Director : David S. Goyer
Screenplay : Mick Davis and Christine Roum (based on the novel Den Osynlige by Mats Wahl and the Swedish film of the same name)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2007
Stars : Justin Chatwin (Nick Powell), Margarita Levieva (Annie Newton), Marcia Gay Harden (Diane Powell), Chris Marquette (Pete), Alex O'Loughlin (Marcus Bohem), Callum Keith Rennie (Detective Brian Larson), Michelle Harrison (Detective Kate Tunney), Ryan Kennedy (Matty), Andrew Francis (Dean)
It's been a bad month for American remakes of Nordic movies. First we had Marcus Nispel's murky and dreary medieval slugfest Pathfinder, a remake of the 1987 Norwegian film Ofelas, and now we have The Invisible, David S. Goyer's reworking of the 2002 Swedish film Den Osynlige, which is about a rich-but-sensitive teenager who is attacked and, while his physical body hangs in limbo between life and death, returns in spirit form to try to help the living solve the mystery of his "killing."
It's an intriguing premise and one that is not without promise, but if The Invisible has a weakness, it's earnestness. There is no doubt that this film is solemnly sincere, yet it never manages to dig out any real depth; rather, it feels like it was adapted straight from a paean to adolescent woes scrawled by a tenth grader in a spiral notebook. After all, the "invisible" of the title doesn't just refer to ghosts, but to all those misunderstood teens whom parents, teachers, and everyone else above the age of 18 fail to see for who they really are.
That, in a nutshell, sums up the film's principle characters. Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin) is a pensive, hunky, poetry-writing high school senior about to leave for a writing program in London against the wishes of his stern, controlling widowed mother (Marcia Gay Harden). A series of incidences and mix-ups lands him on the wrong side of Annie Newton (Margarita Levieva), a tough, hardened girl whose sad home life has made her bitter and vile. Thinking that Nick has turned her in to the police, she and a few of her thug friends attack him on his way home from a party and, they think, accidentally kill him.
In a teen twist on Ghost (1990), Nick comes to the realization that he may be dead after he shows up at school and no one is able to see or hear him. He spends the rest of the film haunting the police investigation into the whereabouts of his body, and in the process develops some kind of spiritual connection with Annie, his would-be killer. For all its New Age spiritual hokum, at its heart The Invisible is an old-fashioned story of redemption, with Annie slowly coming to terms with her misspent anger and shedding her hard shell to become Nick's savior. This is visualized rather ham-handedly by her dropping the black hooded sweatshirts and ski caps that ensure her thuggish, if not masculine, appearance to reveal that she has a head full of angelic and shampoo-commercial-ready curly locks.
Director David S. Goyer, who is best known as a screenwriter for the Blade series and Batman Begins (2005), dials back the visual overkill he poured into his last directorial project, Blade: Trinity (2004), and instead goes for a somber, intensive approach that underscores the essentially spiritual nature of the material. Unfortunately, Goyer indulges the teen angst inherent in the screenplay by Mick Davis (who also wrote the original Swedish film from a novel by Mats Wahl) and Christine Roum to a fault, which is why the film never transcends moody teenage fantasy--all those people who didn't understand and appreciate me will mourn me when I'm dead, and I'll get to witness the whole thing!
Goyer and cinematographer Gabriel Beristain (who shot the second two Blade films) take full advantage of the steely grays and harsh blues of Seattle's rainy west coast as a fine visual metaphor for the film's spirituality and angst (the mist that shrouds the tree-tops even looks ghostly), but on some level it feels simultaneously overwhelming and trite (too much of it plays like a lengthy music video). Perhaps it has just one too many moody alt-rock songs on the soundtrack to guide our emotions, but The Invisible ultimately feels too labored to work as anything more than an interesting, but failed experiment.
Copyright ©2007 James Kendrick
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