When I first head about this film I thought it sounded shit. That’s mostly because a friend of mine described it to me and he didn’t do a very good job. It didn’t help that I just associated Will Smith with bad films thanks to the likes of Hitch. So, I didn’t want to watch it. Cut to a few years later and another friend telling me to watch it. This time, I trusted his opinion and gave it a shot. I didn’t hate it but I can’t pretend that it’s a film I’ve thought a lot about since. Until it appeared on my Netflix home screen the other day. Then I got the sudden urge to watch it again. As it’s been a while since my last TBT, I decided it was worth going back to it. Maybe it would make more of an impression this time?
The vague idea of Will Smith playing a superhero who needs a PR expert is a solid one. Add Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron to the mix and this should have been a film that I could get behind. The problem is, Hancock tries to be too clever. Or, rather, it tries to do too much. You can’t help but feel as though this film went through too many changes in pre-production until it was just a mess of half-baked ideas. It rips off every superhero movie it can think of to create an underwhelming figure. In terms of humour, it can’t decide whether it’s a Bad Boys style edgy comedy or more of an obvious one. Then there’s the second-half of the film, which attempts to throw a curveball into the mix but just makes things unnecessarily complicated. Rather than elevate the film, the shock twist just raises more questions than it answers.
One of the few things that does manager to save this film is Jason Bateman as the PR guru. Unlike every other PR guy portrayed in Hollywood film, we’re presented with an earnest and sweet man. It is this sincerity that really changes this from being another other superhero film. It adds a much needed emotional jolt between the shows of super strength. He’s also a great counterpoint for Smith’s Hancock. You can imagine plenty of versions of this film in which Batemans’ Ray was cynical and greedy. The kind of man who looked at Hancock and saw dollar signs. It would not have worked as well. The much-needed human element is what ties this to reality even when things go off the rails.
And they do go off the rails. The last third of the film is just kind of stupid and that’s the part after Hancock chucks a whale into the ocean. The film just doesn’t hold up at this point. Rather than standing out for its originality, Hancock just becomes another superhero movie but with a slightly more complicated origin story. There are also plenty of aspects of the reveal that just doesn’t make sense. I still have so many questions about the logistic of the story. Had the film stuck on its original track the it would have been stronger. It would have been more fun as well. This film’s biggest mistake is shifting the focus from Ray and Hancock’s relationship. The introduction of a one-dimensional villain is just the icing on this slightly shit cake. The fact that this villain is played by a horrendously underused Eddie Marsan is the cherry on top. It’s just all very disappointing.
Although, I do have to admit that Hancock did change my mind about Will Smith. The film isn’t perfect but he does a really good job of playing this character. He forgoes playing up to the audience in the way that would have been expected and just embraces being an asshole. It’s the best decision he could have made. Had Hancock changed his ways the film wouldn’t have worked on any level. It’s just a shame that the whole thing didn’t give him more of a chance to shine and standout.