Sunday, 6 July 2008
Hancock: a superhero like no one you have seen before
WARNING: Possible Spoilers
In true tradition of the Quiver, I will take the opposite stance than the rest of the world (which should tell you a lot about my personality) and declare that I thoroughly enjoyed Hancock. From the acting to the music and the concept, I had 92 minutes of pure fun and laugh. I wished it would be a little bit longer but alas, the movie is aimed to be a family film. For a very disfunctional family that is.
The basic plot of the film is that you have John Hancock, a drunken hobbo that happens to be the only superhero around. He has a very particular way to dispatch justice: causing maximum collateral damage. And what does people do? Insult him, saying that he is a jerk (actually they use another word, but I'm trying to keep this PG-13).
And the reason of why he is a jerk? Because he is alone, he thinks he is the only one of his kind (which we find later is not true) and people reject him, for not saying that he can't remember anything about his past, his family or how he got his powers. I wonder who is the jerk now, him or the people? However, one man, a PR specialist witha golden heart, is the only one willing to reach for Hancock, after the later saved the former his life, even at the cost fo destroying his car and garage. It is when Ray and his son tend him a hand and believe in him that Hancock starts to realize that he can be better thatn a drunken hobbo and fly as high as the eagle he sports as emblem.
At first and in some level, the film is also a critic of Corporate America, with a very direct critic to the pharmaceuticals. It is also a critic of how media treats popular heroes like team sport players, putting them on pedestals and the making them fall. But I think the most important analysis is about how would be to be a superhero in the real world. In Hancock's world, there are not archvillians, evil masterminds and mad scientist. You only get the criminals we have in our world, which in all honesty, they are more scary and dangerous. Because humans can be their very own enemy, their very own monsters.
Hancock has the stereotypical abilities of a superhero, but that just makes him being more isolated. And people give him for granted. That he will be always there to keep crime in check and be insulted by everybody. That is why Ray's plan was correct all the time. As soon as he dissapeared from the picture, crime raised and the police was asking him for help. While Hancock had all the reasons to stay in prision and sent to hell the city, it is Ray's son worshipping that makes him be a better heroe. And from there the movie changes to what I call its second chapter.
While the first one is a descontruction of how it must feel to be a superpowered guy, the second explores more about the nature of his powers and the reason he is here. You will notice I haven't mentioned Ray's wife. Well it is because she holds the keys to the plot twist that Will Smith mentioned in the interview. A clever spectator would notice the reactions of Mary towards Hancock and how the camera makes emphasis in them, especially when he narrates his experience 80 years ago when he woke up in a hospital bed with no memories and superpower. Mary is in this case Hancock's other half in more ways than just the literary one. Personally I found that twist, their talk about destiny, fate, duty and the source of their powers very refreshing and an interesting retool of the classic cliche of source/weakness powers. The ending is both heartbreaking and inspiring. A tale of loving someone so much that you leave them free to be happy. And despite what the previous five minutes make you think, the ending is happy, cheerful, without being cheesy and with a hint of irony and fun. The perfect balance for an ending in a chapter of the lifes of human beings, powered or not.
A fact that I liked about the movie, along with the soundtrack and the plot, is how the film runs witha a very tight cast. There are plenty of secondary characters, 'villians' included, but the story never deviates from the core three characters and their relationship with each other. At the end of the day those three (four with the son) are the story. This is not a film about supeheroics (which it has) but about what makes us human and what can makes us a hero.
I really enjoyed the acting of Will Smith. Being in my list of avorite actors aside, I have followed his career since the day of the 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air'. I think that since Ali he has become a great actor and while this movie is not a big one, his acting conveys in this film a very relatable character that you can feel for. You feel how bad Hancock's life ahs been so far, how ahrd is for him not to have anyone, that you understand why he is like he is. And in true Will Smith fashion, when it is time to be the hero, he delivers as good as usual. He manages to mix the fun bits with the serious one seamlessly. Smith's offer a performance where his character goes from a jerk with no self respect nor respect to others, to a superhero, who is still a jerk, but at least a lovable jerk that is responsable and well balanced -in his particular way of course- and despite the fact that when someone calls him a jerk, he goes ballistic.
Charlize Theron is as well, brilliant in the film. Her character Mary is very interesting and works perfectly as foil to Smith's Hancock. I can't tell you more about her withour revealing key points of the plot. Just say that she is not only a regular housewife. The chemistry with Will Smith and Jason Bateman is palpable and you can see that they had fun making the film. Her reactions to all the key parts of the plot are spot on and despite what some people say, Charlize looks as beautiful as always and her acting is as good as you would expect from her. I think her bests scenes are the ending and the kitchen scene, where you don't know if laugh or be intrigued.
Finally the third member of the cast, Jason Bateman. My only previous experience with his work was a few episodes of 'Arrested Development' a show I have never found funny. However here, Jason offers an inspiring character in Ray. He is a PR guy that instead of rolling with the greedy views of Corporate America, he puts his beliefs about how to help others first. He is not helping Hancock for money, he is helping him because he believes in him, he believes that the drunken hobbo can be a better human being and as result a great superhero is someone actually offers himt o be his friend. Ray has a heart of gold and even when he feels betrayed by them, he never leaves his friend and family behind. While Hancock doesn't hesitate to use lethal force to save lifes, Ray always has in mind other's well being. While Hancock has the powers and the will, Ray has the courage and the consiousness. They are a great team that works in an interesting way specially at the end.
The movie doesn't end in a bang, nor in a feat of prowess close to lift a continent, the movie end in an portrayal of what human spirit is capable to do when it puts aside the pettyness of our modern society and goes all for it for someone else well being.
So now, considering the reactions from the critics, this left me again with my theory that most of them have no idea of what they are talking about (and are sad creatures like Jay Sherman). Or people is forgetting to have fun and are expecting the next 'Godfather' in every film. And the comic book fans are waiting for the next TDK. I guess most people are trying to don't like the film and focus to hard in the flaws and miss the good bits.
Granted, the film could be much more, it has enough concept and materials for a longer feature and you leave feeling like half an hour of the movie is missing. But I don't see that as a major flaw. It also has put together several topics in a very packed way. The fact that the movie never explains directly the origin of their powers, but just has a veiled reference to what might be, works better than an strightfoward and nowadays too common origin story. When we left the cinema, we spend half an hour speculating and throwing ideas. Sometimes it is good we don't get everything digested and our imagination being allowed to fly for a while. It is not 'Iron Man' or 'Batman Begins', but I had way more fun than with 'Superman Returns'. However, as usual the last word of your opinion about the film is only yours.
In any case I take my own experience with Hancock any day. I gladly would read a comic based in the characters and certainly watch a sequel if it gets made. Even more, he will be added to my superhero rosters, as soon as I find logic way to do it. Just because he gets a solid 8 in the Ollie Queen-Dean Winchester coolness scale. Meanwhile, remember, don'tfly drunk, it leaves cracks everywhere and landings become difficult (and dangerous).