Cross-posted from the PITCH BLACK website.
Directed by Peter Berg, written by Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan. With Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Eddie Marsan.
In a certain moment of this film, an executive asks Ray (Jason Bateman): “Are you a crackpot?” There were so many moments I wished I could direct this same question to filmmaker Peter Berg, who is apparently determined to incorporate Everything That’s Wrong With Cinema Today in his style. If Hollywood had an atom of artistic sense, they’d bludgeon Berg with a boom mic. Actually, they should have done it after his absolutely putrid work on “The Kingdom”, where he seemed to instruct whoever was holding the camera to shake it as if he was mixing drinks with it. Now, not only this same shaky cameraman is back – he likes extreme CLOSE-UPS as well.
And the sad thing is that “Hancock” has a good script. It has some flaws, yes, but a good filmmaker would have edited these parts out. Berg, on the other hand, EMPHASIZES them as much as possible. This film is a great example of a potentially excellent movie being ruined by a talentless director.
John Hancock is a superhero – except the last four letters in that word really fail to describe him. Causing more destruction than the criminals he hunts, Hancock doesn’t give a shit about the world or himself. He’s an alcoholic who generally acts like an asshole. Until a P. R. guy called Ray – who’s been naively trying to convince companies to give their products away for free – wait, scratch that. Until a P. R. guy called Ray – who’s been VERY STUPIDLY trying to convince companies to give their products away for FUCKING FREE – is saved by Hancock and decides to pay him back by improving his relationship with the people of Los Angeles – who hate the so-called superhero for the destruction he causes.
There is a twist in the middle of the film – and I’ll admit, I didn’t see it coming, although apparently everyone else did. I’m usually good at spotting foreshadowing and predicting what’s going to happen next, but this time I wasn’t. It’s just that I am so used to “useless romantic female character who inspires the protagonist” that I really expected that to carry on as it usually does in most films. So okay, this twist actually worked on ME. I’m not going to pretend it was a predictable twist – for me, it wasn’t. And maybe the screenwriters really tried to use that ‘romantic female character” cliche to surprise the audience, so I’ll give them credit for that.
In fact, there’s a lot of good things in “Hancock”. The sense of humor, some quite good scenes (Hancock’s first mission with his new costume) and Will Smith’s performance. Now, say all you want about Will Smith. “He’s an inflated ego who does only blockbusters!”. Sorry, having the courage to be the protagonist of a blockbuster is not having an inflated ego. Especially when Smith does it so well. John Hancock is truly captivating in his attempts to shield himself from the world, and while he’s an asshole, yes, he’s an asshole with redeemable aspects. Will Smith portrays this remarkably well, and his comic timing is impeccable. Charlize Theron… I can’t say anything about her performance because everytime her gorgeous face was framed by the (horribly shaky, closed-up) camera, I started drooling. Jason Bateman is likable, which is impressive considering his character is a moron – with noble intentions but still a moron.
Sadly, though, Peter Berg grabs all those good things, puts on a spiked condom and rapes them while reciting parts of “Mein Kampf” (okay, okay, I might be overreacting here). The aforementioned camera is absolutely infuriating, and it’s ridiculous how the TV footage of a car chase is actually MORE CLEAR than the car chase scene ITSELF. And for every joke Berg gets right (the whale scene), he fucks another one up royally. Like the scene in the jail, when Hancock does something he threatened to do VERY literally. While Berg initially shows the reaction of the bystanders – which is funny – he drags the scene on and on until finally pulling the camera back and showing the scene in its entirety. And by then it’s just ridiculous. It’s like someone swapped the reels and shoved in a scene from the next “Scary Movie”.
Comic timing, by the way, is something Berg really fails to understand. No, scratch that: the very NOTION of timing is as understandable to Peter Berg as quantum physics are to a fucking squirrel. In the movie’s climax – which is quite dramatic – Berg sticks in a joke involving an axe that feels completely out of place to say the least (“You DIDN’T”, a character says – which is exactly what I wanted to say to Berg when I saw it). Not to mention the movie as a whole feels horribly rushed, with things happening too fast or at the wrong moments.
But you know, I had FUN with “Hancock”, and the movie touched me in a moment or two – and that credit belongs to the screenwriters and the actors, because Berg really fucked up. People say Uwe Boll is the worst director in the world – but really, who’s watching his films? His movies are straight-to-DVD garbage. Now, Berg – he’s got immense, gaping flaws as a filmmaker and he’s being handed projects like “Hancock”. Which is the bigger threat?
FUCK Uwe Boll. Let him make his little movies. BERG is the one to fear, because he’s a BIG-TIME fuck-up – he’s already proved it with “The Kingdom” and he just did it AGAIN. Hell, with a proper director, “Hancock” just might’ve been a masterpiece. With Berg, it’s passable, ultimately forgettable entertainment. With a horribly exaggerated ending scene.
OBS: In the scene where Ray tries to convince the executives to give stuff for free (seriously, he tries that), you can see the excellent filmmaker Michael Mann and the absolutely talentless screenwriter Akiva Goldsman playing two of the executives.