Fri 26 Aug 2011
These days, superhero films are a dime a dozen. It seems like a new one comes out each week, all of them trying to top the last one in terms of spectacle and star power. Thankfully, in some warped version of Newton’s third law, for every wave of big budget superhero films, there are a few indie examples of the genre that help counterbalance things.
Earlier this year, there was the almost criminally underrated “Super” and now in select markets is an Australian import, “Griff the Invisible”. Comparing the two is akin to comparing their budgets to that of “Green Lantern” or “Thor“. However, their common bond is in telling a far more personal story and creating a real connection, rather than simply being a series of CGI-enhanced Tomfoolery draped over a bare bones script.
In the film, Griff (Ryan Kwanten) is a mild-mannered, low-level office drone with a very active imagination. So active, his own brother thinks he’s a mental case and whatever chances he might have at a social life get lost whenever he lets his fantasy world take over the real one. For Griff, his alter ego is a bit like Batman, with a few nifty gadgets at his disposal, but with the added ability to become invisible (the title is somewhat of a spoiler in this regard). His latest case involves a mysterious figure roaming the neighborhood and it’s his duty to protect the civilians from this menace.
Of course, what’s really happening is that Griff himself feels invisible and I’m sure any college psych major would diagnose him in a heartbeat. However, there are two things that raise the film out of its simple trappings: that it’s Australian, which often means a sincere, endearing sense of quirkiness that permeates much of their cinema, and the romantic subplot that deviates somewhat from the norm.
Rather than focusing the story on how to bring Griff back to reality, Melody (Maeve Dermody) pops into his life precisely because he’s not the average guy. A daydreamer herself, she’s attracted to his eccentricities and outlook on what’s real and what’s fiction. It’s a wonderful pairing and one that increases the appeal of the overall picture.
Being a small film from Down Under, the budget is rather meager and it shows in many of the effects – most of which look like 90′s American television. But the earnestness of the entire project (written and directed by Leon Ford) more than makes up for this element, as do the performances of the main cast. While neither Kwanten nor Dermody will be taking home many statuettes for this, it’s nearly impossible to deny their likability and audiences should find themselves quickly rooting for their success.
So for those of you out there who prefer stories about people that happen to be superheroes, rather than ones about superheroes who are technically people, “Griff the Invisible” is a quaint charmer that relies on its humanity rather than a framework of CGI and explosions. A 3.5 out of 5, it’s also one of the few films in release at the moment that don’t feel like a lump of celluloid dumped off the shelf just to clear inventory. And don’t let its super-powered premise fool you, this is a story accessible to anyone looking for a bit of imagination and wonder in the current cinematic landscape.