Hancock (2008)

hancock IMDb

I am very indifferent to this movie. It seems like a cool idea– an alcoholic “superhero” gets some PR help to revamp his destructive image– but the actual result is less entertaining than expected. It’s such a shame, because some great actors try really hard to make this work. Unfortunately they are working with a dud script.

Will Smith stars as the titular Hancock, a “hero” flying around Los Angeles stopping crimes and saving people. The only problem is that he always does this in the most destructive manner possible, leaving the city to pay for his property damage. Hancock finally starts rehabbing his image with the help of a public relations spokesman (Jason Bateman), and uncovers a long lost friend (Charlize Theron) in the process. As I said, all three are great actors, and they have their moments in this movie. However, these are few and far between once the second half of the movie starts.

The first half of Hancock is good, but it quickly devolves from there. Each character is introduced perfectly, especially in Hancock’s case. Smith is great as the anti-hero, something he had never done before this film. He somehow manages to channel his easy charisma into completely believable self-loathing anger. Despite hating Hancock, I found myself rooting for him all the same. Bateman plays the same basic character he always does, but I’m not tired of it (yet). He grounds the film in reality, setting it apart from most superhero movies. Theron is a strong counterpoint to Smith’s Hancock, and handles the action scenes she is given well.

However, all of the fun packed into the first half of the film is almost completely removed by the second act. This is yet another example of the filmmakers trying to shove an R-rated movie into a PG-13 package. The first half is decidedly teen friendly, with edgy-ish humor, innuendo, and a tiny bit of swearing. But the second half focuses more on drama that speaks more to adults. It’s an abrupt change of pace that doesn’t suit the film well at all. I would have preferred the movie to just go for a full R-rating. The character development could have been further flushed out (Hancock actually does a decent job with this aspect), and the “twist” ending could have been better explored instead of feeling rushed.

In the end, Hancock relies heavily on Will Smith to sell the movie. This isn’t the worst plan, but I feel he deserves better than this. He really is one of the best actors around, so it’s always disappointing when he’s attached to such mediocre offerings.

Rating: C

This is such an interesting and original premise, it is really disappointing the execution of Hancock doesn’t quite live up to how good the film could be. I really liked the idea of this film that asks ‘what if Superman were a deadbeat alcoholic’. Will Smith is probably the perfect person to play Hancock. He is able to be a jerk, but because he is Will Smith, you still find yourself rooting for him. I’m not sure that there are a lot of actors who could play this jerk of a character and still have him be somewhat likable. Someone with the screen presence and charm of Will Smith manages to achieve that though.

Will Smith plays Hancock, a homeless, often inebriated guy who also happens to have super strength and can fly. He has taken on the responsibility of being the protector of Los Angeles, often with destructive results. Hancock is not appreciated by the citizens of Los Angeles, who think he causes far more damage than he prevents. It is only when Hancock saves the life of Ray (Jason Bateman), a public relations guru, that his life begins to change. Ray sets about changing the public perception of Hancock and also introduces him to his family, including hottie wife, Mary (Charlize Theron). She does not like Ray’s new friend, but she may be hiding a secret of her own.

I was really excited to see what this movie would be like. All the previews made it seem like such a fun ride, and the first half of the film really is. The second half of the film, when you realise who Charlize Theron is and how she knows Hancock, feels tacked on. I was far more interested in Hancock and having him finally become accepted as the hero of Los Angeles. I did not really care about any potential history he might share with Theron, and the film spent far too much time delving into that.

Smith is charismatic and funny, just as he usually is. He tried hard, but the role is poorly written, especially the second half of his character arc. Jason Bateman is good also, as the public relations guy trying to help Hancock be accepted. He and Smith do their best with average writing.

For me, Hancock is more about what might have been than what actually ended up on screen. The idea that there could be a deadbeat superhero was such an interesting take on the hero genre, it is just a shame that this feels very poorly executed. Wasting far too much time on Will Smith’s relationship with Charlize Theron, which I didn’t really care about.

Rating: C-

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