>> Hancock (7/10)

HancockNobody likes Hancock.  That’s the conflict at the start of the new superhero film starring Will Smith as a drunken, impatient hobo with the powers of a god.  To offset this conflict, to make sure that the audience secretly does like Hancock, even when characters in the movie do not, the filmmakers cast WIll Smith.  Smart move.  The casting affords Hancock the opportunity to be a jerk on the grandest scale, while still being likeable because, well, he’s the Fresh Prince.

Jason Bateman plays Ray Embrey, a public relations specialist who makes Hancock his pet project after Hancock saves Embrey’s life.  This means jail time for Hancock’s irresponsible property damage.  This means Hancock must learn to be respectful to others.  This means Hancock needs to learn how to be a useful superhero, costume and all.  These lessons are not without a price, particularly to Embrey’s marriage.  His wife, Mary (Charlize Theron) views Hancock as a threat to their family, and for very good reason.  Her hesitancy and suspicions about Hancock’s true nature provide the film with an entirely new conflict, halfway through the story.

There is something episodic about Hancock that gives it a very specific comic book feel.  Hancock, the film, feels like a six-issue  story arc in a Hancock comic book (a book that doesn’t even exist; at least not as of this writing).  There are minor stories within an overall story.  Issue one–Hancock meets Embrey.  Issue two–Hancock goes to prison.  Issue three–Hancock gets a costume and fights bank robbers.  And so on.  I could picture this being adapted almost literally from a comic, and that’s neat, especially in light of there being no such book.

The downside is that there is no Hancock on-going series to flesh out the ideas and mythology of this character, and the film feels overstuffed with ideas as a result.  I absolutely want a Hancock sequel.  I liked the movie, but director Peter Berg’s reach overextends his grasp and as a result the movie crams too much story (and too many varying tones) into too little time.  I want a sequel that will take everything I liked about this movie–the awesomeness of Hancock’s power on display, the playful imagination–and tell one singular, focused story.

Smith is taking some interesting chances with this character.  Hancock doesn’t ever try to be a sweetheart here; he just wants to not be hated.  He’s not a thug with a heart of gold; he’s a tired, lonely immortal looking for a connection in a world that he doesn’t need (despite their need for him).  Smith’s connection with Theron is, in my opinion, the film’s most disappointing casting misstep.  Theron isn’t bad, but I noticed a lack of much needed tension and chemistry between Theron and Smith.  The second half of the film is all their’s, and while it works conceptually, it doesn’t exactly work in execution.  It’s missing an emotional weight that would’ve brought the film up from “pretty cool” into ” pretty special”.

All in all, Hancock holds its own against the comic book movies with an established history, on the strength of its ideas alone.  In the hands of a better director, this probably would’ve been something quite remarkable.  Berg is still too green for a project this imaginative.  Hancock perseveres with big story, big action, and Big Willie Style, making it a slightly unusual bit of large-scale superhero adventure.

7 on a 1 to 10 scale

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1 Comment

  1. i completely agree with your point that there are too many ideas crammed into a 93-minute movie. it felt like a mess to me, and it seemed like the movie pulled things out of nowhere just to keep the story going.

    that said, i was still entertained, but that was solely because of Will Smith. I imagine that if any other actor had been in this role the movie would’ve been a wreck.


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