Written by Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan
Directed by Peter Berg
Released in July 2008
So after the recent news about the Fantastic Four movie casting has sparked a lot of discussion across the net about Black superheroes in movies, and I thought I’d revisit this film. Here’s a movie about a Black superhero, and it’s completely original, not even based on an established comic-book character. Frankly, I’m a little surprised that more studios haven’t attempted to make new superheroes for movies, instead of buying the rights to known superheroes, which can be expensive. I know the main reason is that there’s a built-in recognition for these characters, which is what the studio counts on to draw an audience. And that certainly makes sense when talking about characters like Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman. But Iron Man wasn’t exactly a household name before his first movie. Comic-book fans knew him, but that’s an extremely small part of the general public. Same with Thor. And years before that we had three successful Blade films, and I bet most folks who watched those never he knew he was originally a comic-book character. So the bottom line is, is the movie good or not? Just make it good, and it doesn’t matter if it’s based on an existing comic-book character.
So you’d think some studio would look at all the hit superhero films and try to come up with their own, something that they could then own completely, including all merchandising rights. Pixar did that with The Incredibles. And here’s another example, Hancock, a completely original superhero movie which made over $600 million worldwide. It’s not too far off from what Man of Steel made (& since it cost less than MOS, it actually made a bigger profit).
Sadly, I’d have to say that the success of that film is attributed to the drawing power of Will Smith at the time, because it certainly can’t be from the quality of the film, in my opinion. It’s just not very good. I’m going to ignore the racial subtext of this film, which is a whole other topic in itself, I’d recommend checking out these articles: Was Hancock A Big Inside Joke For Hollywood? and Hancock: The Black Man/White Woman Racial Undertones of the Movie. I’m just going to talk about where, structurally, the film went wrong (hence, this post will contain MULTIPLE spoilers).
First, the trailers for this film were misleading. It made it look like this was a comedy about a down-on-his-luck superhero, who saves a PR man who then becomes his agent and helps him win back the public trust. And the film started that way, with Will Smith as the hero, Hancock, and Jason Bateman as Ray, the PR guy. Along with Charlize Theron as Ray’s wife Mary and Jae Head as their little son Aaron. Although Aaron is really just Ray’s biological son, his first wife died in childbirth, and then he met and married Mary. That becomes a major plot-point later on. It’s not so bad at first, as we see Hancock’s super-antics, his attempts to stop a high-speed freeway chase ends up causing more property damage than good. And we learn that this is a pattern with Hancock, as he tends to screw up often, even when he saves Ray’s life, he accidentally causes a massive train wreck. So Ray’s plan is for Hancock to turn himself in to go to jail, figuring that while he’s locked up, crime will skyrocket and the public will realize how much they need Hancock to protect them.
One of the first breaks in the internal logic of this film is when Hancock goes to prison, as he’s immediately confronted by two other prisoners, and he ends up shoving one guy’s head up the other guy’s ass. It’s supposed to be funny, but all I could think of is, why would these guys go up against Hancock in the first place? They know he has superpowers, he’s the one who put them in jail! And yet they get up in his face like they’re getting ready to beat him up with their bare hands?!? What did they think would happen if they tried that? So that scene was just put there for comedic purposes, but didn’t make any actual sense.
And that’s an example of the main problem with this film. Much like Seth’s Rogen’s GREEN HORNET (which I didn’t like, either), and from what I’ve heard of the recent LONE RANGER film (which I haven’t seen), it’s like the makers of this film couldn’t decide what genre it was supposed to be. Is it supposed to be a comedy, a drama, an action film, or some amalgamation of all three? In addition to the head-up-the-ass scene, there’s an earlier scene, which was cut out of the theatrical version, but restored on the unrated DVD. Hancock is approached at a bar by a young woman (played by Hayley Marie Norman), who comes on to him. He takes her back to his home, and they have sex. But when Hancock is ready to climax he has to quickly push the woman off of him, because his “super-sperm” is so powerful it shoots up into the air, and blasts three holes in his ceiling. Strangely, this scene isn’t played for laughs, since the girl is freaked out and immediately leaves, and Hancock is left alone, looking sad. There’s also the subplot of Hancock’s alcoholism, which is something he deals with during group counseling sessions in prison, which is also played seriously in the film.
So crime does indeed skyrocket, and Hancock is given a pardon and released. Ray gets him a proper superhero costume, and we get some more action. And then there’s the big twist of the story, the revelation that Mary has superpowers too, and is actually connected to Hancock. We don’t get an exact detail of their origins, but that they’re part of a race of super-beings who’ve existed for at least 3000 years, and have been known as Gods or Angels by normal humans in the past. Part of the destiny of these beings is that eventually each of them pair up and get married, at which point they lose their powers and become mortal, to live the rest of their lives together. But Mary and Hancock are the only two of their race left, because the last time they tried to be together, 80 years prior, Hancock was attacked and beaten, and got amnesia. So Mary just decided to leave him, for his own safety, and has been trying to live a normal life ever since, while keeping her powers secret.
There’s definitely what I would call the seed of a good story in that premise. But it’s not explored fully here. As I said, we don’t know the origin of their race, and they don’t fill in any of the blanks. Mary doesn’t even tell Hancock his real name. And we learn that because they’ve been spending so much time around each other recently, Mary and and Hancock are slowly losing their powers. Hancock gets shot while stopping a robbery, and ends up in the hospital. And then three criminals (including the two head-up-the-ass guys) escape from prison with the express purpose of finding Hancock and getting revenge. And they’re armed with guns, which they end up accidentally shooting Mary with, while aiming for Hancock.
This also make no logical sense, in the context of the story. As far as those criminals were concerned, Hancock still has superpowers, so how were they expecting to get revenge on him when they broke out of prison? Sure, it’s a lucky coincidence that he just so happened to conveniently lose his powers right after they escaped, but they wouldn’t have known that was going to happen.
Anyway, the film ends with Hancock in New York, doing his superhero thing, while Mary stays in Los Angeles with Ray. But there’s still some open questions. If Hancock and Mary don’t get together then that means they’ll remain immortal. So how long can Mary and Ray really remain together? He’s going to get older and eventually die, while she remains young-looking and healthy. So not only can she not stay with him, she can’t stay in any one place too long, if she wants to keep her real nature a secret. To friends, neighbors, etc., it will become apparent within 10 years or so that she’s not aging while everyone around her is.
And, considering the deleted scene with Hancock and the young woman, how can Mary and Ray have sex? If Hancock’s super-sperm can be deadly to a mortal woman, what happens when Mary has an orgasm? Why hasn’t her super-strong vagina snapped around Ray’s mortal penis and broke it off? Of if she loses control while wrapping her legs around him, or scratching his back, she could cripple the poor guy!
Hey, don’t blame me for having a dirty mind, I’m just going by what was shown in the film.
So, yeah, overall, this film just wasn’t that good. The special effects were decent. And I like Will Smith. But not even he could save this junk.
TWO THUMBS DOWN