John Carpenter, William Goldman and Chevy Chase. Three names that are probably the unlikeliest to combine in the making of a film. Ok, William Goldman has done a few Stephen King adaptations and Carpenter did Christine, but it’s still an unlikely director/writer match up.
Goldman would later write about the experience (originally Ivan Reitman was supposed to direct which makes much more sense for what we get here). Other writers were then brought on and butchered the dark tones Goldman originally went for. You may think Chase would want it played for laughs, but apparently he was all up for the darker film. Carpenter seems to have been brought on almost as an afterthought. This may have seemed like a sure thing for him to get a hit – but in the end we get a very muddled film that is seldom talked about in Carpenter’s works.
Chase plays Nick – a fairly ordinary guy who ends up becoming invisible one day due to an accident. The FBI are called in, lead by Sam Neill, whose purpose it seems is to capture Nick for the government’s evil needs. Daryl Hannah pops up as love interest Alice, and together they all take part in a chase comedy.
The effects at the time were pretty good I must say. The invisibility is fairly well handled – but then some props used are a little less impressive. Most of the time Nick is shown to the audience so we can see his responses when interacting with other characters. These scenes are better sold when other characters have to play their parts without awareness of Chase’s presence in the scene. It especially works well for the comedy angle.
There’s a nice nod to the original bandaged Invisible Man in the end set piece, and the climax of the action is actually pretty clever in terms of how Nick outwits the agents. The end credits show us that Nick is still invisible and has knocked up Alice… Is she going to give birth to some semi-visible mutant? (Like what we may have seen in Hollow Man! Apparently an alternative ending shows this birth – but I haven’t seen the results!)
The film has many flaws and doesn’t work as well dramatically as it ought to. Aside from effects, Carpenter has done very little to put a stamp on this film. But it isn’t a complete disaster – it just isn’t John Carpenter (even Ghosts of Mars was John Carpenter). He doesn’t provide his own music either! Clearly it seems that here he is a director for hire.
If anything good comes out of this it’s that Carpenter worked for the first time with Sam Neill – who he would go on to cast as the lead in the severely underrated In The Mouth Of Madness.