Written by: Vy Vincent Ngo & Vince Gilligan
Starring: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Eddie Marsan
Having superpowers does not automatically make one a superhero despite what many comic book stories try to emulate. One’s intentions might be good, but the approval may not always arrive from the very people you try to save. An incredibly intriguing concept Hancock tries to work through all the way until it switches gears and becomes about something far less intriguing and even quite dumb.
With the power to fly, being impenetrable, and super strength, Hancock (Will Smith) tries to help save the day but each time he ends up causing more damage than what he ends up saving. In one of his heroic attempts, he saves Ray (Jason Bateman), a public relations consultant who offers his services in cleaning up the superhuman’s public image. As the two work together, Hancock learns more about Ray and his wife, Mary’s (Charlize Theron) connection to the vigilante.
In most cases, superhuman vigilante stories get viewed through the lens of the people seeing them as a good facet of the community. The police may have a different interpretation seeing as vigilantism typically makes their job more difficult. However, belief from the people remains the most important thing to keep these heroes going, and Hancock pushes the question of what would occur if literally everyone hates the superhero, which at the very least is interesting. It makes for less of a clean-cut narrative and demonstrates this film at its apex.
This idea works so well, especially in our era because everything comes down to image and how things get communicated to larger audiences. It proves why celebrities hire image consultants and publicists who know how to play the media to maximize good deeds and then hide those more negative ones. It comes as this larger game and this feature explores what it would look like for a superhuman trying to be adored by the masses. Hancock never gained the affection of the people because of him always being drunk and never having any regard for others and all it takes is a few adjustments and he can face adoration. Hancock really shines when focusing on this, but then it takes a shift in such a boring way that eventually just brings down the entire production.
Set as a reveal, but there is more than meets the eye with some of the other characters here and Hancock may not be the only one with powers. An unnecessary turn in the feature which then gets into the titular character’s past and further exploration of his powers. My goodness did this film just completely sink when it jumped into this aspect of the story simply because it feels antiquated and turns the visuals into a showcase of horrible CGI. Trust me, everything looked terrible before but it had something interesting to say about superheroes and their relationships with the public. The turn in the story just accentuates big CGI-filled sequences devoid of any real meaning. It feels like the equivalent of someone throwing away their physical media collection for a Netflix account in the way it tried to get more palatable and as a result, completely lost my interest.
On top of it all, the film just kept repeating similar ideas over and over again, which would not be terrible if the original use of it brought anything of note. This comes in the use of the word “asshole.” This must have set the world record for the number of times the word “asshole” has been used but ultimately it becomes the only way people love to communicate with Hancock. It becomes a word that enrages him to no end. Overall, this film’s obsession with butts feels so 2000s to me to the point where Hancock threatens to stick someone’s face up another individual’s butt. Along with the use of asshole, it shows the screenwriters were certainly going through some things here. This use of an insult then gets repeated with another character and you could just see it a mile away.
The change in the narrative comes as a real shame because it wastes a particularly intriguing performance by Will Smith. Not typically portraying an unlikable character, Smith runs with the ruggedness of Hancock and what makes him initially disliked by the general public and pretty much everyone he ever communicates with. Garnering little to no sympathy at the beginning, Smith then manages to show the broken nature of this man and how he barely knows much about what has occurred in his life. This power, at times, feels like a curse and Smith does well to capture the emotions, but he just never had a chance with the script and direction he received in this feature.
Just an overall waste, Hancock had the potential to be something absolutely refreshing in its approach but then decided to get painfully rudimentary and unfulfilling as a result. It wastes the wonderful talent brought together for this feature and has me wishing they could try the first half of the story again and tease it out more. This could have laid out a strong message before getting into the more trite and unfortunately expected aspects of being a story about superhumans.