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Reviewed by Will Harris
iven how many times this title has been utilized throughout the course of popular culture, those who are unfamiliar with this series (which aired from 2000 to 2002 on the Sci-Fi Channel) should be aware that it’s not so much the story of “The Invisible Man” as it is the adventures of an invisible man.
Or, in other words, if you’re thinking, “Oh, cool, it’s a show based on the H.G. Wells story,” then disappointment is sure to follow.
On the up side, however, Matt Greenburg, who created this particular series, went out of his way to create a universe where the title character wasn’t living in denial that he was the first man ever to be invisible…like, to the point where scenes from the trailer for the classic 1933 Universal film (which was based on the H.G. Wells story) were incorporated into the show’s opening credits sequence.
“There once was a story about a man who could turn invisible,” says the title character, Darian Fawkes (Vincent Ventresca), at the beginning of each episode. “I thought it was only a story…until it happened to me. Okay, so here’s how it works: there’s this stuff called Quicksilver that can bend light. Some scientist made it into a synthetic gland, and that’s where I came in. See, I was facing life in prison, and they were looking for a human experiment, so we made a deal: they put the gland in my brain, I walk free. The operation was a success…but that’s where everything started to go wrong.”
“Wrong” is a relative term, but it’s not an inaccurate one in this case. The Quicksilver effect, such as it is, does indeed enable Fawkes to turn invisible, but it also results in intense pain, followed by psychosis and antisocial behavior (if he isn’t regularly injected with a counteragent). As such, he’s at the mercy of a mysterious government organization known simply as The Agency, which provides him with the counteragent only if he agrees to assist them in various missions. Fawkes’s partner, Robert Hobbes (Paul Ben-Victor), is kind of a paranoid grump, but over the course of time, the two guys develop a camaraderie that results in some pretty solid teamwork.
“The Invisible Man” takes time to really get into a groove. The two-hour premiere is far heavier on the comedy than any of the actual episodes, so when the series proper begins, it feels rather underwhelming as you wait in vain for the show to live up to its debut. As it continues along, however, one gradually comes to appreciate the less-comedy, more-action method. It also takes time for Ventresca to get the hang of his delivery, with his wisecracks progressively sounding less forced and more natural; his banter with Ben-Victor grows increasingly more successful over time as well. The romantic tension between Darien and his Keeper (Shannon Kenny) is a bit predictable, but the two have a pleasantly flirtatious chemistry that makes their scenes together enjoyable.
Though the back cover description of the series as “sensational” is rather hyperbolic, it’s a fair assessment to say that “The Invisible Man” is an enjoyable action show with an above-average amount of humor in its scripts. As for the special effects involved in showing the Quicksilver effect…well, they’re cool the first time you see them, but they get progressively less impressive with each subsequent use, and you generally see it used a bunch of times per episode.
Or, in other words, you’d probably better just focus on the action and humor.
Special Features: Creator and executive producer Matt Greenberg sits down for a chat about the show, and he also teams with Ventresca and director Breck Eisner for audio commentary on the series pilot. The pilot itself is deemed to be a special feature as well, presumably because it’s two hours long, and there’s also a bonus episode from Season Two (“Legends”), but whenever one gets a so-called “bonus episode” from a later season, it always gives the impression that the studio doesn’t think there’s going to be enough interest for later seasons to make it to DVD.