Published on July 1st, 2008 | by simeon0
Throughout the annals of cinema, the big screen has been home to some of the most larger-than-life heroes ever to spring from the pages of comic books. Recent adaptations of Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman, all went on to box office gold and with several more character adaptations in the works, there seems to be no end to the public’s desire to see tales based on costumed heroes with amazing powers.
In one of the more original twists on the hero genre, Will Smith stars as Hancock, a surly lush, who is more concerned about his next drink than he is about saving the day. Despite being blessed with amazing strength, invulnerability, and the ability to fly, Hancock is looked upon with disdain by most of the people of Los Angeles because his attitude is second only to the amazing amount of damage he causes in bringing local hoodlums to justice.
Shortly after causing nine million dollars in damage after his latest crime fighting effort, the mayor of L.A. places a warrant out for Hancock, having decided it was time for Hancock to be held accountable for the mayhem he has caused. At the same time, publicist Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) is returning home after failing in his pitch to get a major pharmaceutical company to donate their new wonder drug in an effort to make the world better.
When danger arises during a traffic jam, Ray is saved by Hancock in the nick of time and is grateful for the efforts of the hero. Unfortunately a group of bystanders are convinced that Hancock could have saved Ray without making wreaking such havoc. In the midst of some heated verbal exchanges, Ray steps up for Hancock and expresses his gratitude to the hero and invites him home for dinner with his son and wife Mary (Charlize Theron). Undaunted by the gruff mannerisms of Hancock, Ray eventually convinces Hancock to let Ray represent him and sets out on a plan to remake Hancock’s image more positive and civic-friendly.
While this scenario presents several comedic moments, the film eventually changes tact, and becomes much darker in tone, and mired in a subplot of fate and mysticism that honestly seems greatly out-of-place with the tone established in the first three quarters of the film.
While it is notable that the filmmakers decided to try something different, the final result is a muddled effort that greatly undermines the laughs and momentum that were established earlier in the film. Smith does a great job but when he is not unleashing his sardonic quips, he seems to be disinterested and going through the motion for much of the last half of the film. Bateman does the best he can with a stock part and Theron seems woefully underused in a role that, while promising, really is not worthy of an actress of her skills.
Director Peter Berg does a solid job with the action and FX of the film, and clearly shows he has a knack for humor. Unfortunately the script by “X-Files” alum Vince Gilligan and Vince Ngo fails to live up to the potential of the premise and in the end leaves “Hancock” grounded.
2.5 stars out of 5