John Hancock, to be precise. But this isn’t about a famed signer of the Declaration of Independence. It’s about a drunken lout who lives in a cluttered, tiny trailer in the middle of the desert, but prefers to sleep on park benches with large bottles of whiskey close at hand. He also happens to have super-powers. But those don’t win him an adoring public, like you might expect. In the first three minutes of the movie, he gets called the same insulting thing three times, which quickly becomes the running joke of the film.
John Hancock, to be precise. But this isn’t about a famed signer of the Declaration of Independence. It’s about a drunken lout who lives in a cluttered, tiny trailer in the middle of the desert, but prefers to sleep on park benches with large bottles of whiskey close at hand. He also happens to have super-powers. But those don’t win him an adoring public, like you might expect. In the first three minutes of the movie, he gets called the same insulting thing three times, which quickly becomes the running joke of the film. I can’t say it here, because I’m pretty sure it’s beyond PG-13, but the point is, this isn’t anything like Superman… unless you’ve always suspected that Superman flies drunk once in a while.
One thing I’ve always wondered about with Superman and other super-strong types is how they get the leverage to do some of these things, because no matter how strong you are, you can’t just lift a building with your two hands. They’re a little more realistic about that here (realistic being a very relative term, of course). It’s got more an Unbreakable vibe than an X-Men feel, let’s put it that way. So while flipping around cars is no big deal (see below) they don’t have him lifting up battleships with one hand, either. There’s just the whale incident that’s really comic-book-ish.
But the point is, though he stops a freeway chase involving half the LA police and men with automatic weapons (good) he also causes more than nine million dollars in collateral damage (bad). He rarely accidentally kills anyone, it seems, but it isn’t from lack of trying, because once he wades in, he doesn’t stop to think about where the sharp pieces of metal are flying.
Enter Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman — I have a vague recollection of him as one of the kids on the old Valerie TV show, which I never watched, and he’s on that Arrested Development show, too, which you couldn’t pay me enough to watch). He’s a PR consultant. I always wondered how PR consultants made money, and this doesn’t clear that question up at all. He seems to spend his days trying to convince large corporations to be charitable — an admirable goal, but I don’t see how it gets him paid, since he doesn’t seem to be one of the charities.
But he rebuilds images for a living, and boy, does Hancock’s image need rebuilding. When Ray is caught in a traffic jam and nearly run over by a train, Hancock saves his life. He also wrecks Ray’s car and several others nearby, not to mention what happens when he stops the train… because he just stops the train, cold, and with dozens of cars attached to that engine, also moving along quickly… well, you can imagine.
Ray stops a near-riot, makes a point of thanking Hancock, and an uneasy alliance is born. Promising to make everyone adore and respect him, Ray has Hancock surrender himself to the police in response to the dozens of warrants issued against him over the years. That, basically, is Movie 1.
Movie 2 involves Ray’s family; namely his adorable little boy, Aaron (Jae Head), who already adores Hancock, and his blond suburban wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), who is about as thrilled as one might imagine to have LA’s bad boy hanging around with her husband and ruining the road in front of her suburban house with his wild takeoffs and landings.
Movie 1 is sort of a typical comic-book style movie, really. Hancock has to face lots of men whom he put in jail, while in jail, which goes about as one might expect. Actually, it’s probably much weirder than you’d expect, but it certainly isn’t good. Movie 2 is… different, and I’m unsure of how to describe it without giving too much away. (If you don’t care about that, see the brand-new, never-before-attempted-by-me spoiler section below.) It’s more supernatural, more thoughtful, delving into Hancock’s past, which is of course tragic, but not in the way I was thinking. Anyway, the two movies collide dramatically at the end, though Movie 1 kind of gets run over by the more epic Movie 2.
So now I’m not sure what to rate this. I liked both halves of the film, but it was a little uneasy watching them try to fit together. But Will Smith can save nearly any script, apparently. He’s some kind of good luck charm, not to mention being a very good actor; and Charlize and Jason are right in there with him on his rescue mission. We’ll go with three and a quarter idols, one idol for each main character and a quarter just because it’s a superhero movie and I tend to like those. You know, unless it’s The Mask, because I liked that comic and they ruined it for the screen.
Basically, it’s a fun watch, but be prepared to be pulled in several different directions, and never quite sure what kind of film this is. But it’s a good, intriguing summer flick, with good effects, good dialogue, and even a scantily-clad Will. What more could you want?
Okay, if I’ve done this right, selecting the text below should let you read it. In case I’ve done something that won’t work on all computers (I’m a movie critic, not a programmer), the following blank space should hopefully let you veer away before you see anything you don’t want to see. Normally I won’t do this, but this time I have a fun little theory about what’s going on that I wanted to share.
If you’ve seen the film, you know that there’s a strong eagle motif for Will’s character — his hat has an eagle, he wears an eagle necklace, and has a pet eagle at the end, besides the eagle on his super-suit. Take that, plus the fact that he and Mary have supposedly known each other and been in both love and hate for centuries, maybe millennia, my theory is that they’re actually supposed to be Zeus and Hera. Zeus’ symbol was the eagle, and he and Hera were always fighting. They were once part of a group of others like then, now dead, and Mary claims they were all made to be paired off, like most gods in the Greek pantheon. She also at one point tries to convince Hancock that they’re actually brother and sister instead of husband and wife, which Zeus and Hera were, both children of Cronus and Rhea. She also says that they were once called gods, before they were called superheroes. And when she gets angry, she gets ANGRY, which is very Hera-like, and actually very unlike her Mary persona. So my take, for what it’s worth.
Originally posted 7/2008. The spoiler stuff is probably no longer really all that spoiler-y, but I’ve left it hidden just in case. There’s STILL vague talk about a sequel, and I’m still relieved that it never seems to get very far.