In a summer where superheroes clearly have staked their territory, Hancock makes the biggest mess of all of them. The weird thing about this mess is that it’s what the film intended. Part superhero movie, part whacked-out theology, and part jerk-gets-redeemed story, Hancock has so many irons in the fire that the audience just doesn’t know what the hell is going on.
Director Peter Berg turns in a celluloid train wreck that’s filled with the overuse of the gutter version of “anus” to such an extent that it becomes a one-joke film. Okay, we get it. John Hancock (Will Smith) is a jerk. He’s the king of potholes, dodging airplanes, and sloshing around with a big bottle of booze. He’s homeless, and hates the world around him. Now, I don’t know if he’s a jerk because of these things, or that being a jerk led him to being homeless, but frankly, I wasn’t really compelled to care.
I don’t know what it is about today’s filmmakers that feel the necessity to drive in the obvious (that Hancock is a jerk) to the point where even a headache would be a relief. The fact that the first time we hear the word is from a small child is supposed to be funny, but again, it’s stating the obvious.
But this is the July 4th weekend, a time where Will Smith movies rule. I found myself longing for Independence Day, or any movie that made at least a modicum of sense in its plot and characters. To be sure, this is Smith’s territory, and his own charm and skill actually manages to make the film tolerable. He clearly owns the role of Hancock, and relishes being the zero who’s a hero, no matter how many people hate him.
Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) is introduced early in the film as another failing PR guy who gets rescued from being hit by a train (never mind the train wreck that Hancock causes in the process). And yes, for those of you who have seen the trailer and TV spots, the scene when Hancock realizes that he just caused said train wreck where he says, “aaaah…” is followed by its expected expletive. But that’s funny. Really.
Much of the comedy that’s shown in the film is Hancock’s verbal trouncing of the pissed-off bystanders who say that they’ll sue him for his latest damage. Alas, much of the actual dialogue can’t be printed, even though the film is rated PG-13.
Charlize Theron is Mary, Ray’s wife, and has a big secret of her own, which brings in a dash of crazy theology into the film. Don’t ask.
The plot, while completely convoluted at some points does manage to hit a few main points: Hancock is a super guy, he’s also a super jerk. He gets a PR guy who tells him to go to jail. Hancock oblidges, and gets called out by the chief of police to save the day with some really nasty hostage situation. Hancock saves the day, becomes a hero, and then things get really stormy. There’s still nearly a half hour’s worth of film left at this point.
Okay, got it? Good. It’s entirely too short, and its pacing is awkward at best. The only character that’s developed at all is Hancock’s, and even that’s not enough to hold together the film.
The effects are stellar, and the technical aspects of the film make for what a summer action film should be, but it would have been nice to be able to see just what the hell is going on. Berg’s camera angles try to go after the “journalist” look seen in TV shows like Battlestar Galactica and other recent films (Wanted being a good example), but it really doesn’t succeed.
With Transformers, the close-up battle scenes were hard to follow, but at least we could see who was doing what. Not so with Hancock. There are some nifty super-battles, but geez… there’s only two human-sized combatants. Would it have been too much to clue the audience into exactly what’s happening and why?
By the end of the film, everything’s just hunky-dory, and apparently Hancock’s been forgiven of all the multi-bazillions of dollars worth of damage that he caused. But, I’m sorry to say, he hasn’t been forgiven my eight bucks. I want them back.