Starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and Jason Bateman
Directed by Peter Berg
Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language
Every year has its big-budgeted, summer-released disappointment, and in 2008 it is Hancock. It’s overhyped on nearly every level, despite some superb visual effects and an oddly transcendent performance by Will Smith. The movie is strong for at least half of its far-too-short running time, playing like a superhero movie crossed with a good Adam Sandler comedy. It has all the acerbic humor to have been written by Sandler, in fact, giving it an unorthodox tone, but when the twist arrives, the whole movie falls apart.
John Hancock is a washed-out superhero, whose latest acts of heroism have left his city’s citizens in an uproar. After a messy attempt to stop a train from ramming into a car, one angered bystander yells at him, “We should sue you!” Hancock has as much an idea of why people hate him as he does about his past (read: none). He was found beaten to a pulp some 80 years ago, with two movie tickets in his pocket. That’s all he knows, along with the fact that he can’t age.
Things start to look up, when a PR rep, Ray Embrey, and his family bring Hancock into their home, in hopes that he can get his life back on track. After discussing the matter with Ray, Hancock realizes that he needs to turn himself into the police for the civil crimes he has committed in his attempts to do good, resulting in a sentence of seven years in prison.
All of this leads up to the Big Twist, which basically results in two people rolling around all over the city, leaving destruction in their wake. Where it goes after this disastrous five minutes (in which we find out the startling truth about a main character) at least gets points for being unpredictable, but it’s the squirmy kind of unpredictability, to which we should say: “Good, I’m glad I didn’t see that coming.”
I had a lot of fun watching the first 45 minutes, in spite of its startlingly uneven tone; the humorous elements won me over. But all interest was lost when the supposed villain was introduced, discarded, and…well, I don’t know what, but it was awful. I hope the inevitable sequel is the filmmakers’ Spider-Man 2. By that, I mean I hope the film will be longer, more thoughtful, and less chaotic in its ending.
In spite of it all, Will Smith has found a comedic powerhouse of a role in Hancock, who, like Hellboy and Iron Man, is sarcastic and abrasive to everyone, including those whom he saves. However, he’s in the service of flat, ultimately uninspired material. In the end, I liked Hancock, but I didn’t like Hancock.