Film Reviews

Hancock Peter Berg

Rating - 7/10

My twelve-year-old self would kick my ass to find how disengaged I am this summer, the Greatest Superhero Summer Ever (TM).  Indeed, Hollywood is dropping well developed gems left and right, from the perfectly timed and conceived emergence of Iron Man to the premature dictate that The Dark Knight is a genre-topping masterpiece.  Add to that sequel service the recurrences of Indiana Jones and Hellboy, and it becomes clear that geeks should really be happier.

Perhaps because it is the most bizarre, the semi-annual Will-Smith-owns-the-box-office vehicle Hancock seems to have been written off as the confused blockbuster.  Its too bad, because the film, directed by Peter Berg of Friday Night Lights fame, is quite good and very interesting.

The marketing angle has been Will Smith subverting his hero image as an alcoholic, misanthropic superhero.  This angle is well handled in the first half of the film, marrying an affected shaky cam aesthetic with its own brand of witty slapstick.  The idea is interesting, casting the underappreciated superhero in a more down to earth, grumpy mode than existential Batman operatics.

The developments from this foundation seem to be where many lose the picture, but I found they worked.  If the unsympathetic lout of the first half seems underexplored, at least he is not beat into the ground.  The second half of the film succeeds in restoring this initially sloppy superman into a unique, mythic hero with his own tragic dignity.  If Hancock lacks the iconic weight of this season's other heroes, it must be said that it is refreshing to find a movie of this type, notably not based on an existing comic, that is often unpredictable.

With his lonely, semi-mad lead in I am Legend and now this, Will Smith is taking strides to complicate his likeable hero persona with shades of darkness and flaws.  This is a nice development, because beyond his matinee looks and charisma, he is also a pretty great actor.  Despite its mixed reception, Hancock may actually be a few notches better than any of his previous summer blockbusters.  It may have taken this summer's embarrassment of superhero riches for such a bold, unconventional, and mostly successful foray into the genre to be under-rated.