Memoirs Of An Invisible Man


At the time it was released, virtually forgotten, 90’s sci-fi comedy Memoirs Of An Invisible Man was criticised that maybe John Carpenter wasn’t exactly the best choice to helm what essentially is a translulent Fletch movie – but when you consider that the movie is a special effects/comedy/thriller that’s was also supposed to be a vehicle for the notoriously difficult Chevy Chase, I would humbly argue that a fitting director probably doesn’t exist.
Essentially hired after relations between Chase and original Ivan Reitman became so turbulent you couldn’t safely fly a plane through it, Carpenter rolled up his sleeves and once again wrestled with the world of bigger budget filmmaking that had screwed him over so many times before. The result is quite possibly Carpenter’s most forgettable film – something quite alarming when you consider that his previous movie was the still wickedly relevant They Live.


Nick Holloway is a stock analyst who has a very Chevy Chase attitude to dodging responsibility and treating every interaction with acidic asides and wisecracks; however all that changes when his friend introduces him to TV documentary producer, Alice Monroe, and the usually closed book that is Nick actually starts to open. After their instant attraction and a brief make-out session, they agree to see each other again, but Nick is forced to take a rather extreme rain check when he take a hangover induced nap at a share holders meeting at Magnascopic Laboratories and finds himself (and most of the building) rendered invisible after a freak accident occurs with some test equipment.
Promptly showing up on the scene is morally dubious CIA operative David Jenkins who immediately starts to picture exactly how valuable Nick’s condition could be to an intelligence agency with an invisible operative, but this causes our hero to rabbit and go on the run, but being invisible turns out to hardly be the wish fulfilment you’d originally think. Unable to give himself away by stealing food or taking shelter, Nick desperately has to think on his feet in order to not only stay one step ahead of the fanatical Jenkins, but to negotiate his way through simple situations we would take for granted.
However, after getting a little used to his situation (and learning not to watch himself visibly digesting food in the mirror), Nick manages to catch a breather while hilding out at a friends beach house (nice to be rich, eh?) and his fortunes look to be improving after reuniting by chance with Alice once again who vows to help him, but the CIA is never too far behind and Nick finds that, even invisible, it’s incredibly hard to actually disappear into thin air.


Many regard Memoirs Of An Invisible Man to be the turning point of John Carpenter’s career that saw a ten year plus run of movies – that in one way or another were incredibly influential – become a downward spiral of focus and quality that eventually saw the master put out films on increasing mediocrity. As painful as it is for a devout fan of the director to admit, all you have to do is compare Escape From New York with its clumsier, L.A. based sequel, or seminal sci-fi remake The Thing with the stunningly pointless Village Of The Dammed redo to see that the connection Carpenter had with his audience was clearly dissipating (not counting the entertainingly bonkers In The Mouth Of Madness which I have huge soft spot for).
Whether, Carpenter was simply out of his comfort zone (somewhat unthinkable considering how awesome the similarly chaotic Big Trouble In Little China is), or the auteur was finally burnt out from trying to work with the Hollywood machine, his invisible epic seems to be trapped in the limbo between the many genres it’s trying to rope together. The thriller aspect of the movie isn’t actually all that exciting while audiences expecting the usual kind of Chevy Chase romp were puzzled by the slightly more serious, leading man the combative comedy legend was choosing to portray – even the groundbreaking, pre-Hollow Man effects crafted by Industrial Light And Magic feel more like witty asides than the mind blowing representation of H.G. Wells’ worst fear finally brought to the screen without wires and noticable rear projection.


Still, the film does have a few witty gags up its see-through sleeves, be it the smart decision to have Nick mostly visible to us, the audience, to sight of gum being chewed as it floats in midair, lungs becoming visible as Nick drags on a cigarette, or Chase’s visage, floating in the air after having some thick foundation applied, but the fact that it’s never mentioned in the same breath as other technical marvels released around the same time just goes to show how deep into the background this movie has faded.
And yet, despite being as forgettable as the events of a concussion, Memoirs isn’t actually a poorly made film, it’s just drab – the cast, featuring Chase, Daryl Hannah and a stand out, pre-Jurassic Park San Neill is interesting enough and when the movie gets into the practicals of how exactly one travels when penniless and invisible it’s actually quite fun – witness a cracking throwaway gag of Nick nonchalantly thwarting a purse snatched or taking advantage of a drunk man and puppeteering his unconscious body in order to hail a cab; moments that show how innovative and memorably quirky the film could have been.


Instead the movie shifts from scene after scene of Nick running down a street with overcoat wearing agents on his invisible tail that soon bleeds into one another until all the action sequences are virtually indistinguishable from each other while the quieter scenes radiate an uneasy balance between comedy and drama that just feels like someone forgot to add either emotional weight or any real jokes. In fact, probably the most irksome thing about the film is the noticeable lack of the director’s style – in fact Memoirs Of An Invisible Man may be the most un-John Carpenter John Carpenter film has made and feels like a functional, yet completely bland special effects blockbuster that feels like the the director-for-hire project it so plainly is. Simply put, Memoirs Of An Invisible Man ironically vanishes from the memory.


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