homepage logo

Will Smith Still Has That Box Office Draw

By Staff | Jul 16, 2008

“Hancock” remains still, after a week in meditation over its viewing, a movie with the utmost promise and unwavering mediocrity. It was both formulaic and ground breaking — a true testament to the alternative approach to the superhero genre and a blueprint on how to transform glistening premise into disillusioned execution. To go for the quick sound-bite, I thought “Hancock” was pure cinematic cannibalism.

I know it’s unfair for me to simply come out and say something that abstract in nature without providing substantial backing, so here’s the recipe for cinematic cannibalism.

Cinematic Cannibalism:

2 parts super celebrity

1 part funny/underground celebrity

* Stir vigorously with Michael Mann-like actions sequences

* Half bake the contents on “Amazing” or “Revolutionary for a superhero film”

* Take out of oven prematurely, and leave on the counter half-cooked for another 37 minutes until no longer desirable

And voila! Welcome to Hancock, a cultural experience soaked in good intentions but plagued (bubonically people, this is no common cold) with a plotline that derails like the train you see Hancock smash in the trailer.

John Hancock (Will Smith) is a down and out superhero disdained by the very public he attempts to save. Even though he appears to be indestructible (and able to fly), he is not popular. Hancock has no memory of how he came to be the way he is, so he is lonely and feels the repercussions of that fact.

Basically homeless and a raging drunk, Hancock does not give a flying superhero what the public thinks of him. In fact, you actually witness Hancock saves lives while yelling at the citizens who are cursing his name. But why do they hate him so much? Well, to put it lightly, whenever Hancock shows up to “save the day” that moniker usually involves destroying many, many things on his way to justice. Whether it’s saving a beached sperm wale by hurling it miles into the ocean only to destroy a sailing yacht, or destroying roads and public transit systems whenever he crash-lands on the job. He drinks. He swears. He’s a train wreck while causing a train wreck.

And believe me when I say this is wildly entertaining.

Will Smith performs spectacularly. His demeanor is spot on, his jokes caused roars of laughter and he was made to be a superhero. Trust me, you’ll believe me when you see it (if you don’t believe me already).

But suddenly things change for our hero when he saves Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) from eminent death. Bateman, hot off his role in “Juno” and forever idolized as the hilarious and touching Michael Bluth on the much under-appreciated “Arrested Development,” is a PR specialist who decides to repay Hancock by bolstering his image. Embrey finds in Hancock a wish to be loved by the public and a hidden desire to be better.

Embrey’s wife, Mary, is played by the enormously talented Charlize Theron. Apprehensive of her husband’s wish to help Hancock, Mary is standoffish to any idea of assisting in the public relation transformation. Nonetheless, she keeps out of the way as Ray suggests that Hancock voluntarily go to prison as a sign that he is not above the law in any way. Ray believes the public will want Hancock back on the street as soon as they realize how much he meant to fighting crime.

And they are right.

Hancock’s absence sees crime spike in Los Angeles and the chief of police asks Hancock if he can help.

Now, doesn’t this sound appealing? Can you feel the constructs of normal super-hero films begin to crack and break around this idea that is cinematically on fire?

Don’t get used to it.

The intrigue behind Hancock and how he came to this point in his life begin to come out, the shady looks Mary Embrey gives Hancock develop meaning, and the screen is filled with action, action and more action.

Sadly, the aspects of “Hancock” mentioned above keep it, tirelessly, from becoming a great summer movie. It’s almost as if someone walked into the set and flicked the “hollywood” light on and out came the ending. The explanation to Hancock’s identity is lackluster and the movie moves from dark comedic sanctuary to over-stylized commercialism in a matter of minutes.

Usually that kind of turn for the film would make me completely dismiss it as contemporary garbage, but something about the cast and general feeling of the film save it from complete damnation. Sure, it’s cinematic cannibalism, but if I were that delicious maybe I’d eat myself too. Theron and Bateman work well together, Smith is both funny and compelling as a hero, and every summer needs a bit of action. It’s like a delectable treat oozing with potential. I applaud it for being nothing else but ambitious, and I hope it had fun devouring itself from the inside out.

Contact Ben at bspanner@graffitiwv.com