Sub-Par Superhero

by Ian T. McFarland on July 1, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Hancock
  • IMDB: link

Look there, up in the sky!  It’s a Comedy!  It’s an Action Film!  Wait, nevermind, it’s just Hancock, the latest and one of the least successful in Will Smith‘s long line of sure-to-be blockbusters.  This time, it’s about a would-be super-hero plagued by a constant hangover and an absence of motivation.  It sounds like a promising Summer movie; but the end result is a failed attempt at redefining the Superhero movie.

John Hancock, an amnesiac that doesn’t age, has no idea where he’s from or how he got his powers of flight and strength; but he does know a good idea when he hears it.  So after he saves a Public Relations consultant (Jason Bateman)‘s life, he takes the family man’s Pro bono advice for an image make-over to gain the public’s adoration once again.

If the blame has to be put on anyone, it’s tempting to put it on writers Vince Gilligan and Vincent Ngo for handing in an underdeveloped script; but in the end I’ll give it to director Peter Berg.  His interpretation of the story goes for realism in an attempt to bring the Superhero movie down to Earth.  I like that idea, but all Berg does to achieve the goal is suck out the humor in the story and over-utilize shaky camera movement that is sure to make a few movie-goers motion sick.  This is a movie that needs spectacle, and Berg is clearly unwilling to present it.

The strangest problem with Hancock is that it’s actually two movies.  I’m not saying you’re going to get two sets of credits; but there is scene in the movie where you can literally divide the feature in two and come out with a couple of independent story lines.  Literally to the point that the film could have ended at this bisecting scene, and it would have been a complete (if not short) movie.  I’d actually go so far as to say it might even be a better movie, as that would mean we get to escape a movie that wasn’t really happening before it got even worse.

After this first story line, concerning the comeback of Smith’s character, another one is launched that explores the hero’s origins.  There’s a cool mythology behind it that could use some more exploration; but the way this story is presented is dull, revolving around a lifeless Charlize Theron.  The actress never validates calls to take back her Oscar, but she’s clearly phoning it in with a part that could have otherwise been one of the more interesting roles in a Superhero film.

It’s not a bad film by many stretches of the imagination; but when a movie with so much potential for entertainment winds up being more boring than it is exciting or thought-provoking, it’s not totally unjust to call it a failure.  Will Smith can make a movie watchable by just breathing on camera, so it’s not a total flop; but watching the movie, you can’t help thinking “Why isn’t this better?”

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