Sunday, July 6, 2008

Review: "Hancock"

It's always kind of annoying when bad choices happen to good movies. Like, in "Hancock," for example. "Hancock" is a film expertly cast. Will Smith is always on his A-game. For somebody who started his career as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he is a surprisingly serious actor--one who is WAY overdue for that shiny gold statue--and he just keeps getting better. Hancock, the man, is grimy and disheveled. And it's not like he's just a little bit grimy and disheveled. He's practically that weird homeless guy on the corner with a tin cup. He is uncouth and inappropriate, a potty mouth with a flair for, not the theatrical, but the destructive. His antics frequently cost the city of Los Angeles somewhere in the several millions. Plus, most people are growing to detest the troubled hero-type, describing him as little more than an asshole.

If anything, "Hancock," is a sort of superhero movie with consequences. You know in "Spider-man 2" when Spidey destroys the monorail train, or when Doctor Octopus rolls a ball of burning energy into the river? Well, did anybody stop to wonder what the mayor of New York City might be thinking? Or the people when they realize how many of their tax dollars are going into cleaning up these gargantuan messes? Hmm. The makers behind "Hancock" did.

The film was very fresh and exciting. The special effects were unique. I liked Hancock's flying style, that it was sloppy and human, even when he wasn't totally hammered. And I liked the story. Sort of. Actually, I liked the first forty-five minutes or so. For the first forty-five minutes or so, the movie was about John Hancock, about his shabby disposition, his spent outlook on life, and his hardened struggles with the rest of mankind. After the first forty-five minutes or so, I'm not really sure, but I think the writers might have lit the crack pipe. And the last Act or so of the movie is really nothing more than a jumble of information bombs. Explosion after explosion after explosion, and suddenly, the movie isn't about John Hancock anymore. It's as if the writers abandoned the story at this point, that they really wanted to do this particular thing with the characters, and even when it didn't work, they just kept hacking away at it, and then, by the time they realized it REALLY didn't work, it was too late. And I'm sure there was a deadline to adhere to. With these kinds of summer movies, there always is. Essentially, the writers and filmmakers made a choice they couldn't stick to, and it ended up ruining a perfectly good movie about a rogue superhero attempting to relate with the people around him.

In the movie, John Hancock is a singular Superman type. He is super strong, intuitive, bulletproof, all that. Only he is not like Superman, because everyone thinks he's an asshole. He is rarely graceful when performing heroics, and the ungrateful people of L.A., at this point, would rather shoulder heftier crime rates than deal with Hancock's expensive tendencies. Eventually, however, Hancock saves the life of P.R. rep Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), and things begin to take a turn. Ray convinces Hancock to let him handle the superhero's representation from now on. Hancock does a stint in the brig, gets out on 'good behavior,' and starts to make friends with Ray's wife Mary (Charlize Theron) and his son Aaron (Jae Head). Anyway, all of this is super interesting. It delves deep into the psychology of Hancock's torment. It does not attempt to solve his past, but it questions what may have happened to him on the night he supposedly changed. See, Hancock cannot remember anything about his life before an accident he had about eighty years ago--the accident that left him different than everyone else. This is all in the first part of the movie, the part that I really liked.

There is one particular moment, however, after all of this wonderful set-up, in which everything takes a questionable turn. It's possibly the worst choice made all year, as far as movies are concerned. And I won't tell you, because it technically gives the ending away. Though I'm not sure what kind of an ending it really is. In my opinion, it's a bad one, but I'm sure my opinion will not resonate with everyone.

"Hancock" is a decent movie. It succeeds in some places and fails in others. As a summer blockbuster, it's a pretty big disappointment, because in the end, it doesn't live up to the chops it prepared us for. By 2008, we've all seen what special effects can do, and we've all seen a million-and-one superhero movies. We need something with consistency, darkness, and brains. "Hancock" didn't have all of these things. But what can you do? Not all movies about tortured men with super powers (or billions of dollars) can be as good as "The Dark Knight."

Which, obviously, I haven't even seen yet. But I have pretty high expectations.

No comments: