I want to revisit Peter Berg’s Hancock from 2008. I saw it again for the umpteenth time last night and it’s a film that seriously bugs me. Now when I say ‘bugs me’, I’m not suggesting I hate the film and in fact to some extent I quite enjoy it. No, what really frustrates me is how it follows the classic case of Hollywood having a great idea for a movie but then throwing millions of dollars at it simply to please the audience.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, Hancock, played by Will Smith, is a superhero. He possesses all the typical superhero traits – he can fly, he’s got super strength etc. etc. But the twist is that he is an alcoholic bum who everyone dislikes until he saves the life of a PR agent, played by Jason Bateman, who decides he wants to turn Hancock into the reliable, friendly superhero he should be. There are a number of other twists that play out, but that is the general gist of the film.
The start and first hour or so of the film is by far the best part of it; it’s brilliant in fact. Its original storyline has a promising mix of comedy, action and backstory, distancing itself away from typical superhero flicks in which there seems to be constant action and blowing up of things.
However, the final half an hour of Hancock is just that – and it is mightily disappointing. As mentioned earlier, it seems as if those working on the film had all this money in front of them, wondering what to do with it. So of course they got lazy and blew everything up, had people flying around and into each other and constant fighting, losing everything that was so great about the first hour of the film.
I know this is the case with a number of Hollywood action movies and picking Hancock in particular is slightly harsh (it did just happened to be what I watched last night). As soon as the budget increases, the need for predictable, tame action sequences does too, throwing it all on crowd pleasing special effects.
In terms of superhero movies, you only need to see how successful Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise was to understand how sticking to the art-house roots can pay off. In this particular case, Hancock looked set to follow a similar trail with a promising opening but completely lost its way in the last half hour or so.
Hancock was by no means a flop. It made a healthy profit, did well amongst audiences and isn’t a terrible film by any means. However, Berg could have made this into a seriously impressive film if him and his team hadn’t fallen to typical Hollywood multimillion-dollar action movie pressure. There are a number of movies that have taken a similar stance, but its huge potential that it missed out on was bitterly disappointing for me. Not so good job.
What about you?
Did you enjoy Hancock?
What other films do you think wasted their potential?