Hancock is a mess.
A superhero movie wanting to be a satire masquerading as a comedy wrapped in the chassis of mainstream summer entertainment, one wishing to have big action beats and capitalizing on the biggest movie star working while riding a crest of all-time high awareness for superhero and comic book movies, it feels like a slam dunk. Until you see it. Then you realize that you’re seeing what might possibly be the least genuine and oddly cobbled together product ever released as a major event on the Fourth of July weekend.
There may be a wonderful edit of this film somewhere in the vaults at Sony but as it stands this feels like 2/3rds of a movie. Tonally it’s all over the place, going from a fun and jokey look at a bum of a superhero and his daily shenanigans to a generic superhero film to a weird and poorly conceived science fiction tale featuring the oddest and most random mythology backdrop this side of fan fiction.
Will Smith is John Hancock, a superhuman who apparently appeared out of nowhere eighty years previous. He can fly, is indestructible, and is in possession of amazing strength. Problem is, he’s bored. Drunk all the time, indifferent to collateral damage and an all around jerk, he’s in desperate need of change. That change comes in the form of public relations savant Ray Embree (Jason Bateman, trying desperately to hold the film together), a man who Hancock saves from a train crash who becomes charged with the task of reversing the bad boy image of the superhuman. They bond and Hancock starts to get with the plan.
Sounds good? If only the film continued that trajectory. Instead, we discover more about Hancock’s origin, a maddingly convenient and forced bit of business which I’ll not spoil for people who choose to see this film in theaters at their own great expense. Just let it suffice to be said that much is alluded to but this film seems very content to create possibilities and ignore them.
By the one hour mark, it’s just a matter of how much tolerance an audience member has for the considerable but wasted charisma of Will Smith because otherwise the film is simply a bunch of stuff seemingly edited together in exasperation.
The performances range from acceptable to bland at best, with Bateman and Smith doing nothing we haven’t seen before but aquitting themselves. Charlize Theron is wasted and granted a considerably unsatisfying story arc within the context of the premise and freaky looking Miami Vice castoff Eddie Marsan’s villain character seems almost like an afterthought and is given less depth than the divots Hancock makes with every landing.
Making the whole thing a crapshoot is uniformly bad musical decisions and some of the worst special effects I’ve seen in a tentpole film in a very long time. The music seems almost piped in from another movie, ill-fitting at times and boring but it’s the effects that really keep the film from having any sense of possible longevity. Whether it be the flying effect, the numerous smashings of property, or anything else used to create the sense of a world where superheroes could exist, Hancock fails miserably. It feels like the special effects from a spoof of a superhero films were used, and that’s not a good thing.
I can see how the film, once a hot script called Tonight He Comes, seemed like a legendary proposition. Unique yet familiar. Fantastical but portrayed against reality. A thinking person’s superhero movie with Will Smith in the lead. A very capable Peter berg at the helm. Untapped gold. It’s not. It’s a mess that isn’t even fun to enjoy for its little pleasures. Worse yet, it may signify that the best we’re going to get in non franchise reality based superhero stories are Heroes and Hancock. That’s a sad fact indeed. Do yourself a favor and wait on this one. Will Smith has gotten enough passes in recent memory with these big and utterly forgettable blockbuster movies.