A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 122 – Hancock

Hancock – June 30th, 2010

Sure, let’s start with a car chase/shoot out juxtaposed with Will Smith passed out on a bus stop bench, obviously hungover or still drunk. And with the first poke of a woman’s ass, I dislike him (she does call him on it). It’s an inauspicious beginning for someone who’s supposed to be the hero of the movie and a hero in general. But that’s the point. He’s drinking and flying and he really doesn’t want to take the time and effort to save the day because he’s an ass, but hey, it’s what he does so what the hell, right?

We are firmly in anti-hero territory here, set in as close to the real world as a super hero movie is going to get. I was absolutely thrilled to hear a reporter actually say how much the damages Hancock caused in the opening scene will cost the city. I have long maintained that major metropolitan areas need meta-human insurance. Look at any Batman movie. Look at The Fantastic Four. Look at Ghost Rider. Think about the damage done by villains and heroes alike. Meta-human insurance, seriously. I’m also glad to see a little nod to Niven’s essay about Superman’s love life, or if not to Niven’s essay, to the concept behind it. Basically all the shitty down sides that would come with powers like that. And I mean all the shitty down sides, from isolation to inadvertent destruction. Not to mention not knowing his origins.

We do eventually find out where Hancock came from. Sort of. I mean, we find out enough about his past to know that there’s a whole pile of history and mythology mixed in there. I picked up a few pointers to it early on, like the movie tickets Hancock has (not quite a spoiler, but one of my favorite Highlander episodes touches on the same themes and makes the same reference but from a different direction, so, yeah, pop culture dork here). And the bits and pieces of background only serve to make the movie richer. The trouble is, before you can get that background, there’s a whole hell of a lot of foreground.

First we have to establish Hancock as an anti-hero. That’s accomplished pretty easily with some great action sequences and some fun rough and tumble stuff from Will Smith, who plays Hancock at the beginning in a way he doesn’t normally appear in the movies. It’s prodding at all the super hero tropes we all know and love. I mean, Superman is all well and good, but sometimes you need to toss Wolverine in, you know? Also, comic books exist in this world and Wolverine does get referenced. Fantastic. Anyhow, then once we’ve established our anti-hero, we have to redeem him. Enter Ray, a somewhat desperate and sort of cringe-inducing marketing and PR guy (at first – he gets better) played by Jason Bateman. He sets himself the task of getting Hancock’s public image back on track and convinces him to do some of the jail time he’s been setting himself up for what with all the property damage and such. Only after the brief jail stint do we get to the real meat of the movie.

Suddenly it’s not all laughs and Hancock threatening to shove heads up asses. Finally we get to know just what he is and why he doesn’t remember his past and we get to see just how shitty the down sides really are. Beyond the drinking and the destruction and the scaring people. Beyond everything we’ve seen up to then. I don’t want to spoil it, but man, it’s a kicker. At least it is for me.

I am a sucker for a story about the tragedy of immortality. If someone had sold this to me as that, I’d have raced to the theater. I’m not shocked that this got mixed reviews (or so I heard, I’ve mentioned I’m avoiding reviews before writing my own) and wasn’t the huge hit it might have been. The pacing is weird, what with the whole set-up/redemption thing it has to do before we get the mythology and the emotion and the heartbreak and the true redemption that comes with wings and purpose. It’s a deeper movie than the beginning implies on the surface, but look a little deeper at that beginning and it does things with sociological issues that most super hero movies won’t touch with a ten meter cattle prod. It’s touching on race and class and yeah, gender too. It almost makes me wish I was still in college so I could use this as the focus of a gigantic academic paper, because even though the pacing is odd in the transitions and the story has to hit a lot of points in a very short time, I think it would be worth a deeper look than I can give in a daily review.

This movie deserved a better reaction than it got, in my opinion. It’s fun and it’s deep and all three leads – Will Smith, Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron (I haven’t mentioned her much, but I’ve got my reasons and she’s fantastic) – are excellent, playing their parts far more intensely than I’d expected. It made me cry at the end. I should have seen it in the theater. I’m truly sorry I didn’t.

June 30, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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