Theatrical Review: Hancock

In the world shown in this movie, there’s one man who stands differently amongst other men, he has super-powers, his name is John Hancock and he’s an asshole (and I’m going to use the term here, as it’s used repeatedly in the movie). Oh, Hancock gets out there and helps everyone else, but he does it with little regard to the safety of others and the damage costs. And when he’s not doing that, he’s usually getting drunk. Enter in Ray Embrey, a Public Relations man with aspirations for changing the world into a better place (wha??). Embrey’s life is saved by Hancock early in the story, and in return, Embrey wants to help him out, put him back as popular in the public eye, and after a little soul-searching, Hancock agrees to this…

And that’s the opening premise to Hancock, the newest movie from one of my favorite directors out there these days, Peter Berg who’s made such great movies in the past like The Rundown, Friday Night Lights and last year’s The Kingdom. And it just goes to show you that even your favorites can stumble from time to time, and Hancock is one huge stumble, so much of a stumble that I’d put this slightly ahead of Get Smart as one of the worst that I’ve seen this year.

The thing is, there are some good ideas here, but the mix of these ideas doesn’t work because none of them are ever given much of a chance to really follow through to any sort of logical conclusion, and what you get is a schizophrenic piece. One moment, this goes from wa-wah sit-com comedy and then it becomes as dark as can be, and it never feels natural, it feels like a bunch of big name talents getting together to make a summer blockbuster, and to hell with anything even remotely resembling logic…

… and that doesn’t even begin to cover the “twist” that the film has about 2/3 of the way through, which totally feels like it’s been pulled out of a scriptwriter’s ass. This twist, which has ties to Hancock’s origin, feels utterly contrived, like there was no natural way to end it, and that combined with it’s schizo nature just had me wondering why the hell this was done in the first place.

Some might see this as a deconstruction piece for the current wave of comic book superhero movies, and there’s really nothing wrong with doing that, this just doesn’t do it right. Hancock is an incredibly powerful person who pretty much does what he wants and to hell with the damage that follows in it’s wake, to the public at large though, the guy’s an asshole not the type of menace that he should be treated as. Then, with having Will Smith as the lead, well, it has to carry some sort of likability factor as well, so Hancock is an asshole, but he’s just a funny and misunderstood asshole… in the real world of course (they go to great lengths to include CNN commentator Nancy Grace calling for an outcry against this guy- which is probably one of the more logical pieces in the film).

Smith’s backed up with Jason Bateman as Ray Embrey and Charlize Theron as Ray’s wife, and someone who’s even more important to the “twist” later, and really, along with Smith, this just felt like you were seeing three big name actors on the screen without too much consideration to actually inhabiting a part. The biggest fault in casting though, is probably with Will Smith himself. Now I really like Smith (I thought he was absolutely terrific in I Am Legend), but the way things are done here, there’s just some fundamental realities that are just totally ignored, primarily with Hancock’s origins and the fact that Smith is a black man, but playing with that in the midst of this would’ve added too much meat to the idea, and obvious that Peter Berg didn’t even want to deal with something like that.

There’s just so much squandered potential here, and it’s squandered at the expense of creating some dumb-ass sight gags and wise-ass lines rather than giving you something that you could truly sink your teeth into. Peter Berg’s style is ill-suited to the kind of big comedy that they think they’re presenting here (sorry, again like with Get Smart I didn’t laugh once, but we had one guy in our very small audience who thought it was funnier than hell, so there you go). There’s some good ideas, that if fleshed out properly would be perfectly suited to Berg’s style, but no one takes the time or has the inclination to flesh that stuff out so what you have in the end is an all over the map piece with a final act that’s meant to resolve everything that ultimately feels like no one had a real clue how to logically end this.

But again, checking over at the IMDB, it looks like I’m a minority in this, but not to the same extent as say with Get Smart, so who knows, you may very well like it, but personally I didn’t, and further, it’s right up there with Jumper, 10,000 B.C., The Happening, The Love Guru and Get Smart as one of the worst movies that I’ve seen all year…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

06. July 2008 by Darren Goodhart
Categories: Text Reviews, Theatrical Review | Leave a comment

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