Will Smith as John Hancock
Charlize Theron as Mary Embrey
Jason Bateman as Ray Embrey
Jae Head as Aaron Embrey
Eddie Marsan as Red
David Mattey as Man Mountain
Maetrix Fitten as Matrix
Thomas Lennon as Mike
Johnny Galecki as Jeremy
"Hancock" is a fantastic superhero movie… despite never having had a comic book. Will Smith is great as the misguided hero while Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron make an excellent supporting cast. It has some hilarious comedy, some great action, and a few surprises that fortunately haven't been ruined by the commercials and trailers. But keep the kiddies at home – this is a grown-up's comic book movie.
"Hancock" is not your typical superhero. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to call him a hero at all. He's more like a bum with an attitude that is super strong, invulnerable, and can fly. And though he occasionally helps people out, it usually ends in mass destruction and public outrage. Fortunately, he's the only one of his kind.
But when he saves the life of publicist Ray Embrey, he finds a new ally. Ray makes it his mission to turn public opinion in Hancock's favor and transform him into the hero that he has the potential to be. The first step? Allow the law to lock him up in prison so the public can see just how much they need a hero. But how much will Hancock be willing to put up with in order to change his ways?
"Hancock" is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language.
Some of you may be aware that I'm co-publisher of Red 5 Comics. So far we've discovered that superhero comics are some of the most challenging to create for three reasons – it's hard to find a take on superheroes that hasn't been done already, it's hard to find a superhero story that's interesting, and it's hard to get the public to pick up a superhero comic after they've had their fix of Marvel and DC superheroes. Yet somehow the creators of "Hancock" have managed to find a superhero story that's original, entertaining, and stands well on its own against any Marvel or DC superhero.
Will Smith's Hancock is a great character. I mean, how often do you get to see a superhero flying with a bottle of booze, running into seagulls, and telling off the people he saves? It's so satisfying to see a superhero doing very un-heroic things with his powers. And while he's very funny, he definitely has a serious side. He goes through an internal struggle as he voluntarily sits in jail. You can see the conflict on his face as he chooses to stay in prison despite being able to walk out at any moment. It's a whole different take on the theme of "with great power comes great responsibility." When Hancock inevitably does the right thing, his debut as a true hero is one of the best scenes in any movie this summer.
Another great aspect of Hancock is his back-story. Unfortunately, I can't get into it without ruining the plot. In fact the less you know about it going in, the more you're going to enjoy the movie. But I will say that it hearkens back to the roots of what comics are all about. The origin of Hancock is so in line with what Siegel and Shuster would have done or what Lee and Kirby would have done. This is one of the best comic book movies that never had a comic book.
Smith is excellent as Hancock, but his supporting cast helps tremendously. Jason Bateman is fantastic as Ray Embrey. He's so hopelessly optimistic and idealistic that he's a great contrast to Hancock. His reactions to Hancock's over-the-top antics are priceless. You can't help but love him. Charlize Theron is also impressive as Mary Embrey. Her love for Ray and disgust with Hancock is equally believable. When the story takes its surprise twist, she really begins to shine. Hancock also makes great use of the extras and minor background characters as they react to Hancock, too. You'll find more than one throwaway line by a kid or spectator that will make you laugh.
I also have to commend the creators and Sony marketing – they kept a number of Hancock's surprises hidden. There's one major revelation in the film and it's quite a turning point for the story. It takes it to another level and if you go in with minimal knowledge of the story, you'll find it a lot more entertaining.
What Didn't Work:
If Randy Jackson were reviewing "Hancock," he'd say it was a little "pitchy". "Hancock" varies dramatically in tone and almost seems like three different movies in one. The first third of the movie where Hancock is a hated bum is very much a comedy. From physical gags to jokes, it's a superhero comedy. The middle third has some humor, but it's heavily action-oriented and filled with a lot of serious character moments mixed with big special effects. It's more of a superhero action-adventure. The final third of the film is very dark and very dramatic. There's some heavy material there to the point that you're wondering if you're watching the same movie. Don't get me wrong… it's all quite good. You just might find yourself in the last 15 minutes saying, "Man, this is a lot darker than I was expecting." Don't worry… the movie ends on a high note. (In fact, don't get up when the credits start rolling or you'll end up standing in the aisle to watch the final scene.)
I also recommend that parents heed the PG-13 rating. Just because this is a Will Smith superhero movie doesn't mean it's kid-friendly. There's a lot of language, some graphic violence, and more. This is an adult's superhero movie.
The Bottom Line:
Bring on "Hancock 2"!