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Overall Rating

Awesome: 14.61%
Worth A Look32.58%
Average: 19.1%
Pretty Bad: 28.09%
Total Crap: 5.62%

7 reviews, 47 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Going Off Third-Cocked"
2 stars

Hancock is destined to go down as one of the biggest misfires in high-concept history. Stifling the most memorable segment from Superman III combined with the pathos of a Five for Fighting song, there are so many ideas brimming with potential during its barely 90-minute running time that the entire experience frustrates its audience like a hostage constantly being teased with ripe fruit only to be taken away each time its gets close to our touch. Reasonably entertaining for its first act, Hancock quickly begins to show all the signs of a film either taken away from its director or edited down in panic mode by a studio who didn’t know what they had. By the expedited conclusion it all feels less like a Peter Berg film and just another chapter in Will Smith’s tentpole history of major creative failures.

Superhero John Hancock (Will Smith) personifies the old Jerry Seinfeld joke that thanks Superman for saving lives, “but did you have to break my window?” Hancock does more damage than that though. Frequently on the bottle, Hancock crashes through street signs and never seems to know his own strength whether it be creating giant potholes with each flying landing or derailing a train to save Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) from certain death. While spectators berate him for the damage (and are equally insulted in return) Ray is obviously more appreciative and invites him home for “spaghetti madness.” There Hancock meets Ray’s young son, Aaron (Jae Head), still fascinated with the superhero, and his wife, Mary (Charlize Theron) who appears a bit uneasy having this public nuisance around their family.

Ray wants to change all that. As a public relations consultant, he figures that all Hancock needs is a little image boost for the country to be back on his side. He also taps into a belief that Hancock’s subversive behavior stems from both loneliness and a lack of appreciation for all his duties. Brainstorming, he suggests Hancock simply turns himself in for the 600-some warrants out for his arrest. A stint in jail could acknowledge a willingness to change and trigger a need in the public’s eye for a hero when the crime rate, in theory, goes out of control in his absence. The tables are all set for a triumphant return, complete from rehabilitation with an outfit straight from cinema’s X-Men, but Hancock’s greatest obstacle may be more than just a mirror.

It’s this particular reveal that makes it difficult to discuss many of the elements that doom it to failure without the use of spoiler warnings, but I’ll tapdance the best I can around it. Just don’t look at the plot section on IMDB which all but gives it away, if you haven’t already keenly picked up on it from the television ads. The way those ads have downplayed the presence of one of the characters should be clue one, although that’s subtle compared to the signal flag performance in question. Mark my word, you can set your clock by it. Without revealing the payoff twist in the plot, the moment where Smith’s Hancock does about the biggest douchebag thing in a collection of d-bag activity, is the spot where the movie takes a turn for the worse and never recovers.

In no way is it a bad twist, as it opens Hancock into a further realm of deeper philosophical possibilities. Except screenwriters Vincent Ngo & Vince Gilligan still haven’t deciphered the concept of the superman up to this point and don’t seem to understand the box of Pandora worms they’re just peeking into. Whatever journey their script has taken from the pre-supposed dark “R”-rated feature to digestable “PG-13” summer fare, blame has to be spread all around for the evident neutering that Hancock has undergone. Even during its decent first act, there’s an unwavering sense of the editors behind it desperately trying to get to the clean shaven Smith. Let’s leave that shocking “what did the superhero say?” profanity behind. Do we need all this jail footage? Montage our way out of it. Put in a few more red-eyed reaction shots from Theron, we need up...her loving relationship with the very funny Bateman. Stick in that silent scene of them in bed talking and laughing.

Moving along certainly isn’t Hancock’s problem and it doesn’t outpace itself with crowd-busting action sequences and special effects. Instead it just keeps chugging without pausing to contemplate or complicate. There’s an irresistible Zarathustra to ruminate on the man who needs to be loved by a culture that clearly doesn’t feel to need him anymore. In 1978, Superman was Christ-figure incarnate. 30 years later when things are more jacked up than ever and we could use a hero, Hancock arrives with the problem of John Q. Public – unaware of the problem to which he is the solution. Scale it down even further to Hancock as repping the fallen role model, the sports hero, moviestar or pop icon on hard times forced to call press conferences and offer half-hearted apologies. Of all the films Smith’s characters have introduced the race card into, none of them fit into the overall pastiche the way it would have in Hancock. Would a white superhero be as quickly burned in effigy? Circle it around to the only touched upon villification of hero as outlaw vigilante. As obvious as the trimmings are to the pacing, they are ever moreso to the film’s violence. Peter Berg has never shied away from it in previous works (Very Bad Things, The Kingdom) and even pushed the limits of the PG-13 in The Rundown. His action had a style with old-fashioned tricks. Now with FX dominating every punch and throwdown, the extreme is lost in overexcess (particularly in one mano-a-?????? that does more damage to the city streets than Hulk and the Abomination) and the anger that should be permeated in a couple key scenes is lost in the squeamishness to not spill a drop of blood. Even that darkest of knights, Batman, doesn’t bill himself as a killer but during two key faceoffs Hancock had a chance to blast into another level of avenger and winds up being just another guy with a mean right hook.

Like the character itself, Hancock can’t make up its mind on where it wants to go and therefore muddles up its final act with confused revelations and hints an Adam-and-Eve-type bit of creationism that, again, is a potentially interesting path to broach – unless you’re a hardcore feminist. A higher power forcing two people together but then grants all the power to only one while the other lives a “normal life” is a weighty, almost comical issue but doesn’t quite work within the mindset of a comic book mythology unless the tragic implications is taken into account. The curse of exile at the expense of never being with your soulmate has befallen all of the great Marvel and DC works. However, the introduction of a power struggle between the sexes needs a little more room to breathe than a couple half-truths and bedside confessionals in your final scenes. Not to mention the added complexity of centuries of interracial romance.

The superhero struggle with normalcy has already found greatness with Pixar’s The Incredibles and less success (but more consistency) in Ivan Reitman’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Hancock, at its laziness, should have found its way at least somewhere in the middle but its fits and spurts with tone and ideology prevent us from taking it as deadly serious as it wants us to in the end. Why bother re-introducing a villain barely worth a first encounter? Despite fending off CGI baddies most of his career, especially in the horrid adaptations of I, Robot and I Am Legend, his multi-round adversary in Hancock may come off as the most lifeless of them all. Unfortunately, the film sums itself up best in Hancock’s big impending triumph when the familiar prologue to John Williams’ Superman theme starts to get going Name That Tune-style only to never make it to the Da-da-Da-DAAAA that the audience (in the theater and the film) can’t help but want at that particular moment. Hancock should be better. We deserve better.

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originally posted: 07/01/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell pretty good imho 4 stars
6/03/12 Phineas Hollywood using the super hero genre to promote anti-White miscegenation 1 stars
2/27/11 Monday Morning Hey Eric C., for such a bad movie you sure wasted a lot of your life criticizing it. 3 stars
5/22/10 gc An authentic, original super hero movie, needed a better villan though 4 stars
10/26/09 Crazy27 It's getting louder with each and every smidgen of quantitative easing, bailout, and fiscal 2 stars
10/26/09 Kelvin81 We are happy to resend any missing acknowledgement file when requested to do so. , <a hre 3 stars
10/25/09 Pol64 A paradox of the current media moment is that, while journalism jobs are disappearing, j-sc 5 stars
10/24/09 Merlin73 Now that marriage is briefly legal in California, people have been asking me and Tim if we 5 stars
10/23/09 Boy15 Take breaks to talk to workmates or friends. , 2 stars
10/23/09 Gangster47 I will be planting my own on that lot. , 3 stars
7/15/09 scotty i thought it was brilliant 5 stars
6/23/09 Micigan Cornut The worst movie ever made. 1 stars
5/27/09 mr.mike Credit for the different approach but nearly derails halfway through. 3 stars
5/03/09 Heap Agreed with others that first-half is semi-interesting but much dross in the 2nd half 2 stars
12/21/08 Tony Breaks from superhero tradition and earns laughs from a great cast. 5 stars
12/06/08 Luisa Very entertaining, funny. Cool superhero story, different from the others, in a good way. 4 stars
11/28/08 Yvette My son bought it and I watched it. I thought it was kinda good. I would watch it again. 5 stars
11/23/08 Jon G Very Good until the twist, which was extremely gimmicky 4 stars
11/21/08 Shaun Wallner Laughed my ass off! 5 stars
9/28/08 Samantha Pruitt cool idea, weird twist, Will Smith is great! 3 stars
8/28/08 damalc didn't expect to like it. creators didn't treat it like a kids' film. 4 stars
7/20/08 Jayson A July 4 Will Smith flick I finally loved. 4 stars
7/17/08 David Gregg Finally! A good review! I'm Glad someone appreciated the movie for it's unpredictability. 4 stars
7/15/08 mike I enjoyed this movie and had some really funny parts. 4 stars
7/14/08 Karen Loved this movie! Great special effects! 5 stars
7/14/08 John Hernholm I hate to admitt it but i really enjoyed this movie. I know, it suprised me too... 4 stars
7/14/08 George Barksdale A Superman in civilian clothes, blah 2 stars
7/13/08 anyanwu Delightful & surprising popcorn superhero movie with a bit of maturity and transformation 4 stars
7/13/08 Koitus I was pleasantly surprised; 1st time I think I disagree with B-Slap's reviewers' consensus. 4 stars
7/13/08 Darkstar It's not Ironman, but it's not fantastic 4 either. ok action movie. 3 stars
7/12/08 Reini Urban The real surprise here is Charlize Theron. Excellent acting of all. 3 stars
7/12/08 grafdog I agree with this reviewer its risk pay off and it was ACME novelty library'esque in parts. 4 stars
7/10/08 roscoe19998 YOU have to be kidding me!!!! No real villain and the plot (or lack thereof) is retarded 2 stars
7/08/08 Uncle Salty Horse Shit 1 stars
7/08/08 Invader Zim The film is a good look at what becomes of a hero who's given up on life. Worth while. 4 stars
7/08/08 mary m This was a different kind of superhero movie. I liked it' 4 stars
7/08/08 John Don't expect Shakespeare and you'll get a pretty fun movie out of it. 4 stars
7/08/08 Ken If by "misrepresented" it, you mean it didn't give away half of the plot twists, then yes. 4 stars
7/08/08 steve I thought it was refreshing take on the superhero genre. Fun though not brilliant 4 stars
7/07/08 BNorm It's too bad another corny "true love" plot line ruined an otherwise decent film 3 stars
7/07/08 Crispin Meh. Could have been much better. The trailer misrepresented it. 3 stars
7/06/08 Quigley Too confused and sloppily assembled. Smith is great as always but don't even bother with it 3 stars
7/05/08 Jiz This is what you'd get if you took 3 half-finished superhero movie scripts and stapled them 2 stars
7/05/08 Anthony Feor Sure it is visually astound and has good action, but I am tired of one dimentional actors. 3 stars
7/03/08 Keystra Williams Piece of shit 1 stars
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  02-Jul-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 25-Nov-2008


  DVD: 25-Nov-2008

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Peter Berg

Written by
  Vincent Ngo
  Vince Gilligan

  Will Smith
  Charlize Theron
  Jason Bateman
  Eddie Marsan

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