Hancock is not your typical superhero movie; but it is what we have come to expect from Will Smith because even though his character starts out an “asshole,” the good guy within can always be detected just under the surface.
Hancock (Smith) is not the comic book role model Superman was – he hates his job and wishes everyone would leave him alone. As a result, he fulfills his duty to protect Angelinos irresponsibly and with maximum damage. But when he saves the life of PR man Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), Ray becomes determined to return the favour by turning around Hancock's reputation. The process is difficult at first but eventually successful. Luckily the story does not end there as Hancock has another hurdle to jump on his road to becoming a better man and hero.
The film takes a little from several genres, including action, comedy and romance. This combination rarely works but when you have a cast consisting of Smith, Bateman and Charlize Theron, the odds are in your favour. Hancock’s transformation from heartless scourge to damaged superman is not too seamless, which adds to the comedy and keeps the picture from becoming overly righteous. On the other hand, his obsession with the American eagle is a little suspect and unnecessary.
The special effects are less glossy than that of recent superhero movies, creating a character and situation that is more “believable” and relatable. Hancock is portrayed as the every man with ordinary problems (alcohol addiction, anger management issues, loneliness) that just happens to have superhuman powers. Director Peter Berg has shown his forte is bringing emotion out from the background of action, particularly for men, so he was an appropriate choice to head the project.
I initially welcomed an imperfect superhero and was glad to see Smith going against the grain – and then the publicity campaign continued and it turned out Hancock was going to redeem himself. I was disappointed to say the least. Going into the film with low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by a development in the plot which captured and maintained my interest for the remainder of the film. But it’s a twist I think best revealed upon viewing.