Hancock – Review

“There, up in the sky. It’s a bird…it’s a plane…no, it’s Hoboman! Fighting crime one drink at a time!!”

Image Courtesy of IMPawards.com

Director: Peter Berg
Notable Cast: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and Jason Bateman

In the realm of comic books superheroes are bestowed with freedoms and abilities that mortals wish they had. Some are looked as supreme beings, magnificent gods with incredible power. Others are humans who use technology and amazing gadgets to stop crime. But there is a code of conduct that comes with being a hero in spandex. A hero must be sensible and respect others. Must use reasonable force and refrain from destroying public property. If that is true, then Hancock is the antithesis of a superhero.

The moment he makes his presence known – sprawled out on a bench, empty whiskey bottles resting on the sidewalk underneath – it’s the perfect introduction. Hancock doesn’t have a mask protecting his identity or wear the fancy outfit or utility belt; he looks like a bum on the street. Everyone knows that he’s a superhero, yet nobody is in awe of him – and he isn’t particularly fond of them either. They view him as a public menace. As such he is miserable. Coasting through life, Hancock is a manic-depressive, a little suicidal, and just bored. He’s not infallible.

Will Smith takes the role of the titular hero to be despised. With a week’s worth of stubble and clothes from god knows where, he doesn’t have a sparkling personality. But there’s humility to be had in seeing Smith unshaven and uncouth. This is a great character. And as an original superhero, not based off any Marvel or DC Comics property, it’s something that stands out.

Hancock offers food for thought about the mythos of superheroes and whether or not a society would be better off without them. A similar theme is explored in The Incredibles when Mr. Incredible and others were viewed as a danger to others. Hancock is the same. He destroys highway roads and neighborhood subdivisions, speeding vehicles and office buildings. Just to catch a group of criminals. The price of reconstruction for each valiant act is a heavy expense for the city of Los Angeles to incur.

When the public outcry reaches the point where Nancy Grace has to get on her televised soapbox, you know you’re in trouble. Hancock needs to be retooled. In comes Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a public relations rep who is having a hard time convincing mega corporations to give stuff away for free. After being rescued by Hancock, Ray feels indebted. He convinces the reluctant hero to let him rehabilitate him, enhance his image. The representation comes at a heavy price: Hancock must go to jail. Pay for his transgressions, and let the public realize how much they need him as a protector.

Just as Hancock is not your typical superhero, as a movie it’s not the typical popcorn fodder. Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom) brings his always-moving camera style to the potential summer blockbuster, which may nauseate some. Through many rewrites of a high-concept script that’s been circulating the Hollywood system for a decade, the story is all over the map as far as content. The first act is amusing, with Hancock’s sarcastic ribbing. The second and final act loses some momentum; the goofiness is turned down. It becomes about self-discovery with a hint of romanticism for good measure.

Reading about this project, and the number of directors who were on-again off-again, and the rewrites, and seeing that first theatrical trailer, misgivings were to be had. But Smith’s charisma is able to keep this film from capsizing. Hancock is a refreshing look at the superhero genre, with a character that is his own worst enemy. So those expecting a supervillain, you better hope for a sequel.


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