It would appear that 2008 has been somewhat of a vintage year for superhero movies. We've had the brilliance and grittiness of The Dark Knight, The moody but witty Iron Man - and then there was The Incredible Hulk. Now I didn't find the latter of the three a bad film - it seemed to be critically panned on release though - and to my amusement, made everybody realise what a good film Ang Lee's version of the Jolly Green Giant actually is...but I've been saying that all along! It just lacked that bit of action that would have taken it beyond cult status...
Maybe thinking that the movie going public has enough of real superhero's for one year, Hollywood decided to make one up of it's own. Bearing in mind that this hero wouldn't have a cult following of comic book geeks, it had to be accessible to the movie going public as well as the aforementioned geeks . To do this, Columbia Tristar would need to attract one of the biggest Hollywood A listers of the time - and one that was on top his game.
Cue Will Smith and Hancock. Smith had been linked many times with playing one of the “real” heroes - most notably Captain America - so it was somewhat of a suppose when he donned the shades and bottle of bourbon to play the reluctant hero. You see, Hancock doesn't have a secret identity - Hancock is his name. He also doesn't have a latex suit and cape with his underpants on the outside and a big logo on his chest. Nope - Hancock is just a drunk hobo with no past that saves the day whenever it suits him - often to the tune of millions of dollars of damage that comes back to the taxpayer...
Soon enough, the public get a little fed up of Hancock and he is urged to give himself and do some jail time that's been hanging over his head for a while. However, during his last heroic act, he saves Ray Embrey (played by Jason Bateman). Ray is on his way home from an unsuccessful meeting trying to sell his heart campaign. As a reward for being saved, Ray offers to take Hancock home to his “normal” family for meatballs - the families special meal.
As soon as Hancock meets Rays wife Mary, it seems that she is suspicious - maybe she even knows him from somewhere...?!
Never one to miss a golden opportunity, Ray soon latches onto Hancock and tries to sell him as a brand - but to make that brand marketable, Hancock must first do his jail time...and so he starts his five years...
You know what's coming next don't you...? While he's in jail, the crime rate goes through the roof. So much so that the chief of police begs him to come out of jail and help them out. Having learnt a few manners from Ray (as well as being given a snazzy leather all in one costume bona-fide superhero costume), Hancock leaves jail and saves the day - seriously maiming the main bank robber in the process.
In the meantime, the relationship between Rays wife Mary and Hancock becomes a little complicated - and as part of the back story, Hancock has no memory. All he has to show for his existence is an old cinema ticket for Boris Karloff's Frankenstein some eighty years earlier. He doesn't know how he got it or who he was with when he got it. As far as he is concerned, he's all alone in the world and you get the impression that he is blaming his loneliness on his radical ways...but is he alone? How did he get the ticket? And just how old is John Hancock...?
For all it's flaws, Hancock is a brave attempt at movie making. I agree with a lot of the comments floating around the World Wide Web regarding it's genre. Where exactly do you place this film...? Personally, I think it's 40% comedy, 40% feel good buddy move and 20% superhero movie.
It's attempts at looking what it would actually be like to be a superhero have been covered in previous movies about the real masked marvels - and more successfully. The Dark Knight had a good stab at it this summer - but I think king of the “lets feel sorry for the guy with the powers” type movies has to go to Spider-man 2. This had the advantage of being based on a comic book that tackled it rather well - and Sam Raimi did a sterling job of bringing Spider-man #50 to the big screen...
However, back to the movie in question - Hancock. What really makes this film work is it's leading man. Will Smith has certainly come a long since his Fresh Prince... days and is now one of the top A Listers in Hollywood - he has the ability to make you want to watch a film that you may otherwise feel like walking out of. His comedy timing is superb and his acting ability is really second to none.
Charlie Theron has really had her day in my opinion. She does nothing to hide the fact that she and Hancock have previous - this film would have been so much better had her character hid that fact and then unleashed it on an unsuspecting audience at the right time - it really does lack that wow factor.
It's not very often that I won't give a Will Smith film the utmost addolation - however, on this occasion, despite the leading mans best attempts, this definitely doesn't have that re-watch appeal and so therefore can only be recommended as a rental I'm afraid.