‘The Invisible Man’ (2020) Is Not What H.G. Wells Intended

‘The Invisible Man,’ written and directed by Leigh Whannell and starring Elisabeth Moss, bears little resemblance to the novel whose title it borrows.

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The Invisible Man, written and directed by Leigh Whannell, was released in theaters and for streaming last year. This 120-minute thriller focuses on the life of Cecilia Kass, played by Elisabeth Moss, who has recently escaped an abusive domestic relationship with wealthy optics engineer Adrian Griffin. Despite her dramatic escape, Cecilia is followed by her ex, who has secretly developed technology to make himself invisible. By using this invention, Adrian is able to follow Cecilia and torment her life. However, because Adrian is now invisible, Cecilia struggles to gain the attention of any authorities, who tend to believe Cecilia is unstable and paranoid. Time magazine claims, “It’s a horror movie at its core but also, to some extent, a meditation on the insidious dynamics of domestic abuse and victim-blaming.”



Whannell’s film claims loose inspiration from H.G. Wells’ novel of the same title. Wells’ 1897 story also features the chaos caused by a man who has turned himself invisible. However, the similarities end there. Wells’ character was not a domestic abuser but a disgruntled scientist who could not figure out how to return himself to visibility. He had not invented a removable suit of invisibility but had instead turned his skin irreparably invisible. Wells’ story does not belong to the horror genre; if anything, the antics of the community in response to the invisible man are comedic. Whannell appears to have taken the original premise of Wells’ story and applied it to her own creative ideas and agenda.




While it is important to credit inspiration, Whannell’s film bears little resemblance to the story whose title it borrows. That said, I want to point out that humanity has a long tradition of augmenting and recreating art to produce newer, more applicable generations of the same piece. Wells’ original novel, The Invisible Man, has an extensive history of adaptations ranging from movies to audio dramas to comic books. Whannell’s film breathes modern life and nuance into Wells’ story. While it might not have been what Wells originally intended with his novel, the new film is well worth watching.





featured images via fandango and collider