Super Zero: ‘Hancock’ Retrospective
Superman was busy so we called him
I first saw this title during a television ad where I saw Will Smith run towards a whale, picked it up, and flung it into the ocean where it hit a boat. I can’t remember the ad, I think it was a computer commercial to help promote the film. Initially I didn’t know what I was looking at so I looked up the actual trailer online. Sometime later I caught the film on television. From 2008 comes the superhero comedy film Hancock, which was directed by Peter Berg.
The film’s plot revolves around a superhero named Hancock. He has super strength, super endurance, and can fly. Unfortunately, Hancock is a rather careless superhero who causes more harm than good, specifically lots of property damage. One day Hancock saves a public relations agent named Ray Embrey, who attempts to return the favor by making Hancock into a better hero.
Hancock is played by Will Smith. He’s portrayed as a lazy alcoholic who dresses sloppy. He’s very reckless in his antics. While stopping a robbery, Hancock causes damage to the road and leaves a car impaled on top of a building. The public absolutely hates him, often giving him dirty looks or scolding him for his shenanigans. There is a derogatory term the public uses to refer to Hancock, which he hates.
Public relations agent Ray Embrey, played by Jason Bateman, drives home from work one day and his car gets stuck on train tracks right as a train comes by. Hancock appears and literally tosses Ray’s car to safety while he bashes himself into the train, derailing it. People come out of their cars to berate Hancock for destroying the train. Grateful for saving his life and to help further his own career, Ray steps through the crowd to thank Hancock and offers to help better his public image.
That evening Hancock goes to Ray’s home for dinner where he meets his wife Mary, played by Charlize Theron, and his son Aaron, played by Jae Head. While Aaron likes Hancock, Mary dislikes him. Ray shows footage of Hancock’s antics and encourages him to change his ways. Hancock reluctantly agrees and turns himself in to the authorities for all the property damage he caused.
In jail, Hancock has trouble adjusting as the prisoners attempt to cause him trouble, though it doesn’t end well for them. While retrieving a ball that bounced outside the jail security quickly acts and Hancock realizes that they see him as a villain. Tired and irritated, Hancock nearly breaks out but Ray, who had come to visit him convinces him to stay.
While Hancock’s in jail, crime rises throughout Los Angeles. As a bank robbery unfolds, Hancock is released from jail to assist the police. He is given a new, more appropriate superhero outfit and flies off. In one shot, he saves an officer’s life, saves a group of civilians from explosives, and cuts off the hand of the main criminal in charge.
Immediately the public hails Hancock as a hero. While celebrating with Ray and Mary, Hancock reveals that he lost his memory nearly a century ago and dubbed himself Hancock. Hancock learns that Mary is actually Ray’s second wife, the first died during childbirth. Later that night Hancock speaks with Mary, who ends up tossing him through a wall. Turns out, Mary has superpowers like Hancock.
The next day Hancock speaks with Mary about this. She reveals that she and Hancock have been around for thousands of years. Hancock flies off to tell Ray about this, making Mary fly after him. They fight through the city and ends up causing lots of collateral damage. Once the fight ends Hancock and Mary look up and see Ray staring down at them not knowing what’s happening.
Later that day Mary reveals to Ray that she has superpowers and that Hancock use to be her husband before his amnesia. Nighttime, Hancock foils a liquor store robbery, but passes out after being shot. He ends up in a hospital where he’s confronted by Mary. She reveals that they are godlike beings created in pairs. The longer they spend around their counterparts the weaker they get. The other beings decided to die together rather than be separate and keep their powers. Since Hancock had been spending a lot of time around Mary lately he became weaker.
At this time, the bank robber who Hancock stopped, Kenneth Parker, played by Eddie Marsan, escapes from prison and wants revenge for his arrest. He escapes from prison alongside other criminals and goes to the hospital to kill Hancock. The climax plays out as a wounded and weakened Hancock attempts to protect Mary and stop Parker.
Here’s the thing, upon its release Hancock received a mix reception and I wondered why. After seeing the film, I found out the reason. Basically, the film is divided into three parts, a superhero spoof, action, and a drama. The film’s trailers indicated that most of the film was going to be about Hancock’s drunken shenanigans, however it’s only for a small portion. The film slows down considerably once Hancock goes to prison. It’s not the most interesting thing seeing such a powerful superhero be confined in a small space like a jail cell.
It picks up once he’s released, but barely. While the film’s first third may be a superhero parody, the middle part is played straight. There is a bit of comedy in this segment, but it’s more serious than the film’s first portion.
Parker is a very poorly done villain. He comes out of nowhere in the film’s middle and at the end his sole purpose is to have a climactic battle. Honestly, I completely forgot about him since he’s so bland. He may have a reason for hating Hancock, but it doesn’t come until later. There’s no weight to his presence. In fact, you could take him out of the film and it would have very little impact of the whole overall plot.
Ray is pretty much the Alfred or Jimmy Olsen of the film. He was a supporting character that had vibes of a sidekick. It’s not that he’s a bad character, it just felt that they could have done more with him. His son Aaron was the typical happy kid character. He’s mostly just there to admire Hancock, but there is a very minor subplot which involves Hancock helping him deal with a bully.
Mary, I didn’t like. She started off decent as a minor background character who hated Hancock like everyone else, but the revelation of her having superpowers like Hancock comes completely out of nowhere. Personally, I didn’t like how she boasted about being stronger than Hancock, which made her seem more arrogant as the film continued. The worst thing is her and Hancock’s origin story. It’s an absolutely horrible origin story that the film could have gone without. They didn’t need to halt the film near the end to explain who they are. Plus it’s a poor story that makes little sense. I feel that the way the film ends could have been done without the whole pair system.
The best part of the film is the first third. Hancock’s superhero shenanigans along with how the city responds to him could have carried an entire film, but all we got was a small portion. The slowdown and drama of the other two acts don’t help at all and all three acts clash with each other due to their different tones of comedy, action, and drama.
Music-wise, the first act had hammy music to compliment the film’s comedic tone. There was light sounding music for the prison segments and the final act where things slowed down. During the middle act there was upbeat music for Hancock’s more serious superhero nature.
Overall, I cautiously recommend Hancock. As I mentioned, the best part of the film is its first third. The last two parts pull it down into a different film. The villain, Mary’s true identity, and Hancock’s origin story could be taken out to make the film better. There was supposed to be a sequel, but I’m glad it never manifested as it would had talked more about his origin. If you want a different take on the superhero genre, check it out. Just be aware of the clashing tones.
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