Last night I found myself in attendance for a pre-screening for Will Smith's latest flick, "Hancock". As I head into this mini write up, I want to make a point; I went into "Hancock" with little to no prior knowledge or expectations. The trailers have been floating about out there for awhile, I've watched them once or twice, but honestly I never paid much attention.
For those not in the know, "Hancock" is a super hero story surrounding the main character John Hancock played by Will Smith. Mr. Hancock is a blight on society; he's an alcoholic, homeless and happens to have super powers. He's done what he can to help out with crimes occurring around L.A. but he's not very good about at it. Causing millions of dollars to the city, the general populace tends to hate him. Enter Ray Embry, played by Jason Bateman, a local PR Agent who find himself facing certain doom as he's stuck on a train track. Hancock saves his life and Embry wants to pay him back. He also thinks some PR training and spin control will do wonders for the man's self esteem. Together they set out to reform this super bum into a super hero that the populace loves and admires.
As "Hancock" prepares for it's long weekend opening, it faces a possible insurmountable hurdle; preconception. As you flit about the internet, the quality of many movies is decided upon the trailers alone. For "Hancock" this has been more prevalent that many in recent years. I myself, along with thousands of others, was prepared for the worst. Most expect nothing more than hammy Will Smith acting like a drunken hobo and many catch phrases such as 'Welcome to ERF!’ While the first half of the movie does in fact fit this preconception, it's not to heavy handed, provides some good laughs, is generally slightly annoying but bearable. The trailers however, at least the ones that I've watched, are misleading; at the half way point "Hancock" turns the corner into a serious action movie, a solid super hero origin story, and in general a hell of a lot of fun.
The key to enjoying "Hancock" is remembering the fact that it's a pure origin story. It's also an original origin story; instead of trying to opt in a long existing coming book yarn and conforming it to a new format, they've set out to create an entirely new hero with zero back story. The first half of the film that focuses on the down and out hero is necessary. We don't know where he's coming from, we don't know who he is. Instead of ret conning (Thanks Schnaars!) a story of hardship and trauma into an existing story line, we're watching it develop from the beginning. Act 2 introduces us to the first appearance of the hero. He reluctantly sets to help out the populace in a non destructive and sober way. He's nervous, he's a bit cocky, he's emerged from the origin ashes. Act 3 gives us a taste the full blown hero mode and just how powerful he is. It also returns full circle to give us a full dose of origin story to eventually culminate in a full blown super hero in the final five minutes of film. What excites me over this formula is simple; we're given a brand new super hero that we know nothing about. Over the course of the movie we watch this hero evolve into a full blown hero. The movie is of course left wide open for sequels and the chance of a franchise super stardom. The beauty is, we've gotten the character development done in this first movie; number 2 is going to be some pretty solid ass kicking action.
"Hancock" has it's faults. Many are going to have a hard time getting over Smith's schtick in the first act of the movie. Honestly though, it's not as over the top as "ID4" and the like. There are also some scenes in the second act that could use some serious editing. There are lulls in the flow here that may cause you to glance at your watch a time or two, but the third act will more than make up for it. There is a Shyamalan-esque twist closing out the second act that completely caught me off guard. This twist is what makes the movie turn the corner from mediocre to really good for a super hero origin story. Ultimately, "Hancock" is going to shed some new light on 'super heroes' in general, and that's not a bad thing. Comic Book purists may disagree but for me, it worked well.
I myself will give "Hancock" a 7 out of 10. Solid story if you give a chance and in all honesty, I really enjoyed myself over all.
Will Smith haters though? Yah, you're probably not going to like it. But, sometimes parents just don't understand.