"We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men," wrote T S Eliot in a scathing
critique of the 20th century. Never would his words ring as true as now, when
the proliferating progress of science helps man play God. How hollow this power
is when an amoral genius manipulates it! This Frankenstein dilemma is what Verhoven
analyses in "Hollow Man".
Its hero, Dr. Sebastian Caine, a maverick genius, has hit upon the formula that can render invisible any organism. The guinea pig animals have responded well to his invention. But the Pentagon, his funding agency, threatens closure in case quick results remain invisible. Sebastian decides to try out the formula himself. Successfully, he performs the vanishing trick. He can not be visible again though.
Now that he does not any more have to "look at himself in the mirror", all the suppressed wishes surface. Beginning his "invisible" career as a peeping Tom, he soon regresses to horrible crime, especially when he realizes that his research team is a visible enemy. The nemesis follows in a tragic loss.
What is most interesting about the story line is the way it exposes the rationality of the so-called progressive world. The thin line that divides a genius from a criminal is the theme. Verhoven, however, fails to make it a terror. Sebastian's exploits as an invisible man never give you the chills.
And this despite the superb technical effects that the film employs. The film is rich with extraordinary visual effects. Verhoven, however, fails to use them to create a thrilling watch.
The performances are adequate. Elisabeth Shue cannot really generate another Academy
award nomination performance given the limitations of the genre. Kevin Bacon conveys
Sebastian's dare devilry, but cannot add any depth to the character as the script
itself lacks it. In brief, watch "Hollow Man" if you are the type who freaks out
on the ethics of science presented in a visually powerful way.