Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Invisible Man

The old 1930s adaptation came on television a few weeks ago, which prompted me to re-read the novel as well. I'm actually not sure to what extent the book and movie should be considered classics. Are these true Science Fiction stepping stones or only mass-market ScieFie successes, fondly remembered only by those to whom they were an early exposure to such ideas?

Well, the movie, at least, safely falls into the second category. It was Hollywoodized. I myself saw it when i was very young, sort of a treat my parents allowed me, a child-safe "horror" movie (and their concern was not entirely unfounded, i never confessed it to them but i had nightmares about bleeding eyeballs for weeks after somehow getting them to let me watch Horror Express) and seeing it now as an adult, it is laughable. Most of the movie is just a big-budget Hollywood money-sink of special effects which look ridiculously gratuitous in retrospect. We're meant to spend our time in slack-jawed awe at seeing a cigarette case float in mid-air and then the cigarette lights itself!!! OMGWTFBBQ
And then there's this bike riding itself down the street oh wonder of wonders when will it end!?!
There's very little of the tone of the novel left in the film.

But then, the tone of the novel is somewhat unique in itself. It's rather less dramatic than Dr. Moreau, The Time Machine or War of the Worlds. I wholeheartedly classify it as science fiction, but i'm also aware that Wells probably didn't take it as seriously as his other ideas. It's mostly a constant deprecation of English country life, a nonstop barrage of quaint backwoods simpletons, none of which have anything relevant to say other than... well, staring in slack-jawed awe at floating objects and empty coat-sleeves. The first half of the book is chapter after chapter of "yes, there is this man in your town and he is invisible, what is so hard to get about that you inbred yokels?" It barely lets up after the real action starts.

I don't think this is a third-person narrative. I think much of it was Wells himself observing his own frustration with his readers' stupidity. I give you the concept of invisibility and you're worried about coat-sleeves, really? Wells is the invisible man, the undetected idea at the core of sensationalism. Yo, it's gettin' recursive up in here. Isn't it hilarious to think of Wells writing a novel with such a bitter intellectual as a protagonist, ridiculing the backwards masses in their stupidity... only to have the novel get dumbed down even further thirty years later?

Herb old man, i love ya, don't ever change.

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