Published on July 7th, 2008 | by Erich Becker0
There hasn’t been a movie like Hancock in a long while with the ability to polarize audiences to such a degree as this. From the very onset of the film, when a drunken, languishing superhero (Will Smith) awakens to perform the not-so-daunting task of stopping a SUV full of guys with guns, you know you are in for something different, or at least you think you are. Truth be told, Columbia Picture’s marketing department accurately marketed about 20% of this movie before its release, a few one-liners, some boozing super powers, and a guy saving the day for all mankind. All that stuff ends about 25 minutes into the film and after the true perspective of the film is revealed.
The big “twist,” that has been marketed more than Smith flying under the influence, isn’t that big at all as Peter Berg’s direction makes everything so blatantly obvious with close to two dozen shots of Charlize Theron’s face that you just know she’s mentally projecting into your brain, “Hi, I’m Academy Award winner Charlize Theron, and I know something more than I let on!” The obviousness of the “twist” when it finally happens has no punch to it, it simply happens and some hair-brained explanation is supposed to make everything better. Granted the premise is unique, the execution is severely lacking.
Smith is his usual charismatic self, borrowing elements from all the previous characters that he’s played and combining it into another great role. Hancock eventually saves Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) who puts him through the paces of changing his image in the public eye, even going to jail for a month to make the public miss him, but Ray’s connection to Hancock, through his wife, complicates things as the film goes on into its dramatic climax.
Theron as Mary Embrey seems to have lost all the muster that gave her the aforementioned Oscar, whether it be from a lack of material, or just a general lack of talent, but Mary comes off as flat and even more so when her secret is revealed.
Oh the hell with it, Mary is a superhero too, she has super powers, and when pairs of the ancient race of beings come close to each other they become mortal, something that plays out near the end of the film. Fate always brings them back together, and she’s always escaping away from Hancock to save both of them. See, hair-brained.
Realistically this is the main antagonist in the film, there isn’t a super villain created by a super-secret experiment, there isn’t a mole-man drilling up from the ground or anything like that, it’s a character piece, and while the character of Hancock is developed enough for us to care, the rest of the script, save for Bateman’s usually wonderful performance, really leaves a lot to be desired.
Again, Hancock is a polarizing film, you either like it, or you don’t, based on what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish there is a lot to like here, but where it all counts, the script, is where the film falls flat. In a world where we give accolades for participation and trying, Hancock wins a handful of awards, but where execution gets you results, this superhero film fails to live up to the expectations set up by its first 20 minutes of runtime.