Saturday, July 05, 2008

"Hancock": A tale of three movies, none of them any good

Well, I guess it had to happen eventually. After a summer in which I've liked just about everything I've seen since "Iron Man" (with the caveat that I simply skipped several flicks on general principle), I've finally found a true stinker in "Hancock."

I mean, even M. Night's "The Happening" kept me laughing throughout at just how bad it is in stretches and therefore, I must confess, made me enjoy watching it a lot more than I could have possibly expected, but this one is just a lifeless - and pretty much soulless - creation.

I suppose my opinion doesn't matter too much since Will Smith+the Fourth of July still=mad money in the bank ($41.3 million BEFORE the actual holiday), but that doesn't mean I won't sound off anyway.

So, who's to blame for making this an almost singularly unwatchable mess? There's plenty to go around, but it has to start at the top with Mr. Smith himself this time.

I've had my bones to pick with him through the years, but I never really thought it would come down to him not being enough of an asshole to make a movie work.

However, after spending his entire career crafting his image as the black guy so nice that even the late Jesse Helms (sorry, but he's on my brain after reading his obituary) might invite him home to dinner, he simply doesn't have the edge - no matter how hard he tries - to play a character as innately unlikable as the seriously flawed hero "Hancock." So what you get is Will Smith walking around looking surly for 90 minutes or so, telling all the jokes you've already heard in the trailer and no more of any note. What a waste.

I suppose I would have been able to forgive this if director Peter Berg and writers Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan had been able to choose which direction they wanted to go in with this one. Either unable or unwilling to turn the once-promising premise into a real satire on the nature of heroes and our expectations of them, they instead let the movie just get more and more boring as Hancock is rehabilitated, until it reaches a "twist" ending that will just make you want to scream "wtf!" at the screen (I managed to refrain, but it took a whole lot of self-control!)

It certainly felt like they just reached a point where, after putting together 70 minutes or so of footage that goes absolutely nowhere, they all huddled and came up with the most ludicrous way possible to bring this to its mercifully quick end (though sequels are definitely already on the way.)

Jason Bateman does his best to wrest some laughs from his part as Hancock's PR man, and indeed succeeds at a few points, but he's just fighting a losing battle here. Charlize Theron, however, just looked even more confused by this maddening flick than I was.

And, as much as it pains my heart to say it, Berg's direction here is almost as bad as the story itself. Unsure where to point his camera at many points, he simply lets it spin around at least 360 degrees, never for any apparent reason. And lest anyone who's never been here before think I just had it in for "Hancock" from the start, that's simply untrue. I have nothing but love for Berg's "Friday Night Lights" and even more so the nearly perfect TV show that followed in it wake. But "Hancock" is simply an awful movie from start to finish.

Even so, there are surely great things to come very soon in superhero land, with Guillermo del Toro's "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" coming next week and then a little movie you may have heard of called "The Dark Knight" right after that, so keep hope alive. Peace out.


Ian said...

So glad I've avoided Hancock given the pretty universal reviews which say it's a bit of a mess.

Looking forward to "Hellboy 2" a lot more now that early reviews are saying it's a lot better than the first film. Not that the first film was bad - just that it seemed a bit "average" after all the hype (maybe I just over-reacted to the buzz around the Comic-Con pre-launch for the movie). Guillermo del Toro is giving a Q&A at a preview showing here in London in a few weeks time, so fingers crossed that I've managed to bag a ticket (postal pre-booking for BFI members opened a few days ago).

But July 24th is the date I'm really looking forward to and will probably be my cinematic highlight of the year. That's the "preview" showing of "Dark Knight" at the IMAX, the day before it goes on general release in the UK. So jazzed about what Ledger and Nolan have done individually in the past that I can't wait to see what happened when they worked together.

Reel Fanatic said...

"The Dark Knight" is certainly my summer highlight too, Ian, and I'll certainly be jealous if you indeed get in to the Q&A ... I really liked the first Hellboy a whole lot, but not having too high expectations going probably helped me with that one

Chalupa said...

I was in LA back in Sept when they were shooting this. They had everything blocked off for a couple blocks on Hollywood Blvd and you couldn't get anywhere. Pretty annoying. Not sure if I'm going to see this or not, but I'm definitely not paying to go see it in a theater now.

Anonymous said...

"Soulless?" Ouch. Hancock wasn't Academy Award winning, but it was decently entertaining. And the twist, while maybe providing a bit of an identity crisis for the story, also added depth. Plus Charlize Theron is really, really hot.

Reel Fanatic said...

She is at that, anonymous, and I went into this one expecting nothing more than some harmless summer fun, but for me it didn't even deliver that

Bob said...

I actually really enjoyed it. But one of the reasons I like your blog so much is that even when I disagree with you I can see where you're coming from. I certainly never guessed that "Hancock," of all movies, would be so divisive and yet here we are.

Reel Fanatic said...

It's one of the things I really like about doing this, Bob, that even when people do disagree with me they almost always do so civilly .. I'll have to stop your site tomorrow while I'm at work to see what you like about his one that I might have missed

Mercurie said...

It is disappointing that Hancock turned out to be so bad. I was halfway looking forward to it. After all, it has been awhile since a good superhero comedy. And then the reviews starting pouring in, not a one of them good. It seems it wasn't worth looking forward to.

Anyhow, I am still looking forward to Hellboy II and Dark Knight.

Nell Minow said...

I think Ian has it right when he says it is "a bit of a mess." Okay, maybe more than a bit. But its biggest failing was in confounding the (legitimate) expectations of the audience give (1) its release date, (2) its star, and (3) its ads.

In my review I said it was a blockbuster trying to be an indie -- or maybe two or three. I also feel strongly that the (awful) ending was recut to be more upbeat after test audiences hated the original. Perhaps, as with Smith's last film, we will get to see the original ending on DVD.

Keith, did you notice that Smith's 7-year-old daughter Willow was in the other big release last week, "Kit Kittredge?" She's terrific in it.

Reel Fanatic said...

I didn't notice that, Nell, since I skipped out on seeing "Kit Kittredge" ... Even with the generally very positive reviews it received, I just couldn't see myself going to a movie in which I'm so far from the target audience ... The Smiths are just taking over the world!

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movie actresses said...

I saw this movie last night on television as I enjoyed it. I was surprised to read your negative review about this movie as I didn't feel it was so bad that you think. I can say its a one time watch.