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If one were completely new to the world of movies (like N!xau in The Gods Must Be Crazy), one would have (naively) thought that making a film in which you couldn't see the main invisible character would be relatively simple to achieve  ... simply avoid putting him in the shot and hey presto!  Although obviously, the task that a filmmaker would face when producing such a film is portraying the physical world as it is affected by someone that you can't even see, which in a way is much like what a "poltergeist" would end up doing.  Ironically though, there have been literally hundreds more movies made about ghosts than there ever have been about transparent (and alive) human beings - barely thirty at last count.

Hollow Man: Superbit
The first such film was shot in 1933 based on H.G. Wells' original story (and with state-of-the-art special FX for that time).  And when Terminator 2 hit the big-screen in 1991, someone had the bright idea of creating an Invisible Man movie using this new CGI technology and thus Memoirs Of An Invisible Man was born in 1992, directed by horror-meister John Carpenter no less ... however the main bad guy in this film ended up being the CIA agent played by Sam Neill who was after Chevy Chase's character when he turned invisible after a science experiment went horribly wrong ... this ended up as a comedy more than anything else though.  Then the director Paul Verhoeven (with a propensity for seemingly mindless violence) was asked to create his own take on this very small genre with Hollow Man in 2000 (which went back to its original roots of uncontrollable insanity from having been given power of the unseeable).

Paul Verhoeven is one of those directors that, if the do-gooders of the world had their way, would never have allowed his movies to see the light of a film projector.  However I feel that his style of story-telling allows us to see the true consequences of power in its many forms being misused, which ultimately shows the eternal struggle of humans to retain some sense of morality in the madness that is modern society - some of those films included Starship Troopers and Robocop.  But most other Hollywood movies tend to portray violence only for its gratuitous entertainment value, although Verhoeven's other outings such as Total Recall and Basic Instinct can slant towards this side of schlock.  Indeed, these movies are about the only ones that he has ever directed in his 15 year history with Hollywood (and please don't mention the so-called "serious erotica" one he made), so if you're a fan of his work then you will no doubt enjoy Hollow Man.

Hollow Man: Superbit
The plot here was designed more as something to serve the special FX rather than allowing the complexities of character development to be explored in greater depth, but this is unfortunately an all-too-common trade-off when having to deal with the limitations that are present (even with the advances in CGI effects techniques) of envisioning the visual intricacies involved.  But with all its faults, the spectacular special FX of this film will undoubtedly stand the test of time for years to come.

Movie
A group of scientists headed by Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) are on the verge of a medical breakthrough ... invisibility ... although the trick isn't so much making something disappear as it is to bring it back again.  This is when Caine decides to make himself the next guinea pig in the experiment, unbeknownst to his superiors and all but two of his colleagues Linda McKay (Elisabeth Shue) and Matthew Kensington (Josh Brolin) ... cue the suspenseful madman music ...

However, after many failed attempts to bring him back to the land of the seeing, his god-like complex (and as some would say, his ego) gets the better of him over time and he realises that the power he has in front of him becomes too great a temptation to give up any longer.

Hollow Man: Superbit
Video
In many ways, this is an improvement over the original Collector's Edition (with extras) DVD, but it must be said that this is the original film-transfer rather than a spanking new direct-from-CGI one.  So unfortunately there are still some things that make this image fall short of perfection.

The most noticeable deficiency of the image is that it holds an obviously "filmic" look which involves a slightly light and dark shuddering, this is inherent in even the best of celluloid outings today.  However, I'd say that this is probably more preferable in that it gives a real-life documentary feel about it, rather than if the picture was a rock-steady CGI-transfer (which would have made it too "hyper-real" in the end).

The main benefits of this new 7-8 megapixel encoding (rather than the 2-7 megapixel one of the original DVD) is that the more subtle details of the image are much better defined which were otherwise lost in a sea of poorer distance delineation and shadow detail from under compression.  The characters and foreground objects hold pretty much the same level of detail as before, but it's their background surroundings that benefit more than anything else from this new set of 1's and 0's.  Blacks are typically solid and deep despite the various lighting conditions needed for the extremes of different locational set-pieces that were shot.

Colours are for the most part vibrant and moody, but with the amount of different filming requirements to create the CGI effects it ultimately suffers from slight problems of image inconsistency from one sequence to the next.  Grain tends to show up unattractively more often than is desired for a CGI-laden production such as this and again it's the result of using a film-transfer for the DVD encoding.

Hollow Man: Superbit
Audio
Nothing short of perfection, almost - an oxymoron if you've ever heard one.

The Dolby Digital soundtrack has been given the full 448kbps treatment whereas the DTS one is produced at its halfway potential of 768kbps.  There is not much that separates the two except for the DTS encoding being slightly more transparent (heck, I just couldn't resist that one ;) than its Dolby Digital counterpart.  There is a smoothness to the DTS mix that the DD one cannot comparatively provide, but both entail a rich soundstage that makes full use of the surrounds and sub-woofer channels.  The DTS one of course helps to bring you into the environment better with its more holo-sonic reproduction, the Dolby Digital one does sound slightly brighter but probably more brittle at the same time.

Dialogue is clear and well-defined since most of it would have been ADR'd anyway.  Kevin Bacon's voice predictably goes around all the speakers which unfortunately sounds almost gimmicky the way it has been mixed, but this is a small sacrifice for believability as we'd almost expect this to occur when we have no other visual cues to direct our attention as to where he is meant to be around the other characters.

Extras
None, not even a trailer.  You could call the DTS an extra since it's not on the original Collector's Edition, so I'll be generous in this rating for it at least.

Hollow Man: Superbit
Summary
The advent of the Superbit range of DVD titles from Sony is a controversial one ... the most obvious improvements go towards the quality of the video and the added bonus of a DTS soundtrack which does help matters somewhat ... but the complete lack of extras tends to put a downer on what would otherwise be a solid investment in the package.  Worse still is that Sony in the R1 market has this (and many of their other catalog titles) being sold as Superbit Deluxe 2-disc edition packages ... these retain all the extras of the original Collector's Edition by putting them on a second disc, so why can't they do the same for R2 and R4 I wonder?  There are many other non-Sony DVDs out there that could easily be termed as something equivalent to the Superbit label since they do much the same thing when putting out the movie and its supplemental material.

The other point I want to make is that the DVD producers at Sony must actually be having an easier time making these Superbit range of discs since they require less scrutinisation over the image encoding - the entire storage capacity of the disc is used to compress only the movie rather than having to try and squeeze it down even further to allow room for the extras as well.  Speaking of which, if you have not yet seen the supplemental material for this movie it would be worth chasing them down as they do provide for an interesting (if sparse) insight into how all the different sets of special FX were achieved.

If you have more dollars than cents (sense), then you will enjoy the improvements in the visual and aural sections of this movie.  But if you already own the Collector's Edition, make sure that your home theatre system is up to the task of reproducing these new DVD elements much better than its previous incarnation before considering whether this extra purchase is worth your time, effort and money.


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