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July 9, 2008
FILM REVIEW: Hancock
– One Half Too Long
Quentin Tarantino wrote a movie called From Dusk Till Dawn,
which, halfway in, takes a turn for the extraordinarily bizarre and
never looks back. I liked it, and one of the things it illustrated is
that a movie can take you from Point A to Point B and suddenly start
counting with numbers instead of letters, all the while maintaining the
The whole movie hinges on how long the audience takes to get from
feeling shocked to, once again, being truly engaged. If that transition
is brief, then the writer and director deserve high compliments. But
it’s understandably difficult to do.
went for it but didn’t pull it off. A lot of movies these days put what
would be a shocking plot twist right into the trailer, which anyone who
considers movies a form of art knows is totally wrong. But there’s a
reason for this, and that is a softening of the feeling of shock from
the audience, which makes it much easier to recover. Expectations change
everything. Again, Hancock went for it, giving nothing away in
the trailer, but just doesn’t have the goods to back it up.
Maybe the first half of the movie was too good. It was an
action/comedy/drama that went amazingly smoothly. Jason Bateman was
heavy on the comedy, Charlize Theron was heavy on the drama and Will
Smith pulled the two together perfectly.
Jason Bateman is hilarious. His personality is obviously represented
quite heavily by the character, Ray. If you ever enjoyed the
unfortunately short TV series Arrested Development, you know what
I mean. He’s dry, a little cocky, but light-hearted and likable. He’s
the normal guy with an edge and a delicious sense of humor. As Ray, he
effectively plays a family man who, as his wife (played by Theron) says,
“Always sees the good in people, even when it’s not there.”
Naturally, after Hancock saves him, Ray does his best to reform the
reckless superhero. Will Smith is, as usual, compelling from the opening
scene – which features a close-up of him shooting a snot-rocket (an
instant classic!) – to the last one. I really think he can play just
about any character, and I’m not sure there is another actor out there
who can mix comedy and drama as well as he can. He weaves the two
together seamlessly, and by now, hopefully we’ve all realized that
there’s a reason he’s one of the few actors who can consistently carry a
movie on his lonely back (and oh yeah, that movie will inevitably gross
at least $200 million at the box office, even if it’s not that great).
The director, Peter Berg, who previously directed Friday Night Lights
and Rundown, has a flare for action. The action in Hancock,
however, was often difficult to watch. The flying scenes did not look
much better than those out of The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions,
which I always found distracting. Isn’t there some way to make them look
more real? We haven’t come that far from Falkor, the flying white dragon
in The NeverEnding Story, which was made 24 years ago.
Berg also uses a technique in which he skips back and forth between an
intense action scene and either another action scene or something
completely tame. It’s a mini-version of the elevator gag, when the
action is interrupted by an elevator ride, elevator music and all. But
in Hancock, it doesn’t work very well. It’s frustrating,
actually, because the action scenes were so gritty that cutting away
from them just choked away my interest.
The first half of the movie was really good. The second half, after
turning the plot on its head, is not. It takes away from the first half.
It diminishes the relationship between Ray and his wife, Mary, and takes
away from Hancock’s monumental shift from being a drunk hated by
everyone to a superhero everyone likes. The second half was incredibly
choppy, the plot was no longer very engaging and the explanation for
what happened was totally unsatisfactory.
Granted, I still found the second act mildly entertaining. But it was
more of a one-eyebrow-raised, chuckling-in-my-seat entertaining – not
the kind where you forget where you are until the credits remind you.
If I could divide the movie in two, I’d give the first half four stars
and the second half two. But unfortunately, it was one movie, so it gets
three stars out of five.
Three stars out of
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