract gave him approval rights on his invisible digital penis size in the pool scene. That's all I've got.
posted by higginba at 8:38 PM on August 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

I've always felt that Hollow Man was the worst American Verhoven film, but maybe I need to give it another chance. Surely it does not compare to Robocop, Starship Troopers, and Showgirls.
posted by chaz at 9:46 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah he seems to feel that way himself. I haven't caught up with Showgirls in a long time, but would say I missed out on the subtext that people say make it great, so would rank it below Hollow Man of his American films I've seen.
posted by Carillon at 10:52 PM on August 12, 2020

I would agree it's the weakest of Verhoeven's American films, but Verhoeven's weakest is still damned good.
posted by brundlefly at 11:43 PM on August 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

Even twenty years ago I thought it was a great take on toxic masculinity, although I am pretty sure I had never heard the phrase at the time. The recent MetaFilter re-evaluation of Starship Troopers and my own rewatch has left me more convinced than ever that that one is the weakest of Verhoeven’s American years. I concur with brundefly, though, that even his least is still pretty solid; I’d still rather watch Verhoeven on an off day than Brett Ratner or McG firing on all cylinders.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:22 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's a tangent, but one of the things that's always bugged me about this film is the logic behind the gorilla test.

"We need a primate for the next trial. Should I grab a capuchin or something?"

"No, get me the 400-pound block of muscle that can easily unscrew all of our heads from our spines if it gets pissed off, and I'll run a painful and terrifying experimental procedure on it."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:16 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Metafilter: approval rights on his invisible digital penis
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:10 AM on August 13, 2020

I watched Hollow Man recently for the first time, to compare it with the new Invisible Man. For me, it didn't hold up in the slightest. The effects were the main draw back in the day, and they haven't aged super well. All of the male characters are icky in one way or another. The end turns into a yawn-inducing action movie. I didn't find the commentary on toxic masculinity especially unique -- nothing you can't find in a dozen better-made movies.

But definitely see Leigh Whannel's Invisible Man. Harrowing and timely as hell.
posted by skullhead at 9:48 AM on August 13, 2020

I thought it was clever they titled the movie Hollow Man (instead of "Invisible Man 2000" or something) to portray emptiness rather than invisibility. And then I didn't think about this movie for twenty years.
posted by Arson Lupine at 10:05 AM on August 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

...although I am pretty sure I had never heard the phrase at the time.

Yeah, when my sister and I saw it, we just said “Wow, Kevin Bacon’s character is really a fuckin’ DICK in this movie!”

As George Carlin might have said (with regard to soft language), “First we had “Dick”, then “Abusive”... now, “Toxic Masculinity”?? Well, we’ve gone from one to seven syllables and softened the term to the edge absurdity.
posted by Chickenring at 11:26 AM on August 13, 2020

I feel like there is a category of film fans who are embarrassed they didn't catch onto the satire in Starship Troopers, so now they feel obligated to pump out these "umm, actually, if you were a real film buff like me, you'd know themes of this Verhoven movie are...." articles about his other movies. See: recent post on the Blue about how the terrible movie Showgirls is actually good.
posted by sideshow at 11:28 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah in twenty years they’ll be saying Gigli is on par with Chinatown.
posted by Chickenring at 11:40 AM on August 13, 2020


No. Just no. Reevaluating Verhoeven in light of times that make his satire stand out more is one thing. Gigli is just embarrassing and stupid. I do not agree with that Showgirls has any significant redemption on rewatch. But Gigli is poorly made and has all the thought and sensitivity of a drunk frat dude. Showgirls at least attempted to say something. I think it failed but still a hundred times that before the other. ;)
posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:15 PM on August 13, 2020

I remember when Hollow Man came out. I was 6 or 7 years old and the trailer, and everything about the premise, terrified me, lol
posted by LeviQayin at 4:00 AM on August 14, 2020

I probably need to see it again. I remember being impressed with the look, but disappointed that Verhoeven was doing this much more mainstream film after Starship Troopers. I don't think that film was much of a commercial success, so I sort of understood his decision, but it didn't feel like his best stuff. I was of course happy to see Elisabeth Shue in anything.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:51 PM on August 15, 2020

But Gigli has the "rip that takes the past" monologue and that rules so hard. It's such a wonderful shitty movie.
posted by wyndham at 10:14 PM on August 16, 2020

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