Filed under Reviews; 1 comment.
Superheroes have been a hot property for decades, but the last few years have been especially generous to fans of the genre. We've seen everyone from Superman and the X-Men to Constantine and Hellboy transition from comic book to silver screen, many of them successfully. Nonetheless, it was a welcome change of pace to take in Hancock, an original property with its own take on superpowered beings living among us.
Secret identities are a mainstay of the superhero genre, and the same is true for Will Smith's John Hancock, but with a twist: his identity is secret even to himself. Hancock is imbued with flight, super-strength, super-speed, and invulnerability, but like Superboy and unlike Superman, he is always "on" as Hancock. He has no normal childhood to serve as a foundation for his self-identity, nor human persona to retreat to and through which to keep in touch with the non-powered populace he tries to serve. The result is a drunken, reckless "hero" frustrated ostensibly with an ungrateful citizenry, but truly with his own inability to connect to the rest of humanity. The opportunity and struggle to overcome that conflict arises when Hancock saves someone (Jason Bateman) who sees the maligned martyr's potential for greatness, and the two team up to create a new image that rectifies the careless flaws for which Hancock has become infamous.
It's an interesting approach, and one, as another review noted, that's welcome after the fantastic though typical fare of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. There's some comedy here, not too much action, and some character introspection — though there could've been more. The film takes an unusual, though not entirely unexpected, turn in the last half-hour. I've heard criticism of this portion of the film, but I found it satisfactorily answered many questions I'd accumulated during the previous hour.
A different script could likely have satisfied both me and the film's critics more uniformly, but that's not the movie we were given. What we got was a character study on the burden of great power — not its inherent responsibility to others, but its ability to elevate above mankind someone who considers himself below it. Some touching and thoughtful sequences make this a superhero film of a different ilk from what we're accustomed to, and I appreciate that diversity.