Friday, July 11, 2008


Cast: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
Director: Peter Berg
Rating: **
Runtime: 92 min.
Genre: Action, Comedy, Superhero, Fantasy

        Early in Hancock, there is a rather standard shot of the moon dissolving into a morning aerial tracking shot of the sea. It feels more beautiful than it actually is, and it is because the film is shot so ridiculously I wanted to tear apart something in my vicinity. Not that I’m a superhero, but these filmmakers who assume they’re cool and groundbreaking with their thousand edits per second and camera-on-dope do tend to bring the worst out of me. I’m not sure why these guys do not find a thing as simple as a stable edit-free shot appealing.
        Consider a sequence in the middle of the film that involves the three main characters – Hancock (Smith), Mary (Theron) and Ray (Bateman). Ray and Mary are family complete with a kid and this scene is set in their house. As has been marketed in interviews involving Theron, Mary is a person with a ‘dark secret’. Ah-ha, it is exactly what you’re thinking. And Ray has found out about it. This particular scene involves three, probably four dozen edits from different places, zooms and close-ups and what not. The camera jerks as if it has just discovered its features, and we are denied our basic privilege of registering the characters’ reactions. More than us, it is they who’re betrayed. The whole sequence, barely a few minutes in length, feels so diluted the ten-rupee mango shake seems godsend.
        Now, since it is Peter Berg I kinda expected that. His previous film The Kingdom is one of the worst bad films I have seen in recent years. What I didn’t expect was that the film would be such an unimaginative whimper. It ends so bad I would trade for the climax of Batman and Robin any day. And just in case you’re wondering, I punish myself with that film whenever I think I have been a bad boy. Something like mea culpa. Hancock ought not to be compared with the likes of the better known superhero films like say, Batman Begins or Spiderman. Because it isn’t. The fact of the matter is, and you ought to be surprised here, that the film is more comparable to, hold your collective breaths here, one…two…three… My Super Ex-girlfriend. And if my memory serves me well, Hancock is only marginally better than that piece of supremely unfunny mess. I guess that is because this one here is more serious.
        The film has a great premise. One that could have been a fascinating take on the thematic elements of a superhero under the quite enjoyable disguise of a comedy. Hancock is a superhero in the Superman mould, i.e., as far as his powers are concerned he is absolute. What differentiate him though is that everybody knows him, he has no alter-ego and he is hated by pretty much everybody in Los Angeles. They’re tired of his uncontrolled drinking habits, and his devil-may-care attitude towards public property. They would much rather prefer to throw him over to New York. If only they could.
        This kind of plot has immense real-world gravity if would care to look at it. Hancock cannot just leave a road cracked, a building broken, or a car impaled on a pole. This is hard-earned tax he’s destroying, and I believe that kind of public ire is very much understandable. In a video Ray shows him, Hancock allows his exposed posterior to be visible to little children. He’s just back from saving a whole lot of people from a burning building, but that doesn’t take away his irresponsible demeanor. Something akin to a celebrity always under the scanner situation. He might score a million runs or win a billion tournaments but he’s liked only when he conducts himself to likeability. One ought to live upto the role model tag.
        Under such a plot a bad film usually explodes into bang-bang action. This one here is worse; it implodes into mush so thick I could feel the growing fungus begging for mercy. I wouldn’t venture what, and why, but you would guess that anyway, considering you have already guessed the ‘dark secret’. All I would say is it doesn’t have any other trick in its bag. It does have Will Smith, surely, and he indeed does a superhero act. The guy-with-the-attitude is done quite nicely up to a point, and when the film does a detour for the worse, his performance does feel jaded and overdone. But that shouldn’t take away anything from the fact that he lends a great deal of credibility to the part, a lot of heart, and of course comic relief. There’re sequences that feel funny because he is in it, and there’re sequences like the one that involves a man’s head in another’s posterior that aren’t funny one wee bit. Charlize Theron looks gorgeous, and she lends quite a weighty performance too. Am I the only one who has been missing her? I could use more of her down at the movies, you know. No other trick, maybe some which aren’t noteworthy, and with its handicapped imagination it just stops running at the 90 minute mark leaving you mighty high and dry.
        I hope they don’t make a sequel out of it or anything. This film has zero potential other than to dupe money under the pretext of summer, Will Smith and superhero. It is so bad it messed up the easy part – the origin story. God knows what it would do now that Hancock has become boring and has realized his responsibilities.

1 comment:

Gaurav Parab said...

What a shame.

Was planning to see this one. Will hold on now.