I will be the first to admit that I am a fan of Will Smith. Whether he's playing a martian-killing agent in a black suit (Men in Black) or fighter pilots uniform (Independence Day), kissing men and lying about being the illegitimate child of Sydney Poitier (Six Degrees of Separation), or playing an iconic athlete (Ali), I think he is one of the most talented actors out there today. I will also admit that I liked Hancock... for about 25 minutes.
John Hancock (Smith) is not your ordinary superhero. There are no disguises, meaning there is no alter-ego with a day time job as a reporter or photographer for the city's major newspaper. There is no secret hideout, meaning there's no Batcave for Hancock - you can either find him in his trailer in some desolate sandy area or passed out with a bottle of whiskey on a park bench in front of your favorite electronics store. There is also no real desire to be the superhero the city expects and wants him to be. You can actually get away with calling him an asshole - well, at least once or twice.
Even when Hancock is saving people, he's also creating problems by costing Los Angeles millions of dollars to repair damages caused by his drunken flight patterns and saving people in ways that could only be described as unorthodox. If anyone ever needed that Ben and Peter Parker "with great power comes great responsibility moment," Hancock is the one - not that he'd ever listen, largely because he's an asshole and doesn't listen to anyone, or care what anyone thinks about him (even a kid, in the first two minutes of the flick, calls him an asshole as he wakes up from a drunken stupor so he can go stop a high-speed chase).
Enter Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a public relations professional who is married to Mary (Charlize Theron) and has a son, Aaron (Rae Head), from a previous marriage. Hancock saves Embrey from an oncoming train by flipping his old-school Mercedes on top of two other cars. Despite his heroics on the train tracks, stopping the train like a linebacker stopping a running back, people continue to boo him. Embrey, however, sees something in this boozing superhero, and believes he can change Hancock's tarnished public image by responding to many of the city's subpoenas for damages caused, a stint in jail, a costume change, and adding a few nice words to Hancock's vocabulary. While Embrey's intentions are good, once he convinces Hancock that he does and should care about what people say about him, the movie takes a turn for the worse.
Hancock is funny when Hancock is being a selfish drunkard with no cares in the world besides what type of liquor to bury his sorrows in for the night. The movie is funny (minus a pointless sex scene) when you watch this unorthodox crime fighter do things Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, or the Fantastic Four would never dream of doing. What is the purpose of rushing the one good thing this movie has to offer? So the public he "protects" would like him more? So you can show the dark side and loneliness of your every day superhero? Who cares? How about giving the movie-going public a chance to enjoy the movie? A drunken superhero is an original, funny and entertaining concept - and the first 25 minutes or so of this movie is actually a lot of fun to watch, largely because Smith plays the role of an asshole so well. But, since Bateman and Charlize Theron require screen time to set up a weak plot, there is an immediate push to turn Hancock into a somewhat nice, caring, and polite superhero.
The saddest thing about Hancock is that everything seems forced. It's like director Peter Berg is saying, "Hi, I'd like you to meet Hancock. He's an asshole, he drinks a lot, and he has all these cool super powers, none of which I will ever explain to you." There's a sense of urgency to get from point A to point B without creating any substance or do any intense character development in the middle. It goes from funny to dark in less than 20 minutes, and all we know about Hancock is that he dresses like a bum, acts like a bum, flies like a drunken airline pilot, likes threatening to shove men's head up other men's asses, throw kids miles into the air, crash land on every street, and that sex with him is rather destructive. We never really learn anything about Hancock, and we never get to fully enjoy the character because there is this push to make him a complete superhero, while showing the dark side of thinking he's the "only" person in the world with these powers.
A decision was made to take this disorderly, obnoxious and entertaining hero and make him into a run-of-the-mill Superman, when the one thing that sets Hancock aside from the Man of Steel is the fact that he's not. If this was truly supposed to be a rip on Superman, why change Hancock into the superhero you don't want him to be? He doesn't know about his past and frankly, due to the shoddy storyline set up between him and Mary Embrey (Theron), I'd rather have kept it that way.
The worst part of the flick is Theron's story line and the way it essentially becomes the focal point of the story. It has nothing to do with Theron's performance, because she does a fantastic job with the role given to her. It also has nothing to do with the way she looks, because she looks sensational. It has to do with the story itself, because it's flimsy and, well, terrible. From the second Mary and Hancock are on screen together, you sense a past. No matter what that past is, it's very real to Mary - and they keep you in suspense for what seems like forever to tell you more about it. It's supposed to give some insight into Hancock and previous beings like him, but it offers little explanation. No flashbacks, no memories flickering in Hancock's head, nothing. It's weak. It's not like Superman where we see the meteor fall from the sky and land on the Kent's farm. It's not like Batman Begins where Bruce Wayne goes on a wild journey in Asia and learns how to be the hero he becomes. There is no set up. It's like the writers are saying, "Here's Hancock, you figure it out."
Another thing that's missing from Hancock is some sort of villain. How do you make a superhero movie without a villain? Every successful superhero franchise has had a hero and his antagonist. Superman will always have Lex Luthor, Batman will always have the Joker, the Riddler or the Penguin, and Spider-Man will always have the Green Goblin. Who does Hancock have? A bottle of gin? Himself? A series of prisoners with no special powers? A man with a hook for a hand (after Hancock slices it off during a bank heist) who breaks out of jail with a shotgun? Come on! Even Dare Devil had better bad guys, and that flick had Ben Affleck as its star. I understand we're introducing a new super hero, but all heroes need an arch-nemesis. Someone who can be counted on to spark fear, and create chaos and destruction. Someone to fear, not some Captain Hook wannabe with a receding hairline.
Every super hero also must come from somewhere, and as a director trying to tell a story, that story should not be told at a dinner conversation. It should be shown. This is a movie. Show, don't tell. It would offer some balance to dig deep into the past and show those moments, and maybe help the viewer understand why Hancock is so tormented, or why he doesn't care what people think about him. If you want to make this dark, give us a reason and show it to us - don't force us to make up stuff in our own minds, or guess what the writer is trying to convey. It's so disappointing to see such a new, creative and brilliant concept start off so perfectly, but end in a way that no super-being could ever save.
Since Hancock is a drunk, I am sure it's only a matter of time before someone comes up with the Hancock drinking game. Maybe you can drink every time someone calls Hancock an asshole, that will give you enough shots to be carted off to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. Maybe you can take shots for every time Hancock threatens to shove another man's head up another man's ass, and another three shots for every time he does it. Maybe there can be a shot taken for every time a kid is thrown miles in the air, Hancock says something objectionable in front of a child, or makes a crash landing. Basically, what I am saying is if you follow those few guidelines you'll be too drunk to watch the special features, especially since you don't have a super human stomach to handle your liquor. But, for those of you who have something against drinking, or drinking games, or just really like special features, here's what's included.
"Superhumans: The Making of Hancock" is your run-of-the-mill 13-minute making-of-the-movie feature that appears on just about every DVD you will ever pop into your player. It includes interviews with Smith and other cast members, producers Michael Mann and Akiva Goldsman, and various other people involved in the making of the flick. There is one person who should catch your attention immediately. That is producer Akiva Goldsman who says he "had the script for a very long time." Well, why didn't you make it better? I understand it's supposed to be this dark look at the life of a super hero and a knock on Superman, but c'mon, this is the best you could do after a "very long time?"
"Seeing the Future" is actually a pretty cool feature, especially for everyone in love with new ways of filmmaking. There are a total of eight scenes, such as "SUV Chase," "Hancock Meets Ray," and "Hancock in Jail." You have the option of watching each scene on its own, or you can just play all eight together. The scenes basically take you through a storyboard process called Pre-Visualization, which is explained in the first of the eight scenes. Basically, it's an animated storyboard that allows filmmakers to see what everything will look like with characters that look like you're playing The Sims. Not only do they show the animated storyboards, but they mix in live action behind-the-scenes footage, which actually makes this a feature worth watching.
"Building a Better Hero" talks about the so-called "father of digital effects," John Dykstra, and how he made Hancock do all his super hero stuff, like fly, leap and hit things. There are interviews with Dykstra, Smith, various producers and director Peter Berg. It's a decent feature that will only take up about eight minutes of your time. In my eyes, considering you wasted 92 minutes on the movie, you might as well give them another eight minutes so you can learn how they made things look good in the film. And if you think it will help, have another drink.
The next feature is called "Bumps and Bruises." If you cannot figure out what this is all about, I hope your car gets stuck on the tracks the next time a train is coming through and you sit there with your seatbelt stuck, praying for a superhero to come and save you. So, anyway, in case you don't know this already, Hancock is kind of an action film. While making action films, stunt coordinators come up with various stunts for actors and/or stuntmen or women to perform. Occasionally, since they're dealing with glass breaking, bombs, concrete and peoples' skins and bones, people get hurt. That is what this feature is about. Awwww, Will Smith got a boo-boo, Jada kissed it, and it's all better now. Yay!
The last feature, besides the previews, is called "Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with 'Dirty Pete'." I hate to say it, but this near four minute feature is a waste of time. It feels like there's a good minute of film wasted here on watching Berg play with a Rubik's Cube. A Rubik's Cube! This guy is directing a multi-million dollar film, and is the focal point of a whole feature, and this guy plays with a Rubik's Cube? Did he figure it out? No. Was it enjoyable watching him play with it? OK, sorry, that question sounded bad, given the title of this movie. Let's get real here, you know there is some porn director in California drooling over the opportunity to make Hancock - and the good thing is you don't even have to change the name. Well, unless, you're making animal porn with pigs and then you just have to change one letter. Sorry, I really shouldn't have said it. But, hey, it's at least funnier than watching some guy play with a Rubik's Cube.