I'll stick my neck out and state this: Should anyone tell you Hancock is not a good superhero movie, then that somebody probably isn't a superhero comic book fan to begin with. Or perhaps prefers the heroes as morally upright boy scouts with unexplainable fetish for lycra tights. And for those who reckon that the Hancock trailer had shown its hand, for once I thought that a trailer barely, and I mean barely, scratched the surface of what surprisingly was a thoroughly enjoyable story, which will take its stand proudly amongst this year's line up of comic book/super hero movies.
But first, I'd got to admit, I'm a Will Smith fan. So at least you might have this review put into perspective. I've been enjoying the Will Smith Express with the kind of movies he's been doing for his career, even for the badly received Wild Wild West. But this guy has been in almost every genre from action (thanks to Michael Bay) to science fiction with I, Robot, romantic comedy with Hitch, a powerful dramatic performance with The Pursuit of Happyness, and the recent remake I Am Legend, and each one I find little or no fault with. In fact, save for one or two movies in his filmography which I have not watched, it's no wonder that Smith's A-list material for his legion of fans around the world, having a name that can marquee a blockbuster movie, and one of the more consistently bankable contemporary stars.
And Hancock (ok, for this review I'd lay off all the jokes) continues in this tradition of entertainment that isn't frivolous. To tell you more about the story would be to ruin whatever surprise it has in store, so I'll not do that. Suffice to say that like all superhero movies, Hancock is also about sacrifice, and I think that's a theme that the genre cannot do away with. It's almost always an exploration about doing the right thing, be it for the love of mankind, or those that touch on the more personal. If you'd believe the trailer as it suggests, then it's suffice to say that Hancock had to grapple with bad public relations from his jerk like behaviour (stuffing heads up arses being his arsenal of choice), and that assistance comes free through the services of Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a life which he saved by, well, causing millions of dollars in damages. If I were to scratch the surface just a little bit deeper, then I'd say that Ray represents the kind of normal life that Hancock probably wished to have, the simple, no save-the-world responsibility lifestyle, with a nice little family with wife Mary (Charlize Theron) and son Aaron (Jae Head) to boot.
Director Peter Berg, who last brought us The Kingdom, dabbles with plenty of technology to bring us a man who can fly, possess incredible strength and being invulnerable to bullets. What I'd enjoyed about his take on this superhero movie, is that he didn't find a need to explain everything in verbatim, i.e. what are the powers he possess, where did he come from, and so on. sure they are addressed, but there's no need for putting it in your face, which I suspect lesser directors would have filmed flashbacks, origin subplots, enemies who are megalomaniacs who want to conquer the universe, and so on. They can be mentioned in passing, or a glance, or to let it work it out in your imagination, which of course is a powerful tool. And keeping it simple helped too, as I was really thrilled at how effective, and deceptively simple, its crescendo was developed, that it's tough to fight back tears as it goes for the juggernaut to reach out for your emotions.
Clearly there were bits from the trailer which were probably put in as red herrings, or likely to have been reserved for the DVD as deleted scenes. While it runs at just over 90 minutes, the pace is frenetic, though of course not without the usual loopholes, especially with a major sequence probably to show off some cool graphics. If I were to gripe about certain things, it would be how YouTube got a significant product placement, and not actually having the actual, exact clips available (I may be wrong but I did do a search), and having the camera seemed to want to take a jab at Will Smith action movies of old by continuously circling around his face ala Bad Boys. Some may also gripe about not having to see much of the born again Hancock in action, but again, the strength of this movie lies not in how it delivers its set action pieces.
So what's my verdict? To Berg, Smith and the rest of the cast and crew, Good Job! And don't be a jerk and bolt for the exits the minute the end credits start to roll, or you deserve to have your head stuffed up another's arse.