Archive Review: Hancock (2008) – 2.5/5 Stars

John Hancock is far from your average superhero, but the trailer told you that. What the trailer doesn’t tell you, is that after the rogue anti-hero drunkenly parades about as advertised, he has to develop a backstory and make the film go from a clever spin on a hot- ticket genre to an emotional action drama. There are entertaining and unique elements that make “Hancock” standout, but they end up secondary to a hodge-podge and two-faced plot concept.

It’s easy to be deceived these days by the shear unruly star-power that is Will Smith, especially when he’s attached to a project dealing with superheroes, a genre that has been a cash machine. He’s talented no matter what he does, and in that regard, “Hancock” is enjoyable. While I personally felt his character was too much of an a**hole as the script so frequently and unoriginally puts it, that doesn’t mean Smith isn’t good at it. He’s just a great hero no matter the film. 

To quickly summarize, Smith plays “Hancock,” a lonely, drunken jerk with Superman powers and a public approval rating of zero. When he saves Ray’s (Jason Bateman) life, Ray offers his services as a P.R. consultant and the two work to change his image. Eventually, you get to Hancock’s back story and some strange but obvious twists take the film down a different path that to explain would be a major spoiler.

So from the perspective of a producer that has a decent script with a highly marketable concept written by some nobodies and with a director (Peter Berg) attached whose best action credit is 2007’s “The Kingdom,” I would definitely want to sign someone to play Hancock who is going to guarantee me top spot at the box office. Well, voila. Smith is such a proved commodity with an amazing streak of top first weekend box office spots that he could get any contract he wants and he should do that. 

After Smith, the marks for “Hancock” are pretty much middle of the road. The CGI and Berg’s directing style is too sloppy for what should be a clean-cut summer blockbuster. His refusal to use any camera stabilizing device works for a few scenes, but most of the time it’s just dizzying and the close-ups become obnoxious. The plot concept, which paints a picture of Hancock as a hero and then fills it in with the origin story later instead of the other way around, makes for an interesting affect, but instead of enlightening what we know about Hancock, it ends up taking the film in another direction entirely. While you might think this movie would leave you with themes about turning one’s life around and becoming the best you can be, that gets glossed over and you’re left themeless.

If you want summer fun at the movies that is about as clumsy, destructive and amusing as the title character is, you should check out “Hancock.”

2.5/5 Stars

Directed by: Peter Berg
Written by: Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan
Starring: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman


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