Hancock (2008) — Hey, nobody deconstructs superhero movies these days!

“I’ve lived for a very long time, Ray. And the one thing I learned – fate doesn’t decide everything. People get to choose.”

Lissa’s rating: I keep wanting to call this one Hitchcock. Get it?

Lissa’s review: We here at Mutant Reviewers love our superhero movies… at least, we love them in theory. And how can you not? Superhero movies are the ultimate geek escapism, and plus so many of them have a basis in a beloved source material that they’re just ripe for picking apart and criticizing, which is half the fun. I don’t think Hancock has a source material, but it does have a superhero, even if he’s dubious at best.

Hancock, played by Will Smith, whom I love, is not your average superhero. He makes Wolverine look sober and well-groomed, and he once fought crime naked. (Personally, I think that was a good idea. But that’s just me.) He’s rude, destructive, and lacks any sort of finesse or consideration at all. And L.A. hates him. Let me be clear about this — he’s too disgusting for Los Angeles. That’s saying something.

Anyway, one day Hancock idly saves a P.R. agent named Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) from certain death. This is the part that trailers showed: Ray trying to “clean up” Hancock and get him accepted as a superhero people might actually want around again. What the trailers didn’t show and I had no idea was coming (but figured out pretty quick) was the whole plot between Hancock and Ray’s wife Mary, played by Charlize Theron (who I didn’t even realize was in this movie before I saw it). I sort of want to say more about that, but at the same time, I can’t. While the plot is as subtle as an anvil falling from the sky and you’ll probably guess it anyway, it’s still better to go into it not knowing. But the P.R. part is really only about half the movie, if that.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Hancock was a good movie. Like I said, the Hancock-Mary subplot was anvilicious, and that was kind of annoying. The writing was rather clunky, especially the character of Ray. Ray was supposed to come across as this normal man with an amazing heart, I think. Instead, he came across rather whiney and snively. They just tried to hard to make us like him, and overcompensating sometimes works against you. A lot of the jokes weren’t that funny, but I few were really hysterical, so that balanced out. Over all, I’d say Hancock was entertaining. Not necessarily good, but entertaining.

What was frustrating for me, though, was that there were some neat ideas in the movie that were either abandoned or not treated to my picky satisfaction. It’s like watching a kid with potential be lazy and just do a half-hearted job. Or even worse, it’s like watching a kid try to do something, and then just not being able to because it’s just too much for him. The scope of this was just a little beyond the makers, I think, and it sort of fell flat and heavy in places.

But overall, while it wasn’t the blockbuster of the century, it wasn’t a travesty where all participating parties deserve to be stoned, either. It had its moments good and bad, and as long as you don’t think too hard (or mind being hit on the head with falling metaphorical anvils), it’s entertaining. And what more can you expect from summer fare? At least this one has good acting, which is more than you can say for a lot of movies.

Sue’s rating: All in all, I’d rather have a cheesesteak sandwich.

Sue’s review: I have a problem with Will Smith. I mean, not a personal issue, or anything like that. He’s a Philly boy, I’m a Philly girl, well, the Philly suburbs anyway, so we’re practically family on a rather extreme cosmic scale. Perfectly charming guy, probably nice to kids and animals, good teeth. I’ve got no personal beef against Mr. Smith. No indeedy.

No, my problem with Will Smith is that every time I see him, he’s… Will Smith. Now, John McClane might look like Bruce Willis, but he’s indisputably John Yippee-ki-yay McClane, bless his heart. And Kevin Kline might bear a passing resemblance to a romantic rogue named Luc in French Kiss or a certain psychopathic potty mouth known as Otto in A Fish Called Wanda, but Otto is Otto and Luc is Luc and neither is Kevin. See what I mean?

But whenever I see Will Smith, I don’t care who he’s trying to be. In my head, he’s always Will Smith. It doesn’t matter if he’s saving the world or policing aliens or… or swimming around as an animated fish. He’s still Will Smith. Maybe it’s just me, because he’s certainly a terrific actor by all accounts. I just can’t seem to ever forget that he’s… him. It’s quite distracting really.

Anyway, that was my first difficulty with Hancock. The Will Smith Is Will Smith factor.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Lemme ‘splain. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up.

By all accounts, the summer of 2008 was not the sort of summer I could consider a success. Rather the opposite. Honestly, between the floods of June and the unfortunately malignant tumor of August, I didn’t seem to have much time or energy to hit the theater. Aside from The Dark Knight, which was practically mandatory, I saw Hancock. And for the life of me, I don’t know whether to be depressed about that or not. I mean, I didn’t hate Hancock. I sort of liked it. But it didn’t strike me as anything more than mildly entertaining and rather relentlessly profane.

As Lissa mentioned, the plot really seemed to start out with some potential. For instance, I can totally get behind the idea of a slovenly slacker superhero who leaves chaos and destruction in his wake every time he works up the energy to crunch a little crime. Heck, I think it’s a great idea! Has anyone ever explored the whole concept of post-superhero vs. mega-villain showdown sanitation? It gives a whole new flavor to urban renewal. I like it!

But instead of sticking with that, the plot goes and develops an alternate personality. Y’know, something sort of mystical and dawn-of-time-ish, with a hot chick thrown in. And quite frankly, unless it’s someone like Darth Vader or Gandalf using words and concepts like, “destiny” and “fate”, I have a hard time not giggling.

If I were so inclined, I could probably have a field day fanfictioning that sucker into two completely different stories, because to my way of thinking, that’s what it very nearly was. Sort of a plot-merger that wasn’t sewn together exactly right. But I am not so inclined, and maybe that says it all. It’s a nice enough movie for a brief summer fling, but there just isn’t enough there for a long term commitment.

Didja notice?

  • More profanity here than I remember!
  • I’d comment on the anvils, but I’ve mentioned them several times already.
  • Eagles! They’re everywhere!
  • The suit does look a bit Wolverine-ish.

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