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The Fashionably Late Review: Hancock

June 22, 2009

(Ed. note: The Fashionably Late Review is a critique of a film released in the last two years — with spoilers, so it can be appropriately reviewed in its entirety. So be warned. If you really wanted to see the following film by now, you’d have seen it anyway.)

I’m not sure I wanted to like Hancock. And I’m not sure I did.

Actually, that is only half true, because I only half-liked the movie. And by that, I mean precisely half. The film clocks in at one hour and thirty-five minutes, and if you really wanted to break it down, it falls apart at almost exactly the forty-seven minute and thirty second mark. 

Full disclosure: I never really had any interest in seeing this movie. I did see the trailer, which gave me the impression that it was trying very hard to look like a gritty sort of action comedy, and I could tell that because of the washed out orange-ish filter that people like Tony Scott put over their lenses to let you know the movie is taking place in Los Angeles, where apparently everything is very orange and dry-looking. 

And let’s be honest, Will Smith is a fairly likable and bankable action movie star. And Jason Bateman is a fairly likable and bankable minor-comedy star, and Charlize Theron has made some terrible movies but is still a likable star in her own right. And those are pretty much also the only three people in the entire movie.

But lately, Will Smith seems to only make random parts of movies.  I Am Legend is basically one-half of a movie disguised as a full movie. It’s all rising action. Then, at the end, the first action scene appears, and you get excited, and you’re ready for the movie, but the movie’s over. Hancock, similarly, has a nice premise for forty-five minutes. A down-and-out superhero (Smith), living on the streets, drinking, cursing and making a mess of the town he should be protecting, is approached by Ray (Bateman) an altruistic PR guy who wants to help him regain his stature in the community. 

Ray invites Hancock repeatedly to his home, where overtly in-your-face instances of eyeballing occur between the latter and Ray’s wife (Theron). The over-the-topness of these “we’re looking at each other oddly, audience, are you getting this?” moments are out of control. You’d have to never have ever seen a movie before to miss them. As I mentioned, there are basically only three people in this movie, so anytime anything happens, it’s fairly noticeable. 

So we have that. PR Guy, washed up superhero, “something undeniable” between superhero and PR guy’s wife, and we’re off to the races. And Hancock trucks along nicely for a bit. And then we hit the halfway point of the movie, and the wheels fall completely off the cart. And here’s where the spoilers begin.

Suddenly and out of nowhere, during an inexplicable kiss with Smith, Theron reveals herself to be a superhero as well. But not just any superhero — she’s a superhero with some sort of mythology that the audience in no way is allowed to understand, and one which it’s doubtful the writers even understood themselves. She explains that she and Hancock were created for each other (by whom, we never know) and that they’ve known each other since time began, and that when they’re together they both lose their superpowers. Of course, why wouldn’t you understand it? It’s true because Theron just said it was true, and now it’s time to move on. You might think that all this would upset Ray, but it doesn’t. In fact, this love triangle is never even addressed. It’s just assumed that now Theron and Smith are an item. 

So, since they’ve now rediscovered their love, they beat each other up all over L.A. for some reason, and then there’s a shootout in a hospital, and then, just as is Smith’s M.O. these days, the movie’s over. Ray and his cheating superhero wife reunite, everything’s fine, Hancock moves to another town, and we’re finished.

It would seem to me that Will Smith either a.) now reads scripts up until he decides he likes them, then puts them down and doesn’t finish them, or b.) the studios send him only the first half of scripts and just assure him that special effects will handle the rest, and that it’ll just be awesome. Either way, he needs to read a book on narrative structure. Because he owes me some movie decent endings. Starting with Independence Day.

Hancock can be seen this month on the Starz Network. Check your local listings for showings. 

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