What if Superman was a Mega Douche?
Nov 22, 2009
Review by truckturner
Rated a Very Helpful Review
User Rating: Very Good
Pros:Cast, themes, premise, humour
Cons:Logic quibbles, weak villain
The Bottom Line: The film isn’t as good as it could have been, but is quite considerably better (and a bit less sanitised) than I was expecting.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
Will Smith is the title superhero, who ain’t no Superman, that’s fer sure! He’s an alcoholic jerk, who dresses like a bum, doesn’t give a damn, and when he does help out humanity, he gets little thanks in return (Basically men, women, and children all call him an a-hole, rather deservedly). Actually, the reason why he gets no thanks in return (aside from his surly demeanour) is because he tends to be a little rough and clumsy in carrying out his heroic pursuits. In fact, he’s run up a pretty sizeable damages bill with the city (one particularly bad mishap- one!- causes damages around $9 million), and the DA wants to put Hancock in prison, somewhat ironically.
Enter failing PR man Jason Bateman (who, shockingly for his profession, wants the drug companies that employ him to do right by people less fortunate!), whose life Hancock has just saved. He has an idea to give Hancock a PR makeover. But in order for Hancock to be once again considered the city’s saviour against criminals, Bateman has the radical idea of having Hancock volunteer to go to prison, to show the city that he’s willing to make things up to them and change his unseemly, destructive ways. He also needs to go through a few personal changes (like shaving!), and even adorns a new superhero suit. Meanwhile, what’s up with Hancock and Bateman’s wife Charlize Theron? Why are they always so weird around each other? And why does Hancock remember so little about his origins? Jae Head plays Bateman’s kid who idolises Hancock, much to the grouchy superhero’s initial chagrin. Brit actor Eddie Marsan plays a crim with a vendetta against Hancock (and a bad attempt at an American accent), and Donald Gibb (of “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Bloodsport” fame) can be seen in a smallish role (though he’s anything but small these days!).
I approached this film cautiously, as I’m not a fan of the current crop of ‘thoughtful’ superhero movies, or the jocular Will Smith summer blockbuster movie. I’m thoroughly sick (and at odds) with the current notion of subverting/ reinventing the superhero movie genre, trying to demystify and humanise comic book characters seems such a pointless pursuit to me. Why remove the very things that make these films what they are (and what have proven to work!) and replace them with mopey characters, endless dialogue, and other sorts of tedium? What’s super about that? But this Peter Berg (“Very Bad Things”, “Friday Night Lights”) action-comedy, decides to have a little fun with the idea (what if the hero in charge of saving humanity was a careless, grouchy drunk?), and for once, I was mostly able to go along with it (cute musical cue lifted from “Superman”), surprising the heck out of me.
Smith can be a bit aggravating and hokey in action/comedy mode (I hate the “Men in Black” films, am ambivalent to the “Bad Boys” films, and liked everything in “ID4” except Smith’s over-the-top schtick), and the trailers made it look far too much like a typically over-the-top Will Smith summer blockbuster. As much as I’m not keen on the reinvention of the superhero movie (“Superman” still stands as the best superhero film of all-time in my view), I don’t like the idea of ultimately succumbing to the Big Willie Style formula, either. But thankfully, Smith gives one of his better performances, playing his a-hole character to the fullest extent, rarely trying to make him terribly likeable or exuberant, which is as it should be. There’s very few goofy catchphrases and ‘Will-isms’ here, folks. Here he’s totally uncommunicative, uncooperative, selfish, and with barely a glimmer of humanity to him. Basically, it’s Smith subverting his own usual likeable screen persona (A persona I loved on TV’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, but have since grown tired of). I would’ve liked them to go the whole hog with profanity and sex and all kinds of debauchery (I’ve heard the original script went in this “Bad Santa” sort of direction, but unlike many critics, I don’t feel it’s too sanitised here), but then I’d also like to see Bruce Campbell in the lead, and that’s just fantasy talk, isn’t it? So we’ve got what we’ve got, and this is a better example of demystifying or reinventing the superhero movie than most before it.
That’s not to say that this film isn’t fun too, I mean for me a superhero movie has to be fun, which is why “Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight”, and especially “Iron Man” failed to work for me, they were mopey, tedious and fatally removed a lot of the ‘fun’ aspects to a superhero film. This film gets the balance a lot better, and never quite goes into Frank Capra schmaltz or Slick Willie Style like I was dreading it would (though the film’s climax nearly does, I forgave it because it was such an unusual and ballsy conclusion to a superhero movie). Or to put it another way, it’s the movie “Men in Black” should have been, mixing offbeat ideas and gags, with genuine comic book action entertainment (“Men in Black” was all weirdness and no entertainment, in my view, it should’ve been much more mainstream- Yeah, I said it! But it’s true in that film’s case!).
And thank God for Jason Bateman! Yes I did just type that, and I’m just as amazed as you (for more than one reason- I’m an atheist!), well, unless you watch “Arrested Development”, which I do not (He was hilarious in “Dodgeball”, though). But in this film, from his very first scene, Bateman is hilarious and a good part of what nearly makes this film a success. Random and irrelevant aside: I know “Dickie Roberts” sorta did the child star reunion thing, but does anyone else think Bateman should get together with Scott Baio, Fred Savage, Rick Schroeder, the two Coreys, Jaleel ‘Urkel’ White, and Michael J. Fox (if well enough) to do a film about child stars grown-up? It’d be great, whether as comedy or drama (Or how about a gangster flick with Dustin ‘Screech’ Diamond as the heavy! That’d be awesome!- Or insane, I dunno which), I’m sure there’s an idea in there (Just remember to credit me with the original idea, OK?). End of random, irrelevant aside. Sorry for the interruption.
The romantic angle with Theron starts off being way out of line (hey, she’s a married woman, dude! Hands off!), but the twist with this aspect, is actually the film’s best idea (despite a few confusing and unconvincing ‘rules’, which I won’t go into further so as not to spoil things for the uninitiated), and probably the only interesting thing about her character at all. Some have said that the twist was obvious, but I was expecting a different (more conventional) twist, so I was genuinely surprised at where it went. I did think that making Hancock be more than 80 years old was a big mistake, it leaves too many questions unanswered (How long has he been an a-hole? How long has he been a crime-fighter? How long have the rest of human society been aware of his existence? None of these questions are answered!). And while I’m talking about questions here, is Hancock bullet-proof or is it just his new suit that is bullet-proof? The film never really makes that clear, and if it’s the suit, that’s kinda silly given it’s man-made. If it’s Hancock, then why does it look like it’s the suit? Weird.
The film also desperately needs a solid supervillain, with Marsan’s small-time thug not at all up to par, and that’s a big deal too (Here’s an idea, get Eddie Murphy to play a super-rich, super charming villainous counterpart to Smith’s cranky, derelict-looking but ultimately well-meaning superhero Hancock, kinda like “Trading Places”, but without the race angle and superheroes instead. Hmmm, better copyright that idea...) Meanwhile, there’s a dumba*se prison fight in which the prisoners are either incredibly dumb or incredibly forgetful (Why are they fighting a superhero? No way they’re gonna win that fight!).
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
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