Superheroes are so hot right now, with Marvel getting their own studio to create cross-over excitement and Nolan’s second Batman approaching our screens (after an eon of advertising it – to the point where I openly groan when the trailer comes on.) So what better than a film riffing on the genre, echoing My Super Ex-Girlfriend’s turn in 2006 when it followed the likes of Spidey. This time, instead of having hero-turned-crazy-ex, we have tramp-hero, alcoholic-hero and – shock horror! – hero who says “fuck” in a 12A rated film. Excellent.
Big Willy is Hancock, a miserable superhero who can’t save anything without making a big mess, staggering around in drunken haze and feeling up passing women. When he saves PR man Ray (Jason Bateman, who I desperately want to like but doesn’t half play the same character every time) he unwittingly gains himself representation, as Ray tries to repay him by “remaking” him. Although you’d expect a typical montage of someone slowly seeking redemption and then saving the day, Hancock throws a few unexpected curve balls into the plot, twisting into vaguely original corners and proving a different experience to that suggested by the trailers.
I didn’t say it was a better experience, mind.
But let’s be positive for a change. Hancock is sort of funny at times (although the better gags were already splashed over trailers) and Big Willy does a good job as a big, huffy bloke with various issues and super strength. His method of dealing with criminals is refreshingly crass, and the plot turns create a more sombre tone that dilutes chances of it being a jolly Fantastic Four-esque romp. The effects are pretty good too (a few dodgy CGI-Will moments aside). And, err, you see his bum for a short time.
To go back to the negative, where Hancock delivers in the unexpected it falters in doing anything too worthwhile, the carefully built up storyline being crushed against the rock of triviality, eventually landing in the port of “is that all you’re going to do?” Baddies are wedged in hurriedly to give some sort of final battle, which is lost in all the “hang on…”, “why doesn’t he…” and “how did they…” thoughts.
Director Peter Berg (who I’ve just spotted is down to make – and ruin – Dune. Gah! Sorry, just had a mini-rage there. Done now.) Where was I? Oh yes – soon to ruin Dune director Peter Berg smugly pushes aside the normal big-guns style of action flicks and instead goes all indie, with soft focus, super close-ups on off-centre heads (alarming on the big screen – a massive Big Willy head just off to one side…) trying to make all the conversations very deep and thoughtful even though the script doesn’t warrant it. When he throws the same style into the CGI-d fight scenes everything becomes a bit difficult to follow, and generally not that exciting. We’ve seen a million superheroes kicking ass now – what we wanted from Hancock was a bad-boy. We do get it, but the minute we stray into generic hero territory the magic is swiftly lost.
Hancock isn’t the film you’d expect (unless you read this, in which case you’re now going to be expecting something. Did I just spoil it for you? Well, it’s not like it’s particularly deep. There’s not even any subtitles. It’s a film for plebs. You’ll probably forget I’ve even written this anyway, with your short attention span.) Sorry – mini insulting tangent. Anyway, Hancock is potentially really good, but ultimately a bit of a let-down. Not funny enough to be a full comedy, and not rich enough to be a new breed of superhero, especially with the heavy weights of Iron and Hulk still fresh in our minds. I probably wouldn’t recommend it unless there’s nothing else on TV. So Hancock flops in at a CF-1. Sorry Willy.