Superheroes have always been a major part of human culture. You might think that it started in the late thirties with the appearance of Superman but it happened thousands of years before. Every human society has created mythologies that reflected their culture. These myths were populated by gods and goddess with amazing powers and abilities. Since in most of those godly creatures had a predilection for a dalliance with humans the result was demigods, humans with godlike powers. Heroes like Hercules gave man a chance to dream of having such abilities. The modern superhero was just a way to keep the need for mythology alive in an age when science was able to explain natural phenomena. Typically the superhero was the epitome of truth and justice. They fought evil on behalf of everything that was right in the world. Their villains were always just as powerful and offered a worthy adversary for the hero. In the sixties Marvel challenged the virtual monopoly held by the publisher of Superman and Batman, DC Comics. In the Marvel universe superheroes had personal and emotional problems. Peter Parker may have been Spider-man but he had a difficult time getting a girlfriend. The film ‘Hancock’ takes the troubled superhero theme to an extreme. He is unshaven, sloppy, careless and cynical. Basically he is a bum with incredible super powers. This is a summer blockbuster film with a reported budget of over $150 million which is more than made back for the studio. It is not the greatest such flick around and it was up against some pretty stiff competition with films like ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Dark Knight’ but for the genre it was fun and entertaining. It has action, special effects and one of the most important features of a huge summer movie; Will Smith. Even though it is not at the top of the list it is a well worth while movie to own and enjoy. Sony Pictures has released the film with two DVD variations and a special edition Blu-ray version.
Writing the script are two men; Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan. For Ngo this is his first feature length theatrical movie. He has a couple of shorts and a made for television flick prior to this. Gilligan is best known for this writing for quirky television series including ‘X Files’, ‘The Lone Gunman’ and most recently ‘Breaking Bad’. This gave Gilligan the ability to be creative while turning a well established genre on its head. This also required the film to be darker than the old style of super hero film. There has been a recent trend that super hero movies have to contain a strong, character driven plot to do more than just fill in the gaps between special effects shots. ‘Spider-Man 2’, ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Dark Knight are prime examples of this; a special effects movie that works on the human, emotional level as well. This story brings the superhero into the real world. There are repercussions to his super powered actions. When he flies through the skies to stop a crime he has a nasty habit of landing on the roof of a $100,000 car. He throws a whale back out to sea destroying an expensive boat. John Hancock (Will Smith) finds himself on the wrong end of millions of dollars of litigation. He looks also looks like a bum which doesn’t help his public image at all. He scares children doing things like throwing high into the air catching them, of course, but only after he scares the life out of them. Superman had the classic tights and cape; Hancock is practically in rages. He is also an alcoholic with a super sized hangover most of the time. This theme is interesting but is admittedly a gimmick. The writers do well with drawing the characters fine enough that the audience begins to care about them. This is the kind of script could have been better but is propelled higher than normal by the fantastic cast. The second half of the story takes a decidedly darker turn that focuses on immorality and trust issues. This is a little convoluted even for the more emotionally invested modern format of this kind of film.
Director Peter Berg has a lot of experience on both sides of the camera. He has been a character actor for some time in both films and television. Some people look at such a trade but for a working actor it is great. Character parts afford a wider variety of roles that usually offered to a leading man. As a director Berg has also worked on the large and small screen with movies like ‘The Kingdom’ and episodes of the very late, great series, ‘Wonderland’. He does well here pacing the film well for the most part. There is a problem with the transition in mood and motivation during the second half which does help prevent this film from fully achieving its potential. Berg also has a way of integrating the computer effects into the story instead of letting it take over, becoming the whole reason for the movie. This exhibits a level of control in a director that is unfortunately rare of late.
John Hancock would seem like he had a great life. He has the superhuman abilities of supersonic flight, invulnerability, immortality, and super-strength. He does try to use those powers to stop criminals and help out but unfortunately his is often drunk and unable to make the best decisions. As a result he has caused more property damage than any criminal he stops could have mustered. One day a front man for a public relations company, Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) leaves a particularly bad meeting. His day gets much worse when he becomes caught on some train tracks just as the train is barreling down on him. Hancock stops the train by basically destroying it but manages to save Ray. Ray is extremely thankful and wants to help Hancock change his public image through a PR makeover. The first step of to have Hancock turn himself over for outstanding warrants and he is placed in jail. During that time the crime rate soars and police realize that they need him. Ray now has him dressed in a snazzy new costume and take to the city. Hancock is introduced to Ray’s beautiful wife Mary (Charlize Theron). It turns out that she holds the secret to Hancock’s forgotten past. This is when the plot turns from the redemption of Hancock to the disclosure of his relationship with Mary.
Sony Pictures has done a remarkable job with presenting this film to home theater. The DVDs are available in a theatrical or unrated versions; just remember that unrated means a few extra scenes where included and not submitted to the MPAA for a rating. It features an anamorphic 2.40:1 video and great Dolby 5.1 audio. The Blu-ray release is one that you will use to show off your high definition setup. The 1080p video is incredible; crisp and clear with he best color palette to come around in years. The Audio is in lossless Dolby True HD and it will literally pull you into the action. The special edition DVD and Blu-ray both have a ton of extras. This is a fun flick that will not fail to entertain.