I grew up on superhero comic books, so I’m stoked by Marvel’s renaissance as a big-screen behemoth, and I was certainly looking forward to Hancock. For one thing, I’m a big admirer of director Peter Berg, whom I got to know during several interviews and while visiting the set of Friday Night Lights (the movie) when it shot at Houston’s Astrodome. He’s a good guy, and I was pulling for him.
But the film, sadly, doesn’t cut it. An uneven melange of splashy CG effects, mundane interpersonal drama, ludicrous small-world coincidences and lame sci-fi plot contrivance, Hancock is largely dour and dull, as it follows an otherworldly superhero (Will Smith) who succumbs to Earth’s alcohol and does more property damage than he does good when he comes to the rescue.
How did he get here? Why doesn’t he try to go home? Why doesn’t he try harder to save himself instead of wreaking havoc? Who knows? The script doesn’t bother to go there.
Coming to Hancock’s rescue is a down-on-his-luck PR guy (Jason Bateman) who wants to reinvent Hancock as a brand, and ostensibly as a fellow being. But hardly anything is said about his severe drinking problem, other than a simplistic just-say-no approach, and it’s galling that such a major malady for many people is brushed across here with no sense of its enormity.
Smith also loses any and all of his sassy, roguish charm as a taciturn drunk whose inner demons never are analyzed, and Charlize Theron, as Bateman’s wife, just gets in the way — especially when an impossible back-story for her is announced. This is also one of those films where rules seem to be made up as the movie goes along, in order to connect too many dots.
I love these actors, just not how they’re used and absued by the script. And Berg’s shaky-cam approach is pointless and annoying. Camera operators are supposed to be professional enough to hold the camera steadily and get the shot, and I’m sure this film’s camera operator was able to do so. But this movie looks like it was shot by someone who couldn’t get a bead on a barn from 10 feet away.
Wish I could say more in favor of a film whose premise, on the surface, echoes the way Marvel made superheroes more human and “relevant” back in the ’60s. But those superheroes still had some fun. Hancock doesn’t. And neither will you, I’m afraid.