July 2, 2008 at 2:31 pm #1361
We’ve had quite a few superhero movies over the last few years and at some point, somebody was going to come along and make a movie that explored what it actually means to be a superhero and the toll it takes, not only on the hero but on the people they affect. Watchmen did it in the 80s and will do it again next year in the long awaited movie adaptation. But before Watchmen, we have Hancock. Now before I start, let me get the obvious stuff out of the way. No, this is not how Superman should fly…but I’ll get back to that later.
Hancock is not your typical comic-style movie. Yes, there is an origin, yes the character learns something about himself and yes there is a villain, but taken as a whole, the movie doesn’t follow the typical formula of: guy gets powers, something bad happens to him, so he uses his powers to make a difference before having an epic fight with a super villain and saving the day. That’s not Hancock.
The film begins with a freeway chase through Los Angeles and Hancock is on the scene…the scene being asleep on a bench, bottle of liquor in hand. Straight away you realise this isn’t Superman. The people of LA don’t really like Hancock and as he flies off to save the day, bottle in hand and nursing a hangover, you realise why.
If Superman didn’t have Lois and Jimmy and the Kents, he might end up like this. Hancock is alone, the only one of his kind, only he doesn’t know what "kind" he is. Is he human? An alien? A god? He doesn’t remember anything about who he is and where he came from. He is alone, and he is lonely.
And that’s essentially what the film is about, finding your place in the world. The origin of Hancock is told as a backstory throughout the film and that’s where the problem lies. It’s told in a way that makes you not care, as if it’s there as meaningless exposition and you don’t really need to listen…but if you don’t listen, the last 10 minutes will make absolutely no sense to you. It’s as if the writer or the director came up with a half-assed origin to fill out the story and at the last minute, decided to use the origin to make certain events more meaningful, unfortunately he forgot to go back to the origin and make us care about it.
The movie starts off well enough, and when Jason Bateman’s character, Ray, makes his entrance, he threatens to steal the movie, but Will Smith has the charisma to hold his own. We’ve seen Hancock’s antics by this time and Ray is the one person who can see the potential…at least I think his name was Ray, I only came out of the cinema an hour ago, and my memory of his name is getting a little fuzzy. And that’s another problem. The character starts out great, he’s a guy who wants to change the world and Hancock is his chance to do that, but as the movie progresses he gets pushed into the background more and more.
Charlize Theron’s character…uh Mary, I think…seriously, remember these characters names is a real challenge…she goes in the opposite direction and the movie becomes as much about her as Hancock. And the thing about this film is that you think you know everything from the trailers…but you don’t.
In fact if you’ve seen the trailers you will get the impression that Hancock is a terrible superhero, Bateman’s character helps him change his ways, and he becomes better before facing off against a big villain…that’s not entirely the case…it’s part of the story, but the whole movie switches direction half way through and becomes an entirely different experience.
On the technical side, things are generally good, the effects work and Hancocks flying works for what it is. But as I said at the beginning, this isn’t how Superman should fly. Obviously Superman should be more graceful and while the close ups look good and shows that shooting real actors in front of green screen can work, there is too little of it as the flying ends up becoming much like what is seen in Heroes…you know, a very quick blur shooting off into the distance. What is shown up close is very good though I would expect Superman to look even better in his next movie. Speaking of Superman, there is also a nice nod to William’s Superman theme in the movie though for the most part the score is pretty generic.
It’s hard to talk about the real problem with Hancock without giving too much away, but it boils down to one thing, underdevelopment. One character in particular needs more development that we don’t get and can leave you feeling a little empty.
Hancock is of course, a comedy and it will get some laughs, there is a running joke through the movie that works pretty well. But it’s also a superhero film and the action that is shown is alright without being spectacular and the climax is disappointing in the action department. They went for an emotion climax rather than an all out action climax, unfortunately if you haven’t listened to the origin and if you feel as I do about the character who I felt needed more development (can’t say who, it’s a spoiler), then wonder if you would have been better off going to see Iron Man again.
Hancock tries to deliver more than just a typical superhero movie, it tries to be a character study of superheroes and is succeeds in part, but there are too many shortcomings to be considered a great or even good film.
You may have some fun watching the film, it is certainly enjoyable, but ultimately it comes up short in what it was trying to do. Nevertheless, it is certainly a movie that may be worth your time, if only to tide you over until the The Dark Knight hits cinemas in a couple of weeks.
Interestingly, the movie was cut down, removing a lot of the outrageous antics of Hancock to get a PG-13 rating and while I don’t think the original cut will have any more substance than the theatrical version, I still hope that the studio releases the R rated cut on dvd in the future as some of what was cut is supposed to be pretty funny.
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