Sunday, July 6, 2008


Generally speaking, a movie is the sum of all its parts. Great actors combined with good themes, appealing plot, a well written script and compelling action usually reach critical mass in the form of a good movie. Bad movies result when one or more of these elements are left out or worse still, are replaced with a crutch the creative minds behind it lean on instead of filling in the entire equation. Such is the case of Hancock, a well intentioned summer blockbuster that features Will Smith in the title role of a likeably unlikeable superhero who hits the bottle as hard as he hits the criminals. Such is the entire feel for the movie, likeably unlikeable, neither good nor bad and certainly not a gleaming beacon of hope that Hollywood has any creative chutzpah left.

In making Hancock the idea was a superhero who could in fact be a complete jackass all the while saving the world. The concept does understandably present a number of problems in putting it into action. Said hero needs to be despicable, reviled and the audience itself has to feel the same way. In spite of all that, an emotional investment needs to be made for the character. The audience has to feel sorry for the hero when he is beaten on yet cheer when he is thrashed by a less than adoring public. Will Smith fit the bill perfectly, a likable man in an unliked role, one whose main thespian device is one of immense charm. Indeed, the charm is turned full blast for the length of the film, presenting the audience with an at once womanizing scoundrel of a liquor chugging bum who can still save the world with a bit of sly wit and gasps, oohs and ahhs from the audience.

The problem with Hancock is that it stuck superpowers, albeit incredibly cool ones, onto Will Smith’s charm and threw in the funnily clueless idealist of Jason Bateman playing PR expert Ray Embrey and mixed in the ever sultry Charlize Theron playing Bateman’s housewife Mary and assumed that nothing else was needed to make a good movie. Unfortunately, charm, visuals, humor and feminine wiles do not completely fill out a film. There also needs to be plot and script, of which the film has next to nothing. Off to a rather good start, halfway through it feels as if director Ray Berg had a sudden change of heart and decided to forgo what was left of a compelling superhero action comedy and throw in some sort of strange shenanigans that are never filled out and leave a rather bad taste in a viewer’s mouth for the remainder of the film. It’s hard to make rhyme or reason out of the strangeness heaped onto the second half of Hancock. Suffice it to say that anything that even remotely resembles a script is tossed to the super powered winds and all involved just decided to wing it from there.

There’s a reason all of the really good, successful superhero movies have been based off of well established characters with hundreds of issues of source material. Do yourself a favor and read a couple of origin issues, particularly Amazing Fantasy #15, the first ever appearance of Spider-Man. I know, I know, I’m coming off as an enormous mega dork right now, please bare with me. If you read it and other origins, you’ll find that they well, sucked. Seriously, it took forever for these characters to get any good and countless story arcs to vet them well enough to be ready for a successful movie. Hancock on the other hand, was made from scratch. No fan base, unless you count Will Smith, and no character development or story basis.

Hundreds of creative minds helped forge a shy 15 year old into the Amazing Spider-Man or a group of teenage misfits into the Uncanny X-Men. Sam Raimi and Brian Singer drew on a rich tapestry of source material for their on screen creations whereas Hancock had only the creative minds behind its production. In all fairness, they couldn’t exactly start a Hancock comic and wait for it to ferment until ready for a major production. Hancock was largely lacking in good story and script because there was simply nothing to draw on for those elements.

For all its glitz, glamour and high flying action, Hancock just doesn’t make the grade. It’s indicative only that Hollywood would rather produce a showboating display of mindless action and occasional laughs than a legitimately high quality original superhero movie. The action and humor do a good job of taking your mind off the total lack of original thinking and good plot direction, but when they stop for even a moment, the realization of how poorly thought out the movie is slams into the audience like a barreling superhero.

1 comment:

Bsom said...

A hancock comic would not have fermented. In about 6 weeks it would have gone sour.