, 92 min, 2008
Director: Peter Berg
Writers: Vincent Ngo (as Vy Vincent Ngo) and Vince Gilligan (written by)
Stars: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
Hancock is a superhero movie for the modern age, set in the real world. What would happen if a superhero, the only one of his kind, was going around, attempting suicidal behavior in public, resentful of his station in life? What would happen if such a person met a benefactor who could change their lot for the better? What if everything that we see was not quite as it seems? Here is a film that explores this idea with relish.
Will Smith stars as John Hancock, the drunken, misanthropic superhero who flies through Los Angeles, stops bad guys with reckless abandon, and seems to resent the hell out of his job. Enter Ray Embrey, PR rep (Jason Bateman ofJuno and TV’s Arrested Development) to the rescue to rehabilitate Hancock’s image. Ray has an intriguing, beautiful and elusive wife named Mary (Charlize Theron), who may not be entirely what she seems.
As a concept for a superhero film, this is quite refreshing: a hero who is not only reluctant but self-destructive and the modern solution to such a problem – a spin doctor whose job it is to turn such scenarios to an advantage. This would be more than enough plot for just about any other superhero movie, except Berg and his writers have something even more diabolical up their sleeve. Hancock believes he is alone in the universe, the only one of his kind. Is he wrong?
The film, directed by Peter Berg (The Rundown, Friday Night Lights) and co-written by former X-Files alum andBreaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan (Home Fries), decides to explore this concept with wild aplomb.
Inevitably, the film must boil down to yet another apocalyptic battle in a modern Gotham-esque setting, and this leads to tons of (admittedly splendid) special effects and a whole lot of noise. This, however, isn’t exactly sound and fury signifying nothing.
The result is a genuinely intriguing and original superhero film, helped out enormously by an energetic and well-chosen cast and a clever screenplay, telling a story that is smarter than meets the eye. Finally, a superhero movie with half a brain.