Hancock (2008)

hancock-posterWhether it makes money or not, “Hancock” will not be the next superhero franchise to break the bank, nor will it be as anticipated as the action figures from Marvel. “Hancock” has so much potential in the first half to focus on a superhero who is far from the people we get in theaters who happen to be upscale and of the Caucasian persuasion, but the turn in the second half is probably some of the most nonsensical pro-feminist propaganda I’ve ever seen, with the writers anxiously working toward taking an insignificant and uninteresting character and turning them in to someone who could contribute.

The problem is that the contribution is pointless, shoehorned, and ultimately feels like there were too many cooks in the kitchen during the writing process. The writers are so intent on giving Hancock some form of conflict and obstacle that they instead screw the pooch by leaving us dumb founded by such a stupid twist. “Hancock” wants to be so many things at so many times. It strives to be this dark and brooding superhero epic about this regular man who happens to be inflicted with immense superpowers that are almost limitless (which allows no tension when Hancock is in danger) and can’t quite figure out how to ease his urge for child and alcohol abuse. And then there’s the typical Will Smith malarkey; the smart mouth, fast witted, sly persona who smirks at everything and can’t quite figure out how to be anyone but the Smith we know him as.

“Hancock” constantly struggles with being an adult superhero film, and an action flick for everyone, so as a result it’s a confusing, often jarring mess. Hancock is never the most interesting character to begin with as the entire xenophobic angsty superhero who doesn’t want their powers and hates the duties imposed on them has been done a thousand times over thanks to Marvel comics and their affinity for real individuals while the likes of “Watchmen” pretty much covered what “Hancock” pretends to have mastered. With great power there’s also the responsibility, and everything the superhuman does affects other people whether they have good intentions or not. “Hancock” tries to break the mold by making him an almost unlikable character, but never so unlikable where we’re not rooting for Smith. So while Hancock is scaring the crap out of kids, and calling old women pricks, we’re well aware that this has been done to a much better degree by the likes of Alan Moore or Frank Miller, and that Smith would never take on a character who will soon become a villain of some kind.

There’s not a single original bone in director Peter Berg’s hero picture. And while I’d loved to have been bowled over by this, all the elements can never find a cohesive link to bring it all together with smooth pacing. “Hancock” is constantly jumping back and forth and when we finally discover why Hancock is what he is, it’s completely awkward, and incredibly forced with some of the dumbest on screen dialogue and forced comedy I’ve seen in years. Some of the arguments I’m hearing is that the origin for Hancock is interesting because it’s not the usual origin we’ve seen in movies. I for one would have preferred complete ambiguity. How did Hancock become Hancock? Well, it’s up to us to decide. That’s what I would have enjoyed. Not some ridiculous back story involving symbiosis and twins and an arbitrary cohort who completes Hancock. Meanwhile, per typical Hollywood fashion, Hancock never quite finds his way until he’s told by a woman how to be a hero.

And he’s also never quite as powerful as the feminine force that’s introduced near the finale when we finally realize that “Hancock” has run out of tricks and is now just running on steam losing all purpose for the actual star, and for all of the other supporting characters. Sub-plots are under developed, villains are arbitrary, the origin of Hancock is almost impossible to comprehend, and most of the conflicts in the second half are reliant on a semi-incestuous tone that is both uncomfortable and never as funny as the writers would like it to be The primary reason to watch “Hancock” is for Jason Bateman who is absolutely hilarious as one of the few good people in the story who looks to help Hancock when the hero saves his life at a railroad track.

Bateman integrates much of his dead pan wit and humble demeanor to become a sympathetic moral center who helps Hancock improve his image and also help everyone else in the world come to love Hancock and his efforts in fighting crime. Bateman can take almost the worst piece of movie making and make it salvageable, and Bateman completely reworks the mentor role that we’ve seen in superhero tales before.. I’m all for garnering a more diverse grab bag of superhero movies in theaters, but if “Hancock” is the future of these movies, then it’s a safe bet to leave the comic book movies to Marvel and DC. Not like that will stop you from bringing in the big dough, right? For a while I was sure Will Smith’s superhero vehicle would be the start of a great franchise with an interesting character. And then it takes a ridiculous turn in the second half and it all goes downhill from there. “Hancock” is an unfocused, ill-conceived, and rather ridiculous Smith vehicle, and while it may rake in big bucks, it’s definitely not toppling the likes of Iron Man and Batman.