Monday, December 29, 2008

Hancock: Delivers Too Much & Too Little

After being repulsed by rich, white guy, Bruce Wayne running around in a rubber suit in The Dark Knight, I was ready for a down and out black superhero in the latest Wil Smith video release, Hancock. I loved the last Wil Smith film I saw, I Am Legend. And, what? Shit blows up and the superdude doesn’t like cops or ridiculous uniforms? Sign me up.
Well, not quite.
Sure, Hancock has some funny bits – the armor piercing ejaculation was worth a guffaw and his drunken flight, bouncing a vanload of baddies off nearby buildings. I love that stupid shit. The whale toss? Classic.
There were even a couple of good stories in there – the hated superhero who needs a publicist to improve his image and the superhuman who’s lost his memory and now wanders alone and embittered imagining that he is the only of his kind. But that’s where the problem started. When you’ve only got an hour and a half to two hours – unless you’re making Batman films – you’ve got to be efficient and that means one story only. The result here is that neither story gets its due and none of the relationships are properly developed.
Charlize Theron spends the first half of the film throwing looks and/or jibes towards Wil Smith, setting us up over and over for something significant to happen. But then we have to wait until we’re over halfway into the film to find out what the deal is. By then we’re getting bored.
Boredom is especially a problem because the director, Peter Berg, has chosen to truncate the first story – the recuperation of Hancock’s self-image and public popularity – largely through a montage sequence, in which events are more or less repeated with slight variation. This prevents any drama or identification from developing. Then Hancock is redeemed in the eyes of the public – after years of being a much-hated public nuisance – with one daring rescue that takes up perhaps five minutes of screen time. Suddenly his anger issues are resolved and we move onto the next story between he and Charlize (never mind the total disappearance of the Jason Bateman subplot that drove the first half of the film).
Beyond these story issues, I have to ask, does anyone else out there think that it’s stupid for a superhero who is immortal, can fly, stop bullets, etc. to spend his time stopping dudes from robbing banks and liquor stores? Is that really the best use of their time? I dunno, how about that war in Iraq, or the Congo, or Afghanistan. Why not, you know, stop Israel from bombing the shit out of Gaza. And why not break the siege that is starving the population? How about those death squads killing trade unionists in Colombia and other places?
Instead, we’re led to believe that the biggest problem facing us is petty crime by (usually) black and brown people. That might make sense if you’re trying to sell homes in gated communities but its pathetic in a superhero story. I wouldn't pay to see this film in a movie theatre, I admit. But a five dollar video rental isn't so painful. Besides, it isn't as long as that stupid movie about the guy in the bat suit.
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