Nothing signifies the start of summer more than Will Smith starring in an action movie in which he attempts to save mankind. Though Hancock is slightly different from your typical Will Smith action film (think Independence Day, Men in Black, I am Legend) with twists and turns you wouldn’t expect in a superhero action film, in the end, it’s just your typical summer distraction.
Directed by Peter Berg (The Kingdom), Hancock is the story of a superhero who does more damage than good. Living in Los Angeles, Hancock is despised by the public because of the path of destruction he leaves behind in his bid to fight criminals who terrorize the city. In his alcohol-filled daze, Hancock hates most people and the resident’s feelings towards him are pretty mutual.
Hancock is on his usual path of mayhem, when one day he says the life of wholesome public relations executive Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) by stopping a train from cutting his car (which is stuck on the train tracks) in two. Forever grateful for saving his life, Ray offers his PR services for free to help turn around Hancock’s infamous public image. What follows after is Ray encouraging Hancock to trust him to help turn his life around, a slick (and a bit homoerotic) superhero suit, and Charlize Theron as Ray’s wife Mary, whose attitude you just can’t seem to figure out.
The film’s portrayal of Los Angeles is quite over the top, starting with a full on shoot out involving a vehicle with three hooligans on a crowded L.A. freeway and a police officer in car and helicopter chasing after them, exchanging gun fire.
In another scene, two robbers take over a centrally located Los Angeles bank and strap bombs to the tellers and customers, while police have a shootout with them outside and crowds of people gawk at the scene.
Yes, we get it, L.A. is sometimes a dangerous place to live, with gangs running a muck and a high crime rate. But the over-indulgent portrayal was almost too much to handle, not to mention a bit offensive. While I watched the battles between good and bad take place on the freeways I drive on every day and areas I’ve gone and driven through in this city, I couldn’t help but wonder how much it would affect how people perceive L.A.
On top of that, you have to sit through about more than half of the film, until you finally figure out Charlize Theron’s character’s horrible disdain for Hancock, more than the average Angeleno.
All the performances in the film were more or less satisfactory and Will Smith is great in his role as Hancock, and I can truly appreciate the effort that went into making this movie, including the special effects, the fact that some of the sets were built from scratch, and small details like the pile of broken glasses Hancock has in his trailer as an homage to his musical hero, Miles Davis. Even with all this taken into account, the movie was at best, mediocre. And I guess if you’re a Will Smith fan, looking to see an action packed film on a hot summer night, you really don’t mind or care either way.
All in all, I applaud the film’s effort to be different. It’s not every day that you come across a PR Executive with a heart, let alone a soul or a superhero that’s hated by an entire city. These are the aspects of the film that perhaps will make it bearable to audiences who have to accompany their significant others or over excited children to see the film.
Hancock premieres in theaters on July 2, 2008.
Photo courtesy Sony Pictures