A superhero film beginning with an Oscar Wilde quotation? Australian film maker, Leon Ford’s unusual first feature, Griff The Invisible, dares to do just that.

Customer liaison officer, Griff (Kwanten) was bullied at school and continues to be easy pickings in the office with colleagues tricking him into doing their work. He spends nights watching surveillance footage in order to rid the city “of evil in the name of justice” and transform into Griff “The Invisible”. His annoying brother, Tim (Brammall), has recently moved over from Adelaide to look out for his oddball little brother but inadvertently makes matters worse by introducing Griff to his new girlfriend, Melody (Dermody).

The opening fight sequence is accompanied by comical music initially suggesting Griff  The Invisible isn’t to be taken too seriously. Ford is clearly inspired by a variety of well-known comic book characters, dressing Griff in Batman’s yellow and black colour scheme in Inspector Gadget garb to camouflage with walls and have him hide behind newspapers like Herge’s Thompson Twins. By night Griff makes contact with “The Commissioner” through high-tech equipment concealed in the walls, reminiscent of Batman’s lair. In the style of Superman, he’s shown dropping his briefcase to carry out on-the-move quick changes. Like Spidey, he believes protecting the innocent is a “responsibility” and practices saying superhero mottos in the mirror. And so on…

Ford steals so brazenly in order to later challenge our perceptions and expectations. He knows his superheroes and realises in order to be remembered, he’s going to have to reinvent the wheel. When Griff rescues a damsel in distress, she screams, “Go away – I’ve got mace” and later on when he’s about to fight crime, Tim, exasperatedly complains: “A disused warehouse – how original!” Threatening his criminal foes to “get out of [his] neighbourhood”, Griff makes a laughable hero but that’s just the point.

Clumsy Melody acts as his female equivalent, spouting out bizarre theories of parallel universes. An “experimentalist” who’s protested protests, Melody seems more interested in Griff than Tim. An uncomfortable doorstep interaction between Griff and Melody is odd but realistic, emotionally charged by their awkwardness. Melody’s bizarre but romantic spiels are almost poetic, making up for clunkier lines that are working far too hard: “You are a magnetic field and I am light forever drawn to you.”

The chemistry between Ford’s leads is what holds the film together, excusing less imaginative dream sequences and the irritating inspirational speech Griff’s boss, Gary, makes. Small character traits (Griff’s habit of giving strays cat food…) make him likable, despite his aversion to human interaction. Watching Griff mix lemon juice and baking powder to create invisible ink is clearly ridiculous, as is his supposedly stealth work break in.

Is Griff a deluded “28 year-old man living in a fantasy” or a true hero with powers? With Griff The Invisible, you’re never quite sure what is real and what’s imagined as Gary dismantles superhero worshipping popular culture. For some, Griff will feel too contrived, desperately attempting to make its name in the cannon of quirky indie flicks; others may manage to look beyond it’s faults to appreciate the film’s credible leads but the kooky romance at its centre, is sure to divide genre fans, expecting action-packed fight sequences.

Film rating: 3/5

Review by Leo Owen


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