Memoirs of an Invisible Man Reviews
Being John Carpenter's return to big-budget studio filmmaking after a brief walk down an alternate path, Memoirs of an Invisible Man is clearly not a film where John Carpenter has been offered much creative control. There are small elements of the film which feel distinctive of his style of direction such as a sense of familiarity to his prior work on Starman (1984), but if you took his name off the credits it would be a serious challenge to identify him as the director. Originally intended as a star vehicle for Chevy Chase directed by Ivan Reitman, Memoirs of an Invisible Man effectively got John Carpenter on board due to creative differences with Ivan Reitman. Clearly not a feature he had long-intended to make, the man nevertheless puts his eye for imagery into the film. Unfortunately, there is only so much of it allowed since the studio clearly has a different idea about what a film featuring a character with the power of invisibility should be about. There are elements that fit Chevy Chase's vision to be a drama, but the intention to maintain his signature brand of comedy is not surpassed.
The main problem is the fact that Memoirs of an Invisible Man can't settle on a genre. Kicking off as a comedy-drama before taking a science fiction turn and evolving into a thriller, most of the film dominates as a meandering drama that wants to be about the loneliness of invisibility and the management of a romantic relationship in the face of such a complicated situation. As a result, the narrative keeps changing paths with a loose script that fails to implement any real depth into the situation. The entire film comes up short on atmosphere in essentially every area due to an overly simplistic script which lacks any real feeling of emotion. The greatest attempt Memoirs of an Invisible Man makes to have dramatic depth can be credited to the moments of first-person narration which highlight the titular memoirs of the protagonist. Alas, they are too far and in-between to be anything more than conventional with only a mediocre sign of the flair for intelligence that could have been used. The inability to pick a narrative path and genre keeps the story distracted and unable to ever focus, scattering the plot dynamics everywhere. Frankly, Memoirs of an Invisible Man makes a pretentious attempt to be a character piece without having any actual characters to boast about. This is most notable with the characterization of antagonist David Jenkins whose actual intentions are ambiguous beneath the reliance on a cliche story to tell viewers with condescension that he is the villain. Getting so caught up in the rambling dramatics of the characters and meaningless romantic conventions, Memoirs of an Invisible Man forgets to actually develop its story into a larger-scale thriller. By the point in time that 75 minutes have passed, Memoirs of an Invisible Man feels like it should be half-over. In actual fact, there are 20 minutes left to the film. This just goes to show that the slow pace and weak development of the narrative is not worth the wait, an ideal reinforced all the more by a climax which doesn't have stronger dramatic flair than any other part of the film. It's all a rather monochromatic experience. In actual fact, the greatest thing the film does with its invisibility themes are show off groundbreaking visual effects techniques and use them to sporadic comic relief. The latter is inconsistent due to the thin nature of the script and overreliance on melodrama, but the former is certainly something to be proud of. Memoirs of an Invisible Man makes use of some brilliant visual effects for its time. Playing with its titular theme of invisibility, John Carpenter ensures that the finest visuals are used to support the concept even if they are predominantly used for rather arbitrary purposes rather than to support a large spectacle of adventure. Yet the more simplistic moments of visual splendour are overshadowed by some of the more brilliant ones, most notably a scene in which Nick Holloway is made visible by the rain pelting down on him. And as well as strong visuals, the musical score in Memoirs of an Invisible Man helps to capture the mood even in the face of a screenplay which lacks the room for its atmosphere to breathe.
Surprisingly enough, Chevy Chase's leading performance is one of the most enjoyable things about Memoirs of an Invisible Man. It takes a little adjusting to get used to Chevy Chase in a non-comedic role, and the script's insistence on using his comic legacy does give him the chance to put some slapstick gags in at a sporadic rate, but the majority of the time he takes on the role with a real dramatic edge. It's a rather mediocre character he has to play, but he captures the physical side of the role with a passionate grip on the invisibility of his character and delivers all his lines with a serious tone. At times I wasn't certain whether I should be taking him seriously or laughing due to the tonal inconsistency of the film and his comic legacy, but in actual fact Chevy Chase proves that he does have dramatic flair in Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Chevy Chase manages to hone the leading role in Memoirs of an Invisible Man against expectations, and it maintains enough of his signature style to appeal to fans yet branches out enough not to be an overly familiar effort.
But Daryl Hannah delivers a rather meandering performance. Her character is left to be little more than a generic romantic type confused by the invisibility of her love interest, and she captures exactly what you would expect as a result: no emotion. I'll admit that she makes a strong effort to act alongside a character who is not physically present and there is a sense that she is working hard to create chemistry with the mere voice of Chevy Chase, but she is doomed from the beginning due to her inability to conform to a conservative role and a script which isn't a good fit for her. Daryl Hannah does not provide strong credible support for Memoirs of an Invisible Man.
Even Sam Neill lacks much of a sufficient spirit. Stuck with the most generic character in the story, Sam Neill sticks to a monochromatic spirit for the entirety of Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Acting more like he is in a conference meeting than a film, Sam Neill walks around with an intense look in his eyes which evokes little more than a boast of egotism over the quality of his suit. Sam Neill doesn't have any spirit in his role and adheres to the limitations of the script all too often. It's a good thing he made a lasting impression the following year with Jurassic Park (1993) and that John Carpenter saw fit to work with him once again on In the Mouth of Madness (1995).
Memoirs of an Invisible Man displays strong work from Chevy Chase in a dramatic role and John Carpenter's flair for imagery is captured with brilliant visual effects, but its underdeveloped story can never pick a plot point to focus on which turns it into a slow, scattershot and mundane experience without the brilliance it aspires to.
role into action. He's funny and he really knows how to get the audience to laugh. Along with John Carpenters Amazing direction how could you hate on this? oh well your'e loss.
I think the casting of Chase was wrong for the film really, he does add a nice light touch but he doesn't fit the seriousness of it all. You can't help but think Dan Aykroyd or Eugene Levy will pop up and crack a few visual gags. Chase does charm well, adding a gentle feeling but the addition of Hannah as his love interest really doesn't help, she is so so wet and lame, turns the whole thing into real mush.
Effects wise the film is quite good and at the time they did make an impact. Nothing original looking back of course, all the usual type of visual gags and transparency problems one would expect, but some sequences do look good still. Its more enjoyable to watch the special effects knowing no CGI was used, that does make you appreciate the work more and some of it is kinda cute these days.
A pleasant film with no real surprises or much originality. Expect to see the typical bandaged man look a few times, can't have an invisibility flick without the obligatory bandaged man, makes you wonder where he got all the bandages. Also gotta wonder where he gets all the clothes and smoking jacket type attire from, the Claude Rains film really set a trend there.
Bottom line, Chase is the good invisible guy and Sam Neill is the bad CIA guy after him. Personally the offer of being a top undercover spy working for Uncle Sam doesn't sound too bad if you ask me, dunno what Chase's character is complaining about. A wander into mainstream Hollywood type affairs for Carpenter without his usual quirky mysterious thrills. Nice film but nothing to shout about.