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The Invisible Man - What We Know So Far

In January of 2019, more than a year removed from the failure of the Dark Universe which was supposed to launch with The Mummy, Universal Pictures seemed to have no clear direction for the future of its classic movie monsters. Then, something new took shape. The studio would no longer be pursuing a broad shared universe concept for those beloved spooky characters — or at least they wouldn't dive headlong back into that Black Lagoon. Instead, a more filmmaker-driven, individual approach to monsters was in the cards, and that approach would kick off with The Invisible Man

In the winter of 2020, writer/director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) and producer Jason Blum (Get Out, Halloween) will bring us a horrific new take on the classic unseen character that was originally brought to life by Claude Rains in 1933. Taking a straight-up horror approach to the character, the new film will cast the Invisible Man as an abuser who uses his newfound powers of invisibility to slowly drive his ex-girlfriend insane. With a star-packed cast, an intriguing premise, and a killer first trailer, The Invisible Man seems set to become one of 2020's biggest horror hits. With that in mind, here's everything we know about the film so far.

What's the release date for The Invisible Man?

While we weren't sure at the time exactly when a film would materialize, the road to this version of The Invisible Man actually began back in 2016, when Universal Pictures was hoping to kick off its shared "Dark Universe" concept the following summer with The Mummy. Back then, while there was no release date, we were told that a new Invisible Man film was on the way, and that Johnny Depp would inhabit the title role. When The Mummy was both a critical and commercial failure, though, the Depp version of The Invisible Man was first postponed and then shelved. 

The new, post-Depp incarnation of The Invisible Man came together rather quickly. In January of 2019 Leigh Whannell was announced as the writer/director for the new film, and a release date was announced for March 13, 2020. In August of 2019 Universal decided to shift the film a bit, and announced a new release date a couple of weeks earlier. The Invisible Man is now set to debut on February 28, 2020.

The cast of The Invisible Man

Leigh Whannell was announced as the new writer/director for The Invisible Man in January of 2019, setting the stage for a more individualized, filmmaker-driven take on the classic character outside the realm of the now-defunct Dark Universe. Within a matter of months, Whannell began building an impressive cast to set the stage for a terrifying new vision for the unseen monster. 

The casting news kicked off in March of 2019, when it was reported that Elisabeth Moss, best known at the moment for her work on The Handmaid's Tale, would join the cast in a leading role, though not the role of the titular invisible character. In July of 2019, we finally learned who would play the title monster: Oliver Jackson-Cohen, best known for his work on the Netflix horror series The Haunting of Hill House

Whannell and company also landed a couple of other acclaimed actors for key roles in the film in the spring of 2019, including Storm Reid (A Wrinkle in Time) and Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton).

What can we learn from The Invisible Man's trailer?

The first trailer for The Invisible Man was released in November of 2019, and it packs a lot of plot into its short runtime. The trailer begins by establishing the stakes — a woman leaves an abusive relationship, her ex commits suicide and leaves her a fortune, and his will stipulates that she can't be declared mentally incompetent. That's when the trailer dials up the horror with gradual ferocity. The scares begin in a small way, as Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) starts to suspect that someone is in her house, though she can't see anyone. Then the powers of the Invisible Man start to manifest in little ways, with the fog of warm breath on a cool night or a handprint in a steamed up shower door. 

It's these little touches that make Cecilia start to crack under the emotional strain of being stalked by someone she can't see. As she tries to convince her friends that something horrible is happening to her, they begin to suspect that she really is going crazy. As the trailer enters its final moments, we see a crescendo of violence, madness, and full-on Invisible Man mayhem unfold, all pointing toward a confrontation that will come to shape the film's final act. It's an extremely effective trailer that makes it very clear that we're not in The Mummy action-adventure territory with this one. This movie is out to scare you, and it seems like it'll be very good at that.

A 30-second Super Bowl ad gave us another brief but chilling look at horrific action in store.

An Invisible Man story for the 21st Century

The original Invisible Man film from 1933 is the story of a scientist who undergoes a mysterious process that renders him both invisible and quite mad. As his madness leads him into murder and a plot to dominate the world as an unseen menace, the only calming presence in his life seems to be his fiancee. 

For the new version of the story, writer/director Leigh Whannell is flipping this relationship on its head a bit to tell a story about toxic masculinity, gaslighting, and abuse. His film will be led by Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), a woman who has escaped an abusive relationship with a wealthy scientist (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). A new nightmare forms in her life when Cecilia learns that her ex has committed suicide and left her a large portion of his fortune, with one stipulation: she has to remain mentally competent. 

It's this stipulation that forms the linchpin of the plot, because Cecilia's ex isn't really dead. He's the invisible man, and he's determined to use his new powers to methodically drive her insane, taking the cycle of abuse Cecilia thought she'd broken to new and horrific levels. It's a terrifying, timely take on the source material, and one that could go in any number of directions beyond what the trailer shows us.

Who's behind the camera for The Invisible Man

Back in 2017, when the Dark Universe was still very much on the horizon at Universal Pictures, all we really knew about The Invisible Man was that Johnny Depp would be starring in the film. When the studio's cinematic universe hopes fell apart after the failure of The Mummy, the future of the other monster movies was very much up in the air. Then, in January of 2019, Universal announced a new approach, with a couple of key figures in the horror cinema scene attached. 

Writer/director Leigh Whannell, who launched the horror franchises Saw and Insidious as a screenwriter and helmed the sci-fi body horror film Upgrade in 2018, was revealed as the mastermind behind a new, more "individualized" take on The Invisible Man in early 2019. Whannell's own horror pedigree is enough to get fans excited about the film, but he's not alone. The film's creative team also includes Jason Blum, the founder of the now-iconic horror production company Blumhouse, whose past successes include everything from Paranormal Activity to Get Out to Halloween.

Universal's original Invisible Man

The story of The Invisible Man actually begins in 1897, when legendary science fiction author H.G. Wells published his original novel. The journey of the character on the big screen begins more than three decades later in 1933, when Universal Pictures released the original film of the same name, starring Claude Rains as the title character. 

The Invisible Man came along at a time when the Universal Monsters universe as we now know it was still taking shape, two years after both Dracula and Frankenstein debuted and one year after The Mummy — there would still be several years before the arrival of The Wolf Man and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The film follows a scientist who uses a dangerous drug without understanding its full effects. As a result, he is rendered both invisible and insane, beginning a self-proclaimed "reign of terror" with the goal of world domination. 

Like the Universal Monsters films before it, The Invisible Man was a hit and spawned its own franchise, including four sequels beginning with The Invisible Man Returns in 1940.

The Dark Universe attempt

In 2014, Universal Pictures began a new effort to revamp its classic Monsters franchises in the form of the prequel film Dracula Untold. That film concluded with an attempt to catapult Dracula into the present day, but didn't do well enough to spawn a sequel. 

In 2017, Universal tried again to launch a Monsters universe, now dubbed "Dark Universe," with the Tom Cruise-starring action-horror vehicle The Mummy. This time, the shared universe concept was played up, with a secret society that investigates monsters tied directly into the plot, and an ambitious announcement of the franchise's future cast. This cast included Johnny Depp, who was set to star as the Invisible Man in a hypothetical future film. 

The Mummy was a disappointment, and the Dark Universe was put on hold. In early 2018, writer Ed Solomon (Men In Black) revealed that, while he'd been working on Depp's Invisible Man script, he was no longer involved in the project. "I think Universal has had to come to a kind of reckoning of, 'What are we doing with the Dark Universe?' and, 'What is our real intention with it?', and I think they're reconfiguring it now, which I think is probably good. So I'm not working on it," Solomon said.

In January 2019, Leigh Whannell joined The Invisible Man, and the current incarnation began taking shape. 

The inspiration for the new Invisible Man

The Invisible Man is one of the most famous sub-franchises within the larger umbrella of the Universal Monsters legacy, which began with 1925's Phantom of the Opera and flourished throughout the '30s, '40s, and '50s with Dracula, FrankensteinThe MummyThe Invisible Man, The Wolf-ManThe Creature from the Black Lagoon, and their myriad sequels. While the Monster characters are almost all rooted in horror, the films came to encompass a wide variety of subgenres, from science fiction to action and even comedy. 

With this new incarnation of The Invisible Man, though, horror will no doubt be front and center. Speaking to Empire about the driving force behind his new film, writer/director Leigh Whannell explained that he was aiming for fear above all else, and that led him to tell a story from the point of view of a victimized character.

"I felt like in a modern context the scariest thing to do would be to have the victim be the central character," Whannell said. "The more I worked at it, the more it became apparent that the Invisible Man, the idea of the spectre of somebody haunting you, is a great metaphor for one of these relationships where people are scarred and traumatized. I really just wanted to tell the most tense, most nerve-wracking, scariest Invisible Man story I could. That was my primary goal the whole way."