Saturday, September 6, 2008
Will Smith is a movie juggernaut. He's made a whole bunch of films that have broken box office records and his name alone can open a movie. He is a force to be reckoned with. So it's sort of interesting that in the film Hancock, he plays a force to be reckoned with. This isn't the sly smart crazy protagonist of I Am Legend, but a drunk crazy powerful superhero.
Hancock is a drunk, immortal, invincible, down-and-out superhero living in LA whose collateral damage is costing the cities millions and is costing him the love of the people. He's despised by everybody except Ray, a PR man he saves from being hit by a train. Ray offers to turn Hancock's image around and make him a beloved superhero again.
I suppose that the film is supposed to be a satire, a deconstruction of the superhero mythos, but the film ends up being a big superhero brawl with lots of effects and lots of property destruction. Hancock himself is the opposite of how a superhero should behave, and he hooks up with a savvy but naive PR man - hijinks galore! Unfortunately, it's not really the case. The best bits of the film are when Jason Bateman's PR man is trying to teach Will Smith's superhero how to "interface" with the public. Everything else is tired and not very satirical in the slightest.
Apparently this film has a convoluted history, as it started out a dramatic film about an alcoholic superhero and the kid that takes a shine to him. Then, it was called Tonight, He Comes, which if you ask me, sounds dirty. From that stage, it was touched by all sorts of different directors including one Michael Mann, whom this blog has infinite love for. Finally, with a different screenplay, the movie ended up in the hands of the Mann-wannabe Peter Berg, same director of The Rundown and Friday Night Lights, both of which are awesome.
I guess that Berg was looking for a character study, a satire, and an examination of society's possible relationship to a superpowered individual. He accomplishes most of this in the first two thirds of the film - only marginally. First of all, the satire isn't terribly funny as the superhero deconstruction was done twenty years and to a much better degree. Secondly, since the character of Hancock is amnesiac and an @$$hole, there isn't really all that much character to study. He's a blank slate for most of the film until the predictable and obligatory secret origin reveal at the two thirds mark.
And that's when the film seems to forget that it's a satire and devolves right back into a punch-'em-up with plenty of CGI jazz and property destruction. I read on Wikipedia that the superpowered fight was his least favourite bit of the movie to make. Well... it shows. In terms of a good ol'fashioned brawl, it's boring and visually uninteresting. The Jason-Freddy fight had more visual pizazz than this fight.
The current mode of Hollywood right now is the superhero movie. They make a lot of money, and as geeks are the primary spokesmen for pop culture nowadays, we're getting a whole slew of varying quality superhero films. Earlier this summer, I sampled a fine wine aged to perfection called The Dark Knight, and with Hancock, I'm throwing back poorly distilled shots of chalky tequila.
I didn't care for Hancock other than Jason Bateman and his scenes. Other than that, it was a tired and predictable superhero movie that wasn't very funny or satirical or smart.
If I wanted superhero deconstruction, I would watch Watchmen... but that's a movie I'm afraid that the filmmakers will forget is deconstruction.