Monday, July 7, 2008

John Hancock and Independence Day

No, not him. I'm talking about the other John Hancock, the one played by Will Smith (who is also of Independence Day fame for that matter).

Hancock ended up being the number one movie for the July 4th weekend which isn't surprising because who doesn't love Will Smith? He's Mr. Everyman. So I hate to say it, but I was disappointed. Apparently I'm in the minority, though, along with most of the REAL critics (the ones who get paid). Five of us went to the movie on the 4th, and four of us walked out loving it. I was the odd man (woman) out.

SPOILER ALERT--I may talk about the big "twist" in the movie and give other things away in the rest of this post.

I loved the way the movie started out. What a great concept--a miserable, alcoholic, rage-filled, amnesiac superhero who doesn't appear to like anyone! And the feeling is mutual--he's almost universally despised. Then along comes professional PR guy Ray Embrey (great performance by Jason Bateman) and gets stuck on a railroad track with a train speeding his way. Hancock rescues Ray, but rather than just lifting Ray and his car off the tracks, Hancock manages to smash up the train's engine and cause a massive derailment. The bystanders react with loud and earnest contempt. In fact, Hancock is so destructive in his heroic endeavors that a warrant is eventually issued for his arrest. In the meantime, Ray has convinced John Hancock to let Ray give him a PR makeover.

So far, so good. The movie flows well, it makes sense, and Smith and Bateman give endearing performances. Ray's wife, played by Charlize Theron, is a bit off-putting toward Hancock, but that's not surprising given his reputation. But then everything changes. The big "surprise" of the movie comes and, yes, it is startling. But the movie loses all cohesion at this point and starts to make less sense out of what was already working well. It kind of makes you want to ask the producers, writers, director, etc.: if it wasn't broke, why did you (try to) fix it?

The entire tone of the movie changes, and it seems to be a totally different story after the big twist. What appear to be attempts to explain who, what, and why Hancock is actually only confuse. Potential explanations are baffling and at times contradictory. We're never told who he is; we only get a vague answer that starts with talk of gods and angels but quickly degenerates into "who knows?" His purpose is even more indiscernable. Is he here to search out his opposite, who happens to be his soulmate/partner, whose presence will turn him human, so that then "they" will go after him to kill him? We're never told who "they" are either, and if his purpose is to become human, then why didn't his creator just make him human in the first place? Or is he here for the usual superhero objectives of saving mankind and teaching people to be better people? Both purposes are suggested at different times in the movie. I still have no clue what the answers to any of the questions are, and I'm usually damn good at figuring out the surprise twists in movies before they happen--movies like The Sixth Sense, The Others, The Village, etc. If I remember correctly, I think I even figured out the truth about Luke's dad before it was revealed. The Usual Suspects got me, though. I love it when one gets me. But I digress (how unusual, huh).

The post-surprise portion of the movie left me dissatisfied and disappointed. I wanted more of the first half of the movie. But in someone's defense, the other four people who went to the movie with me LOVED the twist and LOVED the movie, and apparently most of the viewing public who saw the movie over the weekend LOVED it. I'm clearly in the minority.

Oh, well, I didn't like The English Patient, either, and I think Gone with the Wind is absolutely dreadful. Come on with it; I can take it.


Anonymous said...

You gotta admit GWTW has some great lines! I seem to remember a Seinfeld ep about Elaine hating the English Patient...I can take or leave it, it gets a nod from me because Colin Firth is in it & I adore him...I work with people who mostly believe Will Smith can do no wrong, and even some of them are iffy on Hancock. I think I'll wait 'till it hits Starz.

Bianca said...

I've never even heard of Hancock....but the summer squash was cooked for 1 1/2 hours....It was actually still a little hard after one hour, but the whole thing went into the oven in cold it took longer for the squash to heat up than if it had been put straight onto a baking sheet.