Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Hancock

 
Review by Patrick Hodges

I can imagine how the premise for this film started out:  the story of a superhero (not based on any current comic book), who has ungodly strength but lacks the character to really know what to do with it.  He uses his powers flagrantly, ostensibly to stop crime and help the “greater good”, but unfortunately, he invariably causes more damage than he prevents.  And the public hates him for it.  As a result, he is surly, gruff, caustic, abrasive, and he drinks.  A lot.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, this premise was pitched to some studio executive somewhere, and once the words “Will Smith”, “superhero” and “Fourth of July weekend” were mentioned in the same breath, said executive got dollar signs in his eyes, and the rest of the conversation became white noise.  And therein lay what turned out to be Hancock’s downfall.

You see, this film, I have to believe, was originally intended to be a character study, NOT a full-blown summer action flick.  The decision to reunite director Peter Berg and producer Michael Mann, who teamed up last fall for the excellent but underachieving action-drama The Kingdom, illustrates that point.  Action though they may have, Berg and Mann’s past works have largely been centered on the characters, no matter how much action took part.

And for the first 2/3 of the film, Hancock was proceeding along those lines.  Hancock saves the life of a public-relations expert (Jason Bateman), who deems it his duty to clean up Hancock’s image and get him back on the straight and narrow, much to the chagrin of his wife (Charlize Theron).  He even convinces Hancock to go to jail, so the public will realize just how much they need his services.  Then, suddenly, unexpectedly and violently, the film stops on a dime and goes into full-bore action mode.  But as the story plays out, you find out more and more that the film really had nowhere to go from there.  The explanation of Hancock's origins are thrown in almost as an afterthought, which make it feel forced and unncessary.

Had this film been kept on a small scale, say, something along the lines of My Super Ex-Girlfriend (which was a really bad film, but the scale was right), Hancock would have worked magnificently.  The trouble is, unless you are really trying hard for Oscar nominations, studios are in the business to make money. As much as possible.  And Will Smith, who now has a whopping eleven consecutive $100 million-plus films under his belt, simply doesn’t do “small” anymore.  You might as well ask him to go back to doing a television sitcom.  Ain’t gonna happen.

A slightly lesser-known but just as capable actor might have been a better choice, but then, again, studios tend to prefer more money to less money, and they were more than willing to sacrifice quality for quantity in this case.  Oh, it was still enjoyable as an action film, and Smith was stellar as always, but even with the “twist” that I mentioned,  I left the theater scratching my head and wondering what might have been.

3.5/5 stars

 
 
 
 

Review by David Tredler

Is it possible to make a superhero movie that is not adapted from a comic book? Peter Berg and Will Smith try their hands at it, and show that as enjoyable as it sometimes can be, such a project needs serious screenwriting talent and unity, a characteristic Hancock clearly lacks.

The movie starts rather well. At first sight, John Hancock looks like a homeless, 24/7 drunkard with a grumpy mood. When he stands up from his bench, though, he is a superhero, impassive when shot at, as fast as a jet in the air, and endowed with a superhuman strength. But Hancock is unpopular because of the drinking problem, the moody character, and many other troubles. An unsuccessful but ambitious publicist he recently saved decides to turn Hancock into the popular superhero he should be.

This is the good part of the film, the one that was sold to us in trailers and the one we expected. Nothing to get crazy about, but a nice action comedy. The problem is, it does not even last an hour. The closing credit could start rolling after the first half of the film. Because then a second movie starts after a twist that changes the stakes of the intrigue, the shape of the story and the tone of the narration.

It’s hard to comment on it without spoiling Hancock, so let’s just say that it suddenly turns into pure comedy for a few moments, and then builds in half an hour a huge mythology behind Hancock’s character, a bit out of the blue. The tone gets dark, the screenplay accelerates in a weird direction, and in the end you are left with the strange feeling of having seen not one but two films.

There clearly has been a problem somewhere, with the studio, or with the producers. Or maybe the dichotomy was present all along in early stages of the projects. The result, though, remains a sometimes-enjoyable, sometimes-confusing superhero flick that would have benefited from a choice between the comedy or the drama.

2/5 stars

 

Comments (1):

  • adin @ 11/10/2008 ( 11:09:13 PM )
    is very beautiful...
Post a New Comment
Your Name:
Your Email:
Comment: