Review: Hancock

July 3, 2008 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment


Oh, look.  Another superhero movie.  Neat.  Well, actually it is.  Hancock is a surprisingly refreshing superhero movie released in a sea of look-alike superhero movies.  Will Smith plays the title character, a drunk amnesiac who happens to have superpowers.  He flies about the city, stopping bad guys and saving people.  The only thing is, everyone hates him.  Hancock destroys more than he protects.  Not on purpose, of course, but he’s just clumsy, and well, he really doesn’t care.  Hancock is a bit of an asshole and never tries to apologize whenever he destroys something.

Hancock eventually befriends Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a PR rep, by saving him from an oncoming train.  Wanting to give something back, Ray suggests a makeover of sorts for Hancock.  Seeing as how the entire city of Los Angeles hates his guts, Hancock decides to roll with it.  What Ray suggests doesn’t please him, however.  Hancock has some jail time racked up due to missed court appearance for the various buildings, structures, and freeways he’s destroyed, and Ray thinks it’ll be good for Hancock’s image if he does time for them.  The overall plan is to hope that the crime rate skyrockets and the public will be clamoring for Hancock to return, thus getting him out of jail.  After some resisting, Hancock agrees.

car lift

The rest of the movie is interesting.  It’s not your typical summer-action-superhero movie, since we spend a good amount of time in jail with Hancock.  It’s an odd place for him to be, considering he helped lock up many of the criminals in the first place.  Meanwhile, Ray’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), disagrees with her husband wanting to help this belligerent and unlikely superhero.  Ray doesn’t understand this, but doesn’t seem to notice that there’s a lot more to his wife’s hesitation than he’s seeing.

What I find interesting about this movie is it’s approach to the superhero formula.  Hancock is very much like an origin story, only we don’t see Hancock gain his powers.  We do, however, see him understand and make use of them properly.  It’s kind of like M. Night Shyamalan’s excellent Unbreakable, only with more action.  Also, we see this personality change within Hancock.  He, and every one else, knows he can just fly away or break through a wall to escape the prison, but he chooses to serve his sentence.  Hancock understands that his problem is cyclical: people hate him because he’s an asshole, and he’s an asshole because people hate him.  He takes Ray’s advice and decides to break the cycle and change for the better.


There’s enough action and special effects here for this to be a qualified summer action movie.  Cars explode, building collapse, and people get knocked through walls.  There’s a nicely choreographed bank robbery/hostage rescue scene at the beginning of the third act.  With this being a Will Smith vehicle, there’s plenty of humor, too.  One of the funniest lines in the movie comes from when a lady tells Hancock she can smell the alcohol on him.  He replies by saying, “Cuz I’ve been drinking, bitch!”  A lot of the humor in the movie, especially in the first half, comes from how Hancock interacts with people, whether he’s trying to be nice or not.

What the movie didn’t do so well was exploring the characters.  As with pretty much all summer action superhero movies, people don’t expect much character depth, so it’s not really that big of a complaint.  However, the movie does touch upon a lot of themes: loneliness, responsibility, and even justice.  Is it right to punish someone if, in the end, they were doing something good?  The movie just doesn’t take it the step further in order to make this one a ‘classic’ superhero movie.


I also found the cinematography a little annoying as well.  Director Peter Berg employs the same shooting style that was seen in his action/drama The Kingdom.  There’s plenty of saturated colors, long lenses, and handheld shots that are found in many modern action movies; my complaint really is that this movie didn’t really need a lot of that, especially the shaky camera stuff.  Even in simple talking head dialogue scenes, the camera is constantly moving.  Unfortunately, not all directors can pull off something like that, and here it just gets annoying.  Not to the point where someone might feel queasy, but it’s distracting at times.

The cast is uniformly good.  Will Smith, as usual, is funny.  Jason Bateman has been funnier in other roles, but he and Will Smith play off each other nicely.  Charlize Theron is fine here, and I think she plays the role of the concerned wife well, but, there’s nothing here that makes her stand out (she did look smokin’ hot, though).  Also, stay a bit after the credits start rolling for a funny cameo by Mike Epps (don’t worry, it’s not at the very end, only about a minute or so into the credits).


Overall, Hancock is a fresh take on the tried and true superhero formula and I’m glad it finally got made (rumor has it the script has been making it’s way around Hollywood for some time).  I would like to see a sequel, since there are things about the plot that aren’t fully explored.  While I won’t give away anything, the plot does open things up for a potential sequel and I think the filmmakers can get a little extra mileage out of this character.  Definitely light-hearted summer fare, and something you can bring your kids to see, provided that they’re old enough to hear the adjective ‘asshole’, they say it a lot in this movie.


(images from Yahoo!)


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