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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Hollow Man (Superbit Deluxe) (2000)

"You're not God. I am."
- Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon)

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: June 06, 2002

Stars: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin
Other Stars: Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg, Joey Slotnick, Mary Randle
Director: Paul Verhoeven

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity
Run Time: 01h:52m:31s
Release Date: May 28, 2002
UPC: 043396089976
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ C+AA B+

DVD Review

If I were invisible, I could think of innumerable ways to take advantage of the situation. One would hope that the screenwriters of Hollow Man would also be full of fresh and entertaining ways to utilize this unique condition, but instead they have sacrificed creativity for a more simple story of gore and mayhem. Even though Hollow Man has little substance, I must admit that I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Paul Verhoeven films, and this is no exception. Verhoeven's quirky style, along with state-of-the-art visual effects, once again join to form a mildly entertaining romp.

The mad scientist in Verhoeven's invisible man tale is Dr. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon), the genius behind a project dedicated to the creation of an invisibility formula for the U.S. government. No longer feeling content with animal testing, Sebastian insists on secretively injecting himself with the invisibility serum. Too bad the reversion formula has not yet been perfected. Until he and his team of scientists can devise a way to reverse the invisibility effect, Sebastian is stuck in the realm of the unseen. Apparently, with a hollow body comes a hollow soul, and Sebastian quickly loses his grip on reality and spirals into madness.

The eye-popping visual effects are the driving force behind Hollow Man. They are quite possibly the most realistic computer-generated effects I have ever seen. Verhoeven has an instinctive sense of how to effectively inject them into the film while avoiding a gaudy sense of showmanship. I marveled at the sequence where each tiny vein, muscle, and tissue on Sebastian's body gradually leaves the material plain. The level of detail that went into creating this effect is remarkable. In theory, a two-hour film consisting of an invisible character is not incredibly exciting, but the filmmakers have devised many creative methods to keep Sebastian visibly entertaining through the magic of digital images.

Of course, I cannot judge a movie solely based on how impressive it looks. Hollow Man is not a very interesting film to watch unfold, given that the visual effects consistently overshadow any semblance of a story. The film has a sense of purpose, but what seems to matter most is seeing how the filmmakers top the previous mind-blowing effect. There are numerous ways in which the writers could have expanded on the fascinating concept of a man who has transcended the physical world, but instead they settled on turning Sebastian into a raving psychopath. His descent into madness is more justified than one might initially think, but it is a great disappointment for a film that could have embodied so much more.

The performances are particularly hollow. With the exception of Kevin Bacon, every actor emotes as if they are plotting an hysterical prank. Unfortunately, the audience is painfully unaware of the joke. Unexpectedly poor is Elisabeth Shue, who appears as if she could burst into uproarious laughter at any given moment. Paul Verhoeven seems to have always demanded intentionally hammy performances from his actors, but this method does not work nearly as well in Hollow Man as it does in the gloriously excessive Starship Troopers.

I will go out on a limb to say that none of the aforementioned problems are significant in a film like this. Audiences will either embrace Hollow Man as a giddy and mindless pleasure or dismiss it with feelings of loathing and spite. It is not a very good film, but I enjoy it all the same. Call it a guilty pleasure.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Improvements on the original Hollow Man DVD are negligible, but I have to say that the Superbit version appears even more visually attractive. I watched it on a high definition wide screen TV with 2:3 pulldown, and the entire experience was nearly lifelike. The level of detail is like few other DVD transfers I have witnessed. Although I could detect minor compression artifacts on occasion, I never found this bothersome. The cinematography consists of predominately warm tones, which I find can often cause colors and hues to appear unbalanced. Thankfully, color is fully saturated throughout and fleshtones always look accurate. Additionally, black level and shadow detail are perfectly rendered. Thanks to a higher bit-rate, the Superbit transfer is an upgrade to an already stellar transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: In addition to the Dolby Digital EX track that was on the first Hollow Man release, the quintessential Superbit DTS track has also been included. Both soundtracks are first-rate, but the DTS is a sonic masterpiece. Dynamic range extends to the peak of the audio spectrum with powerful bursts of energy. At times, the soundtrack blasted out such extreme decibel levels that I noticed a slight ringing in my ears after the film ended. The brash tonal quality is certainly not a flaw, however. Even when the soundtrack screams to its maximum levels, fidelity remains clean and clear. The LFE channel aggressively pounds out room shattering bass, but never does the low end sound "boomy" or distorted. The most impressive quality of the soundtrack is the utilization of surround. The split surrounds are nearly impeccable. In particular, chapter 16 features a fly buzzing through all of the main channels, which proves to be a perfect demonstration of the soundtrack's seamless channel separation. No doubt about it, the Superbit Hollow Man is demo-worthy material.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
15 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Visual Effects Comparisons
Extras Review: Hollow Man is one of the first features to be released in the new Superbit Deluxe format, where Disc One is dedicated to the feature and a second disc houses the extras. This may seem like a great idea, but essentially it is old news. Plenty of non-Superbit releases have utilized this practice for more than a year. Additionally, while the original Hollow Man DVD may not be quite up to par with Superbit's audio and video excellence, two of the more interesting extras are missing from the this release. A less visually stunning version of the film could have easily been included on Disc Two in order to facilitate room for the interesting audio commentary and wonderful isolated music score track. Perhaps I am nitpicking, but Superbit really needs to pull out all the stops if they expect viewers to spend their hard-earned money on a title they already own.

The special features begin with the HBO "making of," Anatomy of a Thriller. During the first five minutes of this lackluster event I almost felt compelled to shut it off. Hardly more than an extended commercial, all we see are clips from the movie along with the actors offering a plot summary. This type of fluff may fare well on HBO, but a DVD should consist of a collection of features catered towards fans of the film. Obviously, fans already know what the film is about. Fortunately, the special eventually casts aside its banality and focuses the majority of its running time on the design of the visual effects. These demonstrations prevent this documentary from being a complete waste of time, but it is all very redundant. The visual effects are covered more comprehensively within the following special effects featurettes.

The meat and potatoes of the Hollow Man special features lie within Fleshing Out the Hollow Man: Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes. The first focuses on Paul Verhoeven. I greatly appreciated this candid look of the extraordinary director hard at work. His keen understanding of working with visual effects and the great lengths he extends himself in order to make the actors more comfortable is well documented. The other 14 featurettes focus on the design of the many mind-blowing visual effects. I typically find that disclosing secrets of visual effects takes away from the magic and excitement of the production. Ironically, these fascinating demonstrations have actually exemplified my sense of wonder and added to my excitement of viewing the film.

Also included are three visual effects comparisons, which are very similar to the Ape Reversion Progression sequence shown in the featurettes section. The pre-effects filming version is shown full-screen, while the finished film version appears in a small window box. These side by side comparisons are quite interesting, but the window box is much too small, even on a large screen. This brief section feels a bit redundant after viewing the terrific special effects featurettes.

The section of three deleted scenes is a disappointment, as they do not allow a viewing preference. The second and third scenes default to a Paul Verhoeven audio/video commentary, leaving the viewer no option to view the actual scene itself. Basically, this section consists of one deleted scene and an additional two featurettes.

The trailers section contains the theatrical trailer and teaser for Hollow Man. Both are presented in nonanamorphic widescreen with glorious 5.1 sound.

Rounding out the special features are selected filmographies for Paul Verhoeven, Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, and Josh Brolin.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Is it worth it for fans to shell out extra cash for the Superbit Deluxe version of Hollow Man? It all depends on what one considers most important. The video quality is better than the original DVD, and the stunning visual effects shine with remarkable detail. The audio greatly benefits from the new DTS soundtrack. However, even with an entire disc devoted to special features, the Superbit version still does not contain all of the special features present on the standard edition.


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