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Zettel Film Reviews » Hancock – post-modern comic book hero – with no comic

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Hancock – post-modern comic book hero – with no comic

ok - I'll give you a lift

ok - I'll give you a lift

Hancock – Peter Berg

I like Will Smith; you (probably) like Will Smith; all God’s children like Will Smith; why Will Smith even likes Will Smith – though for Will it may be less of a stretch sometimes than for us. To wit – Hancock. This movie doesn’t quite make you lose the will to live; but it sure puts a strain on your will to like – Will.

Hancock is the comic book hero with no comic book. The first post-modern super hero perhaps in that he contradicts all the conventions: grunge-scruffy, ever-stubbled, grumpy, frequently drunk and such a crap flier that he can’t take off or land without chewing up chunks of the ground beneath him. Hancock is an out of control Jumbo jet with no wheels, leaving a trail of demolished landing strips in his wake. None of this makes any sense, scientifically or otherwise it’s just a slapstick joke to explain why everyone is so pissed off with him. In fact Hancock’s comic book genre isn’t the super-powers super-hero at all: when ostensibly trying to help a beach-stranded whale that he just hurls it out to sea sinking a yacht, it’s Dandy and Beano stuff.

OK, once the penny dropped I was up for some laughs and happy to see if Desperate Dan Hancock might get up to some genuinely amusing jolly japes. The whale gag wasn’t bad but they over-killed that in the trail. Cue script conference: “now look guys we gotta get people to care about this guy; well it’s Will Smith, so how hard is that?” There is nothing direr in movies than to see the results of Hollywood product-mongers desperately trying to blow some hot air into a lead balloon. Its not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s a poor emotionally troubled super-hero, not in touch with his emotions and just needing someone to believe in him. Cue Ray Embury (a likeable Jason Bateman), PR Executive – well where else would a drop-out, suicidal super-hero look to for emotional advice other than Public Relations? It’s not what you do Hanky, it’s the way that you do it. Ray, saved from death-by-train by Hanky ( a one hanky-job), in gratitude, with all the zeal only a true PR Executive can muster, decides to brush up Hanky’s image – let the people see that the immortal, bulletproof, fireproof, everything proof super-hero is hurtin’ inside – he hasn’t found himself. Never mind Hancock, what planet are the writers of this tosh from?

Ray has a beautiful little son Aaron and an even more beautiful wife Mary. Now ask yourself – you’re a nice but geeky kind of guy with a gorgeous sexy wife, so who would you least want to invite into your house to be around your beautiful wife? Will Smith that’s who. Not only that but the stud-meister is also a kind of God with God-like powers. Ray’s dogged niceness segues effortlessly into cosmic stupidity. And sure enough, something pretty intense is going on every time Mom-and-apple-pie Mary meets the eyes of ‘I’m hurtin’ Hanky. You just know there’ll be tears before the night’s out and it’s gonna be a field day for brickies, carpenters, road-menders et al across LA as Horrible Hank transforms into Happy Hanky, busting up the place on the way.

Hancock is persuaded by Ray to go to jail and serve his time for past mayhem, clean up, say nice things to people and wear a distinctly retro stretchy leather suit. One of the coolest actors in the business, Will of course knows this gear looks cool though he indulges himself in wearing it by having Hank complain bitterly and refuse to. Well ever since poor old Superman got stuck with his Y-fronts outside his tights looking like John Major at a rap concert, we can’t blame image-conscious actors, or super-heroes from having contractual control over the super-suit. At least chilled Will don’t need a pecs-double. All his own work.

Anyway, now coolly clad and choirboy polite, our hero begins to find his inner self. He gets some help with his provenance and his presenting distress symptoms, in a plot twist that though it blows the movie out of the water, does create an excuse for a CGI-action-packed last half hour. Those heart-warming, steel-melting looks between marvellous Mary and no longer solo Han, are explained with a mid-stream tone-switch, eliciting not so much “you’re kidding” as “what the heck…go for it. Who cares?”

Cue much ad-hoc building demolition – for all his super-powers, the inventive genius of the doorknob or the window-catch appears to have passed Hancock by – countless autocides, and a tip of the narrative cap to Rider Haggard and the downside of immortality, and we end with a typically Will Smith tongue-in-cheek ending, with post-credits coda.

A bit of fun – but less than it could have been if they had really stuck with the superpowers as a burden theme. Black Smithy’s charm and charisma just about carries it. But star quality is a bit like a bank account – keep drawing on it without making any deposits, and you end up bankrupt. Way to go yet with Will, but this untidily wrapped package only just got to us without unravelling completely.

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