While Will Smith is (in my opinion) one of the most watchable film stars in the history of the medium, even his great skill can’t save a bad script and that is the plight that affects Hancock.
Smith is John Hancock, a drunkard with an attitude problem and a tendency to cause major public disruption. Oh, and he can fly, is bulletproof and has super strength. As the local superhero in Los Angeles he has a PR problem, with angry Angelinos unhappy at his performance and the DA wanting him arrested. When he saves the life of PR executive Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) he might finally have an ally that can help him make the best of himself.
The first half hour of the film is its strongest – Hancock’s introduction is neat and the public reactions to his ‘heroics’ well managed. Later in the film, however, things go horribly wrong, with an ‘origins’ subplot that is overly mysterious and more than a little clunky, as well as difficulties with the characters that limit their appeal. The pacing is also problematic, with too long taken to get to the point for some characters while at other times too little is spent getting the story right. Hancock feels like a mishmash of ideas welded together that leaves obvious join marks at the edges.
Smith is adequate, although never shines as brightly as we know he can, while the supporting turn from Bateman is excellent. Ray is restrained enough to play straight man while having the strength to take charge of the situation, and although Bateman isn’t stretched he performs admirably. Charlize Theron seems a little bemused at times, perhaps mostly due to the plot contortions her character is forced to endure.
Long stretches of the film are shot with handheld cameras, and this again provides for a difficult viewing experience – The Kingdom, the last film from director Peter Berg, was similarly afflicted. There seems no point in complaining about this technique given its current ubiquity, however it is hard for many (not just myself) to accept that it adds to the sensation of ‘truth’ that is supposedly enhances.
One minor and two major stars in a Summer blockbuster superhero flick may well have seemed a no-brainer, but sadly that is also the result. Hancock promises much in its first section but is let down by inconsistency and several strange choices in plot, and just won’t stand up to scrutiny. Were there a bit more fun or excitement in the latter stages it may have gotten by, but as it stands it is pretty disappointing.Rating: