Hancock - DVD Review

'The film becomes bogged down in rushed back story, fudged lore and bland displays of super power'.

Released in the same year as Marvel made their opening gambit in establishing their Cinematic Universe with Iron Man - a decision by Columbia Pictures which seems even braver in hindsight - Hancock’s titular superhero (Will Smith) in fact has a fair amount in common with Tony Stark. Both refuse to fit comfortably into the superhero mould, as well as having their fair share of personal issues and lack of social skills in their own way. Where Hancock and Iron Man differ is in their execution: Peter Berg’s film actually goes down a much more interesting, less trodden path than Jon Favreau’s for a sizeable chunk of its running time

Berg spends the opening forty-five minutes of his film setting up John Hancock perfectly as an anti-superhero refreshingly different to what we’ve seen before. Hancock drinks, swears and launches children into the stratosphere for talking back to him. The script from Vince Gilligan shows some of the sharp brilliance the writer would soon become known for through Breaking Bad. Smith’s performance also deserves considerable praise, playing superbly against the wholesome character type for which the actor is primarily known. Smith makes Hancock his own, crafting the antihero as genuinely funny and guiltily likable, but also an undeniable arsehole. Placing Hancock opposite Jason Bateman’s nice guy PR guru and family man Ray Embrey works well, with Bateman and Smith quickly striking up a pleasing double act. Between them, Smith, Gilligan and Berg achieve just the right balance of humour with a wry edge and undertones of social commentary.

Unfortunately, things go downhill from there onwards. A key plot twist at the start of the film’s second half holds some potential, but Berg never feels at all sure of how to make it work, let alone fit with what he’s shown us during Hancock’s first half. The film becomes bogged down in rushed back story, fudged lore and bland displays of super power. Most critically of all, Hancock himself becomes much less interesting as the sharp humour seen in the first half is all but forgotten, replaced with phony emotion and solemnity.

At only ninety minutes, it’s hard to see why Berg didn’t just stick with the great ideas presented in the first half of Hancock, which could easily have been expanded upon and developed into a self-contained story on their own. Additional scenes setting up Hancock and his style of heroics would have been great to see. Eddie Marsan’s antagonist would also have benefited immeasurably from additional time, coming off here as an afterthought and never developed beyond the most basic level.

Considering it’s a project which finally emerged from Development Hell after wallowing there for well over a decade, Hancock is in truth a lot better than you might expect it to be. However, Berg’s film ultimately ends up as the average of its two distinct halves. There’s plenty to enjoy for the first three quarters of an hour, but only if you’re prepared to suffer the disappointment of Hancock’s underwhelming conclusion.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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