The trailers and clips released online for Hancock promise a superhero dramedy with an edge – and, for the first half of the film it delivers just that. Watching the drunken superhero get the bad guys while toting up millions of dollars in property damage is, at first, diverting and new. When he saves a PR whiz named Ray Embry [Jason Bateman], Bateman persuades him to change his image – first by doing jail time, second by treating people with more respect, and third by wearing a spiffy spandex outfit that looks like something out of the X-Men movies. Of course, being the rotten example that he is, before he can completely remake his image, Hancock develops the hots for Ray’s beautiful wife, Mary [Charlize Theron].
So far, so good. Hancock, in its first half, comes off as an effort to make a movie about the kind of hero that Marvel [Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk] does so well – the hero with superpowers and regular people’s problems. But now, we come to Hancock’s kryptonite. Like Superman, Green Lantern and so many classic superheroes, Hancock does, indeed, have a weakness – a weakness that’s telegraphed by several clues scattered through the first half of the film.
Therein lies the problem. After carefully setting up Hancock as one thing – a superhero – the revelation of his weakness changes everything, and not in the most sensible of ways. As I watched the clues develop, my first thought was, “oh, no. They wouldn’t…” Then, when it happened, I thought, “oh, no! They didn’t” – followed closely by, “golly-gosh-all-hemlock-gee-whiz-to-pieces! They did!” I won’t give the twist away, but I will say that, when you add up all the species of life and types of minerals there are on this planet, Hancock’s weakness is so hugely, disproportionately coincidental that, had it been used in a real comic book or graphic novel, the writer would’ve been laughed out of every comics shop in North America – just for starters!
As a result, the second half of Hancock is filled with mayhem of all sorts that, essentially, robs the film of the charm and wit that helped build up the first half. The shame of it all is that Smith, Bateman, and Theron give really good performances as the film disintegrates around them – and Peter Berg’s direction is precisely what it should be throughout. The problem with the script is that writers Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan seem to think that, because Hancock is a superhero movie, they can do anything they want. They’ve forgotten [if they ever even thought about it] that the best comics and graphic novels are set in universes that have rules – and adhere to them.
Sadly, the last half of Hancock, full of sound and fury as it is, totally undercuts the first half of the film’s effectiveness. In the end, Hancock may not be an average superhero, but his movie never reaches that level.
Final Grade: D+