Release Date: July 2nd, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Berg Actors: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Eddie Marsan, Hayley Marie Norman, Jae Head
ilthy, unshaven, drunk, and vulgar, Hancock is the absolute opposite of the typical superhero. The idea is spectacularly singular, but it only carries the film during the first half – the remaining plot twists create more questions and resolve fewer answers, until the audience is fuming with aggravation. Worthy amounts of comedy save the film from total nonsense, but for all the unique ideas surrounding “Hancock,” it seems inevitable midway that not everything will piece together smoothly.
John Hancock (Will Smith) is a bum, waking up in his own filth on a bench in the street, unkempt, bedraggled, crude, mannerless, and cynical. He is also a superhero. Suffering from amnesia, Hancock follows an undiscovered calling from within himself that finds the crass demigod continually saving the lives of various people in his hometown of Los Angeles. But his services come with a hefty price tag, as he uncaringly and accidentally destroys millions of dollars worth of property in the process of stopping armed madmen – leading to great disdain from the very humans he rescues (a concept not unlike the setup of “The Incredibles”).
In walks Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a PR guy with no luck, trying to sell his revolutionary yet profitless ideas to major moneymaking corporations. When his life is saved by the catastrophic Hancock, he sees the strong resentment the public administers. Realizing the loneliness and confusion resonating in the unappreciated superhero, Ray offers his services to help redefine Hancock’s less-than-perfect public image. Involving a new look, a new outfit, vocal coaching, and a short prison sentence, Hancock appears to be back on the right track to fulfilling his destiny as a savior of the world – until Ray’s mysterious wife Mary (Charlize Theron) reveals some startling clues to Hancock’s past.
It takes a regular human being to teach a superhero to be super. This is essentially the driving force in the film, and it could have been truly impressive. A perfect spin on the paradigmatic superhero maxim, the plot allows for plenty of comedy, action, and even romance. But director Peter Berg decided to keep the audience in the dark for just long enough – until wits are at an end and viewers find themselves fidgeting in their seats. When the answers don’t come frequently enough and the questions continue to stockpile, it’s obvious that the movie isn’t prepared to solve the many problems being heaped onto Hancock’s story, possibly a result of rewrites and unpolished drafts.
Humor is the driving force behind “Hancock’s” design, treating viewers to plenteous servings of sarcasm and coarse antics, which yield dependable laughs. The main character provides comedy along with nearly all of the supporting players, which presents an unprecedented approach to a superhero film, if not too much comic relief. And while the hilariousness of each new situation rarely subsides, the story can’t survive on wittiness alone. Rarely is a beat skipped when it comes to the jokes, but by the halfway point, they cease to push the story forward.
Obtaining the coveted July 4th weekend box office, “Hancock” is sure to bring in tons of money. Plus, the star power of Will Smith has, of late, always ensured success. And though it’s the only superhero movie in quite some time not based on a graphic novel, the originality of the film entertains only to a point; it’s the lack of real, substantial solutions for an outlandish fantasy tale that prevents this film from being as extraordinary as Hancock himself.
– The Massie Twins