My fellow Americans: You may find yourselves at your local megaplex, going to see the newest Will Smith 4th-of-July blockbuster extravaganza. For some reason, this Smith guy has a monopoly on the celebration of our independence and this seems to motivate the entire population of Earth to arrive in droves to see ANY movie he’s made. Please try to avoid his newest cash cow “Hancock,” an exercise in the ridiculous that ranks with the worst of both superhero films and of all time.
It was 1996 and America had fallen for Will Smith’s antics and fun humor on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and it was only inevitable that he was likely to become the next box office superstar. “Independence Day,” Roland Emmerich’s rather fun guilty pleasure, was released and made millions and billions of dollars. Almost every year since the release of that film, Smith has owned that weekend. “Hancock” is 2008’s Will Smith moneymaker and while it is unlike the rest of his film it is a classic lesson in what happen when a good goes bad.
Smith plays the title character of the movie, an average Joe who for whatever reason has superpowers. Although we are never given a full explanation to his endowment, Hancock can fly and is super strong but he is something of an anti-superhero. Regularly inebriated, seemingly homeless, and a bit of a jerk, our “hero” is not well-liked by the citizens and authorities of Los Angeles, California.
Hancock attempts to assist the police force in accosting criminals, but his methods are not like that of your friendly neighborhood Spider-man or that of the Dark Knight. Hancock is sloppy, and selfish. In the first sequence of the film, Hancock is called to action to stop three offenders in a gun-fight/high speed pursuit against the cops. While he finally stops the hoodlums, he destroys $9 million in city property through his efforts. Hancock is deemed as reckless as the crime he fights and a warrant is put out for his arrest.
Enter Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman, the only saving grace of the entire movie), a PR exec and a family man with high career dreams. Hancock saves Ray from a near-pancaking by an oncoming train. Although Ray’s savior knocks the train off the track and destroys his car in the process, Ray feels indebted to Hancock and decides that he should help. Hesitantly, the hero accepts and Ray’s first resolution is to send Hancock to jail to better his image as a reformed man. Through silly montage Hancock becomes changed and a hero of the people.
It sounds like it couldn’t be that bad, but the movie plays more like a parody than the so-called serious hero film it’s trying to be. While Will Smith has always been quite likable in his foray of blockbusters, he becomes quite the opposite in this role. It seems as though the writers of this film attempted to mesh both of Smith’s styles of film roles, both the big-budget superstar and the dramatic, passion roles. The mix-up doesn’t work, and the charming star we have always depended on for a first-rate performance disappoints beyond anything we could have ever imagined.
Unfortunately, “Hancock” has been advertised as superhero-comedy, and even in this genre it fails. It neither garners the right laughs nor works well as a superhero flick. First of all, it lacks a supervillain and a sufficient back-story. We are given only tidbits of information and will have to wait for a (gasp!) sequel to learn who or what this guy really is.
The biggest problem with the film is its disastrously weak script. One can’t help but wonder how long it took to write, but a booze-filled weekend seems an appropriate estimation. Peter Berg’s (“The Kingdom”) direction is also to-be-desired. Much of the film is unforgivably bizarre, and it might have helped to have a more capable man behind the camera. There are many moments in the film that achieve levels of insipience that would make Ed Wood laugh in disappointment. Also unforgivable is the shoddy visual effects, which appear to not only be unfinished but also made during the previously mentioned “Hancock” party weekend.
The only thing that makes “Hancock” watchable is Bateman. With his re-admittance into the Hollywood club with hits like “Juno” he is one of the best comedic actors currently working. Needless to say, with this script he really doesn’t have a lot to work with but Bateman’s natural charisma is undeniably addictive no matter what he does.
Starring with Smith and Bateman is the incredibly talented, Oscar-winning Charlize Theron in a completey throw-away performance. She’s utterly wasted and her character is just plain pointless. Much of “Hancock” is utterly pointless and at many points during the film any level-headed audience member will definitely find themselves thinking, “This is a joke, right? I mean, this movie is supposed to be a joke, right? RIGHT?!?”
It would have been really cool to see a superhero film with the ambition of “Hancock” with a better creative team. Not since Tobey Maguire’s imbecilic dance sequence in last year’s atrocious “Spider-man 3” has a comic book film imploded on itself like this. If you must see “Hancock” please find a way to see it for free. You have been warned.