Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hancock (Review)


Ok, now that that’s out of the way… Shoehornin’ is the word I’d use to describe Hancock. Peter Berg’s film wants to critique the superhero genre while at the same time giving that big summer-blockbuster superhero-event widest-possible-audience feel. It wants to fit in an American allegory. It wants to have good actors actually acting instead of being superhero cutesy. It wants to play with our expectations but also possibly set up a new franchise. It wants to do all these things and pretty well succeeds in doing so.

This does not start out as an “origin story” film instead we are dropped right into a chase scene and our hero emerges and saves the day… well kinda. We find out pretty soon that there is little love for Hancock and that he has drinking and anger issues. Queue Jason Bateman. Bateman plays Ray, a struggling PR rep with a heart of gold (a movie first I believe) who wants to help Hancock in exchange for saving his life and despite some evil stares that his wife (Mary - Charlize Theron) gives when he first comes over for dinner. As Hancock’s latest incident had lead to an arrest warrant Ray sees a golden opportunity (PR 101) to get people on Hancock’s side. Of course the plan works as while he's voluntarily behind bars, the crime rate rises and a newly sober Hancock is called into action. THEN we get the twist and the intro of the origin story. All of this happens surprisingly fast – there’s very little downtime in this plot heavy film.
Berg grows in his journeyman director status with each films and this is no exception. The quick pacing, handheld camera work and high octane action that never get in the way of story or acting that was a hallmark of The Kingdom is taken up a notch here. There are some shaky transitions between acts and some bits that feel vaguely off but they more or less help to build to that twist.

Smith, Theron and Bateman all shine in their roles especially Theron who is the best female character I’ve seen in a superhero film ever. And as a superhero Hancock is unique. (Allegory in 3…2…1…) He is the only superpower in the world all his actions seem to lead to disaster for a lot of people even though his intentions are good and he does in fact save lives. He is alone, but unlike Supes, Hulk, ect he has no alter-ego in which to hide and commune with us regular folk. He just has to accept what he is, flaws and all and try to change what he can in order to make the world a better place. (Oh yeah his symbol and a repeating motif of the film is a bald eagle and his name is in fact John Hancock). The mythology of his creation is interesting but delivered in a pretty off hand matter leaving little to sink ones teeth into.

Hulk tried to go for emotion and failed miserably while Iron Man was content to forget all about that in favor of breezy charm. This one has an emotional side that is far better than that green thing but despite some huge laughs in the first 2 acts it’s not over the top charming. It is indeed a well rounded package and I hope word-of-mouth is far better than the critical reaction so far as this film deserves a big audience and a couple sequels to flesh out some of that Highlander style back story.

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