Saturday, January 03, 2009

Movie Log: Hancock

There sure were a lot of big-budget superhero pictures this year, weren't there? And, despite the presence of the always-personable Will Smith (who also occasionally breaks out of his usual "love me" aura to do some decent acting), Hancock is by far the least of those movies.

Hancock, the character, is a superpowered guy living outside LA -- he's drunk and unstable, but the movie doesn't explain him in the early going. He's just there, like smog or traffic jams; part of the LA landscape that must be tolerated, since nothing can be done about it. (And that movie -- a Marvels-style story in which Hancock isn't the main character -- could have been quite good. That's only one of the many possible good movies Hancock nearly turns into, but, sadly, it ends up as a dumb and generic bad one instead.)

We do learn more about him later on -- there's a variation on Ebert's famous "Talking Killer" scene late in the movie, where another character explains Hancock's past and importance to him. By that point, though, the movie would have been better off without it -- Hancock as unknown and unknowable singular superpowered enigma is more intriguing than Hancock the last remaining blah blah blah.

Hancock tries on several movies before it finally settles -- there's the Hancock-as-public -menace movie, which quickly turns into poor-sad-alcoholic-Hancock, which shifts slightly into reforming-Hancock-through-the-power-of-PR movie (which brings in the game Jason Bateman as PR guru Ray Embrey, who's mostly left in the middle as the movie happens around him). And then it finally drops into the most obvious of the movies it could have been: the big-secrets-of-Hancock movie, crossed with a little minor revenge plot and some long-lost love, because the preview audiences always eat that up.

The second half of Hancock is alternately talking itself to death and smashing buildings to no good purpose; the special effects are excellent and the dialogue mostly sounds like real human beings (never to be assumed in a superhero movie), but it all adds up to a big fat nothing.

I found myself wishing that Hancock had been adapted from some comic-book series -- it wasn't was it? -- so that there would be some extensive backstory that I could amuse myself by trying to remember during the least plausible moments. Sadly, Hancock requires the audience to provide its own entertainment.

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