Hancock: This isn’t going to get great reviews in the media, because (a) it mixes genres and (b) it’s got some moral ambiguity, which could be like, confusing and stuff? But don’t be fooled, because it’s… uh… really not that bad. Honest.
Will Smith is John Hancock, a superhero who doesn’t know why he’s a superhero. He’s a drunk and generally in need of some anger and image management – after all, what kind of superhero is hated, told to go away? – until he meets Ray (Jason Bateman), PR whizz attempting to sell his world-changing ideas.
The thing that I enjoyed most about this movie is that they actually resisted giving away a gigantic chunk of it in the trailer. Watching most trailers, you can put two and two together and work out the plot, which it really does feel like for this movie too, at least up to the inflexion point. What you might perceive to be a stock-standard parabolic plot suddenly goes the wrong way, and the audience is left bruised by the story.
I’m not going to spoil the surprise at all, because it is one of the best features of this movie. Suffice to say though, it left people gasping – something I’ve not heard in a long time. From what I can tell of its development history, it’s been in production hell for nigh on 10 years before it actually got made, and was changed from something far less comedic, and for coming through as intact as it has I give full credit.
Will Smith does a superb job as Hancock during the early part of the movie, though the effort lapses a little towards the end. I’m yet to see Jason Bateman do wrong since Arrested Development, even in the low-ball The Kingdom, where his depiction of a kidnapped American soldier was the biggest redeeming factor for the whole movie. While there’s little hint of Michael Bluth (of AD) here, occasionally you’ll hear a line or two that resonates, and his every-man affability is awesome – you want to live down the street from this guy. And finally, Charlize (as Ray’s wife) is, as ever, gorgeous and very capable.
If there’s one (or two) criticisms to be had, it’s that it does make a couple of concessions to audience populism and raises the inevitable blockbuster sceptre of sequelism. Some rather minor plot threads are left open, though not in an obvious way, and while it would be nice to get closure on these, it’s more intriguing to leave them hanging than try to draw some disparate threads together.
There is a moment, very late in the movie, where the plot can diverge one of two ways: populist, a.k.a. blockbuster-ist – what keeps the punters happy – and artistic, or maybe post-modernist. One would have you walking out of the cinema, pleased enough, and the other would make you leave a lot more contemplative or even miffed at their audacity. See if you can spot the moment too.
A note for the Aussies: a “John Hancock” is apparently American slang for a signature, something I had to look up when I got home. Also, there’s a mini bonus clip about a minute into the credits, though only worth a short chuckle.