Universal’s Dark Universe has really come together in the last eight months or so. Once a sort of vague idea of a connected cinematic universe based on popular monsters, it’s now a concrete outline of several dark and adventurous movies – the first of which, “The Mummy,” came out this past spring. “The Mummy” was a little bit of a disappointment in its reception, but it nevertheless kicked off a project that’s going to last for several years, and probably much longer if it becomes successful. “The Invisible Man” is the next film up, and judging by its Rotten Tomatoes page, it’s heading for an April 2018 release.
So what exactly is “The Invisible Man,” and why should we care?
Originally, “The Invisible Man” was a science fiction/horror novel published in 1897 by H.G. Wells. Though it’s another Wells story, “The Time Machine,” that frequently appears on lists of the best science fiction novels, “The Invisible Man” has left an impression for well over a century now. It tells the story of a troubled young scientist named Griffin who renders himself invisible with a chemical-based procedure and winds up attempting to terrorize a town that he feels has wronged him. It’s certainly a creepy tale and in ways a surprisingly modern one – not unlike something we might see in a vignette illustrating a villain’s background in a superhero movie.
For such a tale, however, it’s surprisingly lacking in modern interpretations. The last cinematic take on “The Invisible Man,” or at least the last noteworthy one, came out in 1933. It’s a safe bet that most of the audience for the 2018 version will never have seen it. Aside from that, a video game based on the story and featured on a page of slot reels is perhaps the closest thing to a modern adaptation. It’s a clever, animated twist, revolving around a lost arcade but featuring a number of amusing little symbols and characters based on the original tale. Still, it’s far from a cinematic experience.
In this sense, “The Invisible Man” will be mostly fresh for audiences, which sets it apart from “The Mummy” from the beginning. “The Mummy” was a remake of the late-‘90s Brendan Fraser movie that, while entertaining, was completely ridiculous. Accordingly, it was a little bit overblown and a little bit difficult to buy into, even as a fantasy. But with “The Invisible Man,” the director – who has not been named yet – will likely have a little bit more flexibility.
That could give this project a better shot at success. Perhaps it will kick off Universal’s Dark Universe a film late, much like “Wonder Woman” seemed to breathe new life into DC’s superhero universe after a few mediocre efforts preceded it. Ed Solomon, who’s best known for “Charlie’s Angels” and the “Now You See Me” movies, will handle the script, and we learned last year that Johnny Depp will take on the lead role.
We probably shouldn’t get our hopes too high, but it seems to have a certain potential.