The Superhero genre has come to dominate the summer film slate and Will Smith in particular has come to dominate the July 4th weekend. The genre itself has gone through cosmetic changes as studios have attempted to infuse it with prestigious directors (Ang Lee, Christopher Nolan) and non-traditional “respected” actors (Robert Downey Jr, Christian Bale). Now with HANCOCK, the superhero genre gets infused with a bit of post-modernism. Taking the traditions and elements of the traditional Superhero tale, HANCOCK attempts to turn it on its ear by giving us a hero who is unloved and unheroic. If the filmmakers had the courage to see this idea through (this film reeks of being noted to death) it could have stood out in what can be a cookie cutter genre. Instead, it retreats to the whizz-bang-boom spectacle of watching things explode instead of exploring the psyche of the initially interesting lead.
Smith stars as the titular superhero who spends his days drinking booze straight from the bottle and causing millions in property damage with his sloppy rescues. The early scenes involve Smith haphazzardly flying around drunkenly while Ludacris’ “Move Bitch” plays on the soundtrack. I couldn’t help but sigh at the need for director Peter Berg to show a deadbeat black superhero drunk and accompanied by gangster rap, but hold on, I’ve got Al Sharpton on the phone.
This is where the film ceases to be interesting. That chortle you experienced when hearing the plot description is about all you can expect from this thing in terms of satisfaction. What unfolds is improbable meet-cutes, bad CGI, shoehorned romances and a twist that is made obvious within the first 10 minutes. Take note: If a film contains a big star in a seemingly small role (like say, Charlize Theron) you can bet your life there is more to her character than meets the eye.
I suppose it isn’t summer unless Will Smith is fighting some supernatural creature. Looking at his filmography, Will has fought aliens (3 times), a giant mechanical spider, zombies, robots, Matt Damon’s golf swing and Uncle Phil. If Smith is serious about his career, it is time for him to use his considerable talent towards picking a decent project. And films like THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS (the cinematic equivilant of having Smith peel onions in your face for two hours) do not count. Smith should take a note from his blockbuster contemporary Tom Cruise, who balanced quality projects with big summer blockbusters.
HANCOCK is an empty experience. In the end we have no insight into this man or anyone/anything else. We do however see Jason Bateman wield an axe, so I suppose it can’t be all that bad. HANCOCK also commits an act of thievery by ripping off the “Don’t…call…me…chicken” routine from the BACK TO THE FUTURE series. It is a sin to steal from Marty McFly (and I’ll take his face melting “Johnny B. Good” guitar solo over “Getting Jiggy Wit It” any day of the week).