By Scott Lumley
July 2, 2008
I've seen a large number of movies this summer, and without fail, each and every one of them has stirred within me a strong emotion. I've felt whimsy, joy, sadness, glee, nostalgia, hope and sorrow. I watched Hancock tonight and felt an entirely new emotion.
Seriously, people, I want to find Peter Berg and slap him upside the head for directing this mess. Hancock is the absolute worst kind of bad movie you can find. This movie has a pile of potential, gifted actors and amazing special effects and they completely screwed up the end game.
We've all seen the commercials for this movie by now. If anything, they've done a nice job underplaying just how powerful Hancock (played by Will Smith) really is. The accidental damage that he causes when he bumps into things runs into the millions of dollars. He saves lives, but at the same time he's trashing the place.
He's convinced by a PR agent named Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) to clean up his act and try to be the hero he should be. Hancock reluctantly agrees to give it a shot and the first part of the movie follows this nicely. We start to see some of the things that are driving Hancock. We see how lonely and confused he is, and how hurt he is by the constant criticisms of his actions when he really is just trying to help. There is a lot of humor and a pathos in these scenes, and you really start to pull for Hancock as a person and a hero.
Then, just as the film has piled up a ton of good forward momentum, the whole thing is completely derailed by a plot twist that comes completely out of left field. I recall vividly sitting in the theatre when they did this and the entire audience sat there so stunned they were unable to react. While this plot twist - involving kitchen hardware - does generate one of the funnier scenes in the movie, it rapidly demolishes the entire plot of the film. All the progress that we see Hancock make is completely derailed as he reels from this new information.
And really, it did not make a lick of sense. There is only a cursory attempt at explaining this plot twist, which fails miserably, and then the writers try to cover it up with special effects in a big superhero brawl. Yes, you read that right too. It's a superhero brawl near the end of the movie because the story does not bother to establish or even really introduce a super villain. The closest they get to a super villain in the entire movie is a former college professor that arranges a bank heist. Not a mad scientist, not a power mad general or a serial killer, a university professor. It's unknown if the original script called for the bad guy to be a donut baker or possibly a librarian, but I really wouldn't rule it out.
It's being made abundantly clear this summer exactly how a super hero movie should be produced. We have two absolutely stellar examples in Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Hancock has also provided us a sterling example of how NOT to make a superhero movie. It starts off with a world of promise and proceeds to squander all of it, ending with a sentimental and half baked ending that left me feeling nauseous, not happy.
So if you're still jonesing for a good superhero fix at the theater, do yourself a favor and wait for the Dark Knight. I think you'll thank me for it.