Monday, July 7, 2008


I have just returned from the Uptown Theater, drinking in the outside ticket booth that apparently required a months down time to install. It wasn't worth it. However, Hancock, the new Will Smith superhero film, certainly was.

Will Smith stars as the titular character, a drunken, irascible man who happens to have phenomenal superpowers. He's essentially superbum. The first glimpse the audience gets of him is passed out drunk on a public bench, clutching a six pack of Gentleman John's Bourbon. Doubles too, not mere fifths. He can fly at supersonic speed, has super strength, and is nigh indestructible. However, as Spider Man often says, "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility." Hancock is a drunk, and as such not very responsible. His first on screen attempt of breaking off a high speed shootout on the freeway results in over $9 million in damages to public property. This does not endear him with the Los Angeles public, and as they vent their frustrations upon him, he responds in kind. However, at the heart of his issues is the loneliness felt as a man who has no equals.

Ray Embrey, played by Jason Bateman, is an eternally optimistic and idealistic PR man. His goal is to make a charity brand, called All-Heart, that would inspire companies to donate their products to the needy for free. This does not go over well. On his way home, he finds his vehicle deadlocked in traffic, and on the train tracks, in the path of the train. As he struggles to free himself, Hancock arrives, flips his car out of harms way, and in the process, derails the train. Once again everyone who witnessed the accident berates Hancock for not simply flying the car away. Only Embrey expresses any gratitude for Hancock's action, inviting him into his house to join his family for their traditional spaghetti dinner.

Embrey's wife, Mary, is not pleased. Portrayed by Charlize Theron, Mary treats Hancock with suspicion and no small amount of curtness, rushing him out of the house as soon as the meal is ended. As Hancock leaves, Ray hands him his business card, offering to put his PR power behind Hancock in an effort to turn Hancock's image with the public around.

Hancock spends a night thinking it over, and decides to take Ray up on his offer. However, the LA DA has issued a warrant for Hancock's arrest, stemming from the massive amount of damage he has inflicted on the city. Ray sees this as a great opportunity to turn Hancock's image around. He convinces Hancock to surrender himself for incarceration, where he undergoes rehab and anger management sessions. As the crime rate skyrockets in Hancock's absence, Ray makes plans to overhaul Hancock's image, and Hancock waits in prison for a situation that requires his abilities...

Hancock is 92 minutes long. It debuted to mixed reviews, garnering a 90 from the New Yorker and an 88 from the Philadelphia Inquirer, but a 30 from Newsweek and a flat out 0 from the Wall Street Journal. Metacritic settled the film at a 49. It starts out as a snarky deconstruction of the superhero genre, and succeeds in that aspect. There's a twist that leads the film down a more serious road. The humor's still there in the second half, but it's more situational, such as when Hancock disarms a gunman using a candy bar. The special effects have a little trouble melding with the film, leading to some breaks with the immersion. The acting is solid, and the score, by John Powell, is well suited to the film.

Hancock strives to be a "superhero in real life" type of story, in the vein of Heroes. However, the film still makes some concessions to the fantasy world. Hancock, despite his super strength which allows him to toss a humpback whale a mile away, refrains from simply dismembering people he fights in hand to hand combat, even in life and death circumstances. A stigma Jessica from Heroes, does not suffer from.

In the end, Hancock is a decent film. It's no Citizen Kane, it's probably not even Superman Returns, but it's worth watching if you have some time on your hands. I'd give it a 6/10.

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