There are certain things that most superheroes have in common. For starters, there's almost always a secret identity involved. Superman has Clark Kent. Spiderman goes about his non-hero business as Peter Parker. Not so with Hancock. Everyone knows him as such and he always uses the same identity. He dresses in everyday clothing and has no alter ego. He even goes through most of the movie without even thinking of a special costume.
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His full name is John Hancock, an allusion to the most famous of signatures. (The reference is explained in the movie.) John is the most basic of heroes. He doesn't seem to have use for social skills or manners. When he arrives to help someone, he does what he has to do to save their lives, but doesn't seem to care what the consequences are. This bothers many elected officials, public servants and common people.
To give you a good example, Ray Embry, played by Jason Bateman, enters the movie when Hancock saves him from an oncoming train. Ray made the mistake of stopping on the track and not noticing said oncoming train because he was talking on the phone. Instead of picking up the car and flying off, Hancock chooses to stop the train, thus derailing it. Yes, Ray gets to live another day, but the railroad company is left to clean up a huge mess.
Everyone at the scene is upset with Hancock because this is just the latest in a string of messes he's made. Ray, recognizing that Hancock saved his life, decides to repay him by trying to change his image. Turns out, he's an advertising executive, so he knows a little about changing image. Apparently, Ray likes a challenge.
Ray's wife doesn't think that the makeover will work. Hancock is not only impolite, but he's a drunk and a rather mean one at that. He lives in a trailer far removed from anyone else. He seems to hate everyone for calling him what he is. I don't know that he's necessarily a bad person. It's just that, as I said earlier, he doesn't realize why it's important to be polite. He knows that stopping a carjacking or a murder is the right thing to do. He doesn't realize that form is at least as important as function.
Hancock seemed a bit over the top at times. In one scene, he throws a kid so far up in the air that he has to wait a minute or two to catch him. (Another scene is not fit for describing in mixed company, but you won't be able to listen to the theme to Sanford and Son the same way.) The bad guys, on the other hand, seemed a bit flat. I felt like they were just there to give Hancock something to do.
I don't know if there was any source material, like we have with other superheroes, who seem to be based mostly on comics. This was a good thing for me because it all seemed new. Even though comic-based books do deviate a little from the source material, you generally know the basic information like where they came from and who the main bad guys are. (Despite never having read a comic book in my life, I can usually point out the minor changes to the story.)
I felt like Hancock's back story could have been spread out a little. We spend a good portion of the movie learning about the basics of Hancock, like what a jerk he is. We also learn that he woke up with amnesia, not knowing who he was. Then, we have a good portion of his history dumped on us all at once. I could have seen the information being spread out over several movies. A hero with amnesia does seem interesting.
Despite the flaws, I do recommend the movie to people. This is not a movie for children, as there's quite a bit of name calling and vulgarity, not to mention images that small children may not be able to deal with. Interestingly enough, it does look like there will be a sequel, at least according to IMDb. I'd definitely be interested in seeing it.
Viewing Format: DVD