Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In Brief: HANCOCK (2008)

By the time it was finally worth my while to try Peter Berg's Hancock, i.e., when the Albany Public Library had DVDs available for free rentals, the story had already been spoiled for me. That's okay, though. I don't need to be surprised at movies. I read a review of The Sixth Sense on the day it opened, and all the writer had to say was that there was a twist ending, and I knew what it would be, but I went anyway. So now I'd give Hancock a shot.

The problem with the film is too much and too little. It has a lot of explaining to do in approximately 90 minutes. It tries for drastic shifts in tone, attempting to be ribald and tragic at the same time, and an individual genius might have been able to pull it off. Unfortunately, there were too many cooks at work on this picture, not least of which was producer Akiva Goldsman, who in the past wrote two of the worst superhero movies made outside the Republic of Turkey. This was a producing collaboration between him and Michael Mann of all people (the bank robbers here seem like poor echoes of the gang from Heat), and the lackeys of Will Smith, all applying themselves to a script much altered from its original form and concern. It was inevitably a mess. It suffers from a dubious mythology that ultimately turns the story's sullen black superman into little more than the dreaded "magic negro" and leaves the motives of another major character open to profound questioning. Its attempts to pander to the comedy audience are often awful, touching bottom in the infamous jailhouse head-up-the-rear scene with the Sanford & Son theme playing over it for some reason. The big super-powered fight scene, with all the elements clashing around the combatants for some other reason, was a headache-inducer. Yet the final product very nearly pulls off what it was aiming for. Will Smith and Charlize Theron are very charismatic performers, and Jason Bateman helps out as an almost insanely fearless character -- I wondered why until I realized that he had to be shown worthy of what he gets at the end. The climax in which Hancock struggles with wavering strength to break a fatal but longed-for connection is nearly as moving as it was meant to be. But nothing works quite as it should because the whole is such a committee-contrived mishmash. This is the sort of bad movie that results when filmmakers have too many resources to throw at their subject rather than too little.

But it left me with a weird idea. Think of Monster as what might have happened if things went the other way. Discuss.

1 comment:

hobbyfan said...

I found out via Wikipedia that the dreaded Akiva Goldsman was one of the producers behind "Hancock", and that this was originally written some 12 years ago. In the words of the late Jerry Garcia, what a long, strange journey it's been for this film. I guess winning an Oscar ("A Beautiful Mind") allows Goldsman to be allowed near a superhero movie again after the Bat-disaster of 11 years ago. It reads like a concept that Stan Lee might've thought up, but never put to paper. Hancock'd be his kind of guy.