Summer of 2008 has now officially become the Summer of Superhero.
In the new landscape of hot trends in movies today, the
Superhero/Comic Book to film fad must be the new “thing,”
because now everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. Last
week gave us WANTED,
the non-traditional comic book movie and this week gives
us Will Smith as the anti-hero of the eponymous Hancock.
touted as a different take on the Superhero genre, this
darker, more adult fare was about a down on his luck drunkard
of a Superhero who has a questionable relationship with
his friend’s wife and searches for redemption. Based
originally on a screenplay by Vincent Ngo and first called
Tonight, He Comes, the story sounded more like
Oscar bait than summer sustenance.
Hancock, directed by Peter Berg (The Rundown,
Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom) turns in a tease
of a movie that makes us think it’s going to give
us something akin to a dramatic commentary on the tried
and true, and then decides it wants to play in the same
sandbox as Iron Man
and The Incredible Hulk.
is the story of a Los Angeleno Superman-like hero named
John Hancock, who’s kind of an A-hole (just make sure
you don’t call him that to his face). He’s lost
faith in humanity and his loneliness has made him a drunk.
He’s careless, he’s reckless, and yet he’s
still heroic, as down on his luck p.r. shill Ray Embrey
(my new favorite, Jason Bateman) is fortunate to find out.
very poignant scene where a drunken Hancock saves Ray from
an oncoming train while causing possible millions in damage,
Ray reminds us that amongst all the complaints of the witnesses
and angry mobs, a life had been saved, and that’s
what’s most important. Feeling in debt and no doubt
a little bit of pity, Ray wants to repay the favor and help
Hancock out with his public image. So after some convincing,
Hancock essentially takes Ray on as his manager, so to speak.
rest of the movie deals with the redemption of Hancock,
some insight into his murky past and lots and lots of comic
book style action. The plotting of the screenplay reads
very comic book like and could almost pass as an interesting
graphic novel if it were ever adapted. However, it’s
when Hancock gets too “comic booky”
that it really loses its steam and as the film switches
gears in the middle, you can almost feel the momentum screech
to a halt.
kept occurring to me during the viewing was that I originally
thought this was going to be more of Will Smith acting in
a Superhero type film and actually lampooning the genre.
It turns out this is THE Will Smith Superhero vehicle.
kept thinking, this is Will Smith as Luke Cage, and if we
ever saw that film, this is what it would look like. But
it’s not. It’s Will Smith saying," I don’t
want to be anybody else’s property, I want my own
the film been marketed that way, I think it would have made
more sense. Instead we have mock ups in theaters of a passed-out
Will Smith on a park bench.
watching Hancock, I found myself not quite sure
what to make of it. I didn’t hate the film; I actually
think I liked it, but there was something wrong with it.
Berg is a capable director. However, sometimes he gets bogged
down with the action scenes and forgets character development,
but I don’t think this was the case with this movie.
feels like it wanted to be one movie and the studio wanted
another. Reports are that Hancock handled more
adult themes and initially got an R rating, but the studio
wanted it pared down to appeal to mass audiences and put
more butts in the seats.
feels like it left a lot of substance on the cutting room
floor and that’s a shame. Smith has become a bona
fide movie star, but he’s also an Academy Award nominated
actor, and he brings a certain compassion to a film that
otherwise could be written off as fluff. He’s also
acting with Academy Award Winning Actress Charlize Theron
and the two of them bring some chops to the movie, even
though only the first half of the film’s script was
ready for them.
the nature of their relationship is revealed, Hancock
starts to go downhill. The somewhat more compelling adult
story turns into a less than standard Superhero revenge
flick and we get more than enough action and not enough
exposition. The ending is satisfying, yet leaves us wanting
is interesting and funny, and action-packed. It’s
also good. It just suffers from a lack of a real focus.
Is it a Superhero Movie? Is it a Will Smith Comedy? Is it
a contemporary take on the Comic Book genre? Hancock
it does know is that compelling acting and actors and a
ton of big budget Hollywood style effects and action might
just be enough for a summer blockbuster. It might be enough
for a good movie…but just not enough for a great movie.