Nanites have gone mainstream. We've been reading about them for decades. They've made appearances in Star Trek TNG and Stargate SG-1, but when they are central to a Vin Diesel movie, it's fair to say that they've become firmly part of the public's 'standard' sci-fi elements like warp drive and teleportation.
I had pretty high hopes for this movie, but it is yet another picture that is in that vast grey area between being great and sucking. The production values were very strong. The nanite visuals were something new, like high-tech bullet time. We get a ton of slow-motion shots of Vin's character being taken to pieces only to have his swarming nanites rebuild him nearly instantaneously.
As fun as that sounds, it became a problem because every fight's choreography was dumbed down to have Diesel stand in front of entire magazines of ammo to get those visuals. He's supposed to be this special-forces operator, but forgot about body armor, tactics, etc. It's just one fight after another of him letting guys empty their guns into him before he destroys them. No doubt that lack of concern for his own body is meant as demonstrative of Diesel's character's suicidal determination, but it quickly becomes asinine.
Then there's the story, the absence of it, that is. Diesel's character (Ray Garrison) has no real motivation. He learns early on that what's been driving him were false memories designed to pull optimal performances out of him. After that bubble is burst he becomes just another raging, muscle-bound idiot. I didn't care if he succeeded or not. So tension and suspense? Not so much.
The big-picture plot is likewise weak. There's almost nothing at stake. Guy Pierce is a strong performer as the antagonist, but he has precious little to work with on the page.
Lamorne Morris steals the show as Wilfred Wiggins in the few times we see him.
I'd like to say that Eiza González is more than eye candy, but she's not; she does an admirable job with her martial arts bits, but in the end her character is a cutout who exists to be a hot, empathetic chick who cares for the studly main character, and looks amazing doing it. In keeping with the overall machismo of this movie, women have little agency in this film; they exist only as objects of men's desires. I'm not so offended by it as disappointed. González is talented enough to do a lot more, they just didn't write her a role worth a damn.
Another problem with this movie is the Groundhog Day effect. Vin's character is being manipulated in with the same script to kill people for Guy Pierce's version of Dr. Evil. So we have to suffer iterations of that script. Unlike Groundhog Day, Vin's character doesn't remember them, so there is no building of anything, just a lot of rinse and repeat until a climactic final battle.
So in the end we have a whole lot of cyborg fights (the bad guys have enhancements too) with nothing at stake, and a ridiculous ending that's more laughable than evocative. With a six-pack, this movie is probably awesome.
I had been looking forward to this movie for a long time. I'm old enough to remember (barely) the TV show. The fact that Blumhouse was producing it encouraged me. They've done strong work in the creepy movie space for years now.
The movie turned out to be weak on a lot of levels. As much as I typically enjoy Michael Peña, his performance had none of the gravitas that it needed. Instead of being the confident, powerful, physically imposing Mr. Rourke, he came across on-screen more as a bemused, doughy functionary reluctantly cranking out fantasies.
Structurally, the movie is a mess. They try to weave a macro-plot out of the combination of fantasies running on the island. In principle that's a fine idea, but because all of those fantasies were segregated from one another physically, what we got was a collection of vignettes that they merged towards the end of the movie.
They contrived some ridiculous synchronicity about how the fantasies were connected. I could forgive that if the plot-hole sleight-of-hand resulted in a fun resolution, but it didn't. Once the plot threads merged, the newly assembled Scooby Gang rushes to solve 'the problem' which I won't detail here so as to not spoil the movie for anyone.
A big factor of what made the individual fantasies and the final showdown so disappointing was that the Island itself had no animus. They wrote this script as if the island were an occult mechanism. Worse, they try to garner sympathy for Mr. Rourke. So, by the end, there is no antagonist per se because everyone is a victim and the island has been reduced to a mechanistic prop without any personality of its own. That made the ending more like a bureaucratic parsing of the island's occult framework rather than an emotional experience.
The way I sum it up is to say that the failure of this movie is an emerging pattern I see in Blumhouse movies. They excel at scene-level work, but are much weaker in weaving all that good work into something powerful. Consequently, what you get from Fantasy Island is a collection of occasionally evocative WTF moments, but nothing more.
This movie is in that vast grey area of not particularly memorable movies.
The speculative tech they invent for the invisibility is fine. In fact I think it's far better than an invisibility potion. Likewise, the performances are strong. Where this movie falls down is the story structure.
The story is what you see in the previews: abused woman flees her abuser who decides to revenge himself on her. The problem is that there isn't anything else. There is no back story, nothing to be interested in besides Moss' character's escape.
Yes, there have been movies that have gotten away with that sort of single focus, but what makes it fall down in The Invisible Man is that they don't actually explore that relationship at all. The movie starts with the escape, a tense scene that contains the only appearance of 'the evil man' until the very end of the movie. Effectively there is no relationship on the screen. It is only referenced obliquely as the main character tries to reassemble her life.
So there is no real drama, no character interplay, only a series of random vengeful acts that assail Moss' character. They are done well. Some of them are properly startling and scary, and well delivered. But in the end, that's all there is. There is no character interplay, no rising tension, just a series of well-done jolts presented to the audience.
The ending is satisfying and fun, but it involves an enormous plot hole that destroyed it for me.