“The Invisible Man” & “Onward”- Dual Review

So yeah, a lot has changed in the two weeks since I started writing this dual review. The world has shut down due to the coronavirus, and a tiny fraction of these temporary closures include movie theaters. So although the movies I’m about to talk about are worth seeing, I can’t recommend seeing it at the theater since, well, it’s impossible to do so at the moment. But that’s not going to stop me from at least telling you about them. If they do become available to you somehow in the near future, then by all means give them a watch. Without further ado, let’s get started shall we?

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Courtesy of Universal Pictures

If you’re in the mood to fight fear with fear, then The Invisible Man is the movie for you. A modern adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel of the same name, this sci-fi/horror/thriller centers on Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) a former architect who escapes her abusive relationship with brilliant optics engineer Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Finally free of Adrian’s control, Cecelia finds her life slowly returning to normal. But she can’t shake the feeling that the past won’t stay in the past. Something remains with her, haunting her, hunting her, watching her every move and eager to dominate every aspect of her new life.

The Invisible Man could’ve easily been another Dark Universe failure. It could’ve suffered from a lazily written script, bland characters and being over-modernized to the point of being completely out of touch with its own genre. Long story short, it could have been 2017’s The Mummy. Thankfully the film avoids being a Dark Universe disappointment by keeping its story and characters grounded in reality. Writer/director Leigh Whannell has crafted an intense and genuinely creepy horror movie that doesn’t depend on cliches to deliver its scares. Rather, it adopts a more slow-burn approach, starting small and building the tension throughout the film.

The buildup wouldn’t be nearly as successful if it weren’t for Whannell’s strong script, the minimalistic shot composition he utilizes for each scene, and Elizabeth Moss stretching her Handmaid’s Tale expressions to deliver a believable anxiety-ridden performance. The film has a few flaws, but they’re so nitpicky that I don’t think they’re worth mentioning here. Overall, The Invisible Man is an excellent psychological horror flick as well as an exceptional reboot.

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures & Pixar Animaiton Studios

If you want to get your Disney fix, then Onward is a good option to turn to. Directed by Dan Scanlon, the film is set in a world of modernized magic. Elves, centaurs, mermaids, warlocks, all have become accustomed to contemporary technology and everyday suburban life. A pair of brothers (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt), are told of a spell that can bring their deceased father back to life for one whole day. They perform the spell, and for a moment it seems like they’ll be able to see their father again. But things go south pretty fast, and all that is resurrected is their father’s legs. Determined to make things right, the brothers embark on a life-altering quest to get what’s needed to complete the spell.

Dan Scanlon has gone on record saying how this story comes from a deeply personal place, his own father having passed away when he was young. And you can definitely feel that here. Onward may not go down in history as one of best Pixar films- nor as one of the best animated films of 2020- but it’s heart is undoubtedly in the right place. As a Pixar movie, it delivers exactly what you’d expect it to deliver- beautiful animation, charming and likeable characters, that one touching scene that’s guaranteed to make you cry. There’s a strong sense of brotherhood between the main characters, and it’s easy to sympathize with their plight.

As I said, this isn’t one of Pixar’s strongest ventures. The humor is pretty weak. I laughed out loud only a handful of times, and even then, they were more like charmed chuckles than actual laughs. Certain aspects of the fantasy element are pretty bland as well. Aside from the magic spells and the rules of the spells, there’s nothing interesting about the world-building. There’s not much imagination to the environment (save for the trash-guzzling unicorns), to the point where I don’t think this story had to be set in a classic-fantasy universe in order to still work. Nonetheless, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and genuinely heartfelt adventure. And yes, you’ll more than likely shed a tear.

Cosmic Grades

The Invisible Man: 4/5 Stars

Onward: 3.7/5 Stars

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