Hancock (2008)

(In theaters, July 2008) Oh my. If I was feeling generous, I would have a few nice things to say about Hancock‘s thematic depth regarding the tension between power and happiness, its unpredictability and the chances it takes with well-worn material. Alas, seeing Hancock doesn’t put anyone in a good mood, so let’s start swinging by saying that the film is picture perfect example of a good premise disintegrating as it goes along. The Big Problem of the film is that it’s two radically movies smashed together: a comedy about a drunk burnt-out superhero putting back his life together (the movie promised by the trailers) and a drama about superheroes who can’t live with each other (most definitely not shown in trailers). While it’s conceptually refreshing to see marketing campaigns not giving away the last half of a film, that radical alteration of the premise leads to a wholly different movie experience, and not a very good one at that: The suddenly-introduced mythology makes little sense and allows accursed screenwriter Akiva “massively overrated hack” Goldsman to indulge in his usual mystical nonsense. It’s bad enough that the back-story of the characters makes no sense (why would she move there, what did they look like 3,000 years earlier, what was in Miami 80 years ago, etc.), but the power-draining shtick is inconsistently applied for maximum tear-jerking impact. Over and over again, Hancock almost touches upon interesting issues: what would it take for a superhero to lose faith in the common man? But the final film is an uneven romp that wraps up after 40 minutes, leaving little but a far less pleasant last act as a so-called “climax”. It’s as if someone had received a mandate to torpedo a perfect summer blockbuster with extreme prejudice. As it stands, the only person who emerges from the debacle more or less intact is Will Smith. Director Peter Berg certainly doesn’t, mis-applying pseudo-documentary cinematic techniques to a film that doesn’t need any. Any half-way competent producing team would have been able to see the fundamental problem in Hancock‘s present form: but the final movie is nothing but a testimony to the power of how even large group of people can delude themselves into crashing a sure-fire production straight into a wall.

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