HANCOCK: Superman III 1/2? - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B-

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  • Movie: Hancock
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Starring: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
  • Written By: Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan
  • Directed By: Peter Berg
  • Distributor: Columbia Pictures

HANCOCK: Superman III 1/2?

Mania reviews a more disgruntled man of steel

By Scott Mantz     July 02, 2008

Bullets don't phase Will Smith in HANCOCK(2008).
© Columbia Pictures

What if Superman woke up on the wrong side of the bed—every single day?


Actually, that happened in 1983's Superman III, which is generally regarded as the second-worst of the movies that starred Christopher Reeve (after, of course, 1987's Superman IV). But the third entry was really onto something when the squeaky-clean Man of Steel turned into a dirty, drunken anti-hero after being exposed to a synthetic chunk of Kryptonite.


Hancock, starring box office superstar Will Smith, is onto something too, since it basically takes that idea and runs with it. The problem is, it runs all over the place, especially in the last half-hour. As a result, it's more of an interesting movie than an entertaining one, but at least it's an unusual change of pace after the more basic one-two punch of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.


Smith plays against type (at least, for him) as Hancock, a reckless “superhero” who would rather nurse a hangover than protect the citizens of Los Angeles. At least the feeling is mutual, since he tends to be more trouble than he's worth. Help comes in the form of Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), an idealistic PR exec who offers to give him a much-needed makeover. But when Ray's wife (Charlize Theron) reveals an earth-shattering secret of her own, Hancock's already screwed-up life spirals even further out of control.


After an action-packed opening sequence during which Hancock reluctantly nabs some thugs on the freeway (and leaves a path of destruction in his wake), the film finds its groove as a character study of a troubled superhero who's deep in the throes of an identity crisis. Embrey convinces Hancock to spend some time in jail in an effort to make up for his past mistakes, after which he can hopefully resume his duties and win back the trust of the general public.


This is where Hancock takes a detour from the more straightforward superhero movies dominating theaters this summer, and for at least the first hour, it's clever, funny and surprisingly deep. But when Embrey's wife reveals her “secret,” it veers off track into a choppy, rushed and uneven finale that makes less sense the more you think about it. Never mind that there's too much exposition, but a last ditch effort to add a villain feels more like an afterthought.


But if Hancock has a saving grace, it's Will Smith. Even his mediocre movies have been entertaining ones (witness Men in Black II and I, Robot), and as much as he tries to send up his heroic image by playing an unlikable character, his vulnerability shines through enough to make him thoroughly engaging. He also has great chemistry with co-stars Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman, which is why the movie ultimately ends up being worthwhile.


Hancock apparently went back under the knife after early screenings tested poorly. That led to last-minute re-shoots, and it shows. Proven director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom) comes pretty close to molding it back together into a cohesive 92-minute movie, but the flawed script takes too many leaps in the last act, and it doesn't hold up under scrutiny.


But it still has a lot going for it, so I guess it really was onto something. And if nothing else, at least it was better than Superman III.


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madmanic999 7/2/2008 2:35:47 AM
For those of you keeping score.... Hancock just got the same rating from Mania as Ironman.
ElAaronO 7/2/2008 2:57:27 AM
Caught a sneak of this and loved it! The whole theatre was very energetic and cracking up the whole time. I found it a lot less predictable that I expected. If I had a complaint it would be that the language is a little bit advanced for the younger crowd thats gonna want to see it. I pretty much agree with your review, I would have scored it higher just because so many things surprised me about the movie. For those like me who are always looking for something after the credits, there is something about 1 minute into the credits but nothing at the end (Mike Epps is in the credit sequence and he is hilarious).
sportwarrior 7/2/2008 3:34:40 AM
I was hoping to be the first poster, but I'll settle for the third...<br /> I got back from a midnight showing about an hour ago, and I need to say that everyone needs to completely disregard the terrible early reviews and the rumors of disgruntled test audiences. Maybe it was my insanely low expectations for the movie combined with the likability of Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and Jason Bateman, but I totally loved the movie... My friends and I for the life of us figure out why the thing was so universally panned by test audiences and screening critics... It's funny, it's energetic, it's totally believable within the boundaries it sets, and everything is explained and everything kind of comes full circle... I was EXTREMELY satisfied by the end of the movie... MUCH more so than, say, with Get Smart.<br /> I really recommend that all you Maniacs completely ignore the critics and their completely unfounded dislike of the movie... Give it a chance and judge for yourself. You'll come away happy.<br /> And let me just say one more time that I have NO idea where all the negative rumors and press came from. None. The movie was completely entertaining. I'm not even sure I agree with the Mania review, which is decidedly less harsh than almost every other review I've seen. I thought that everything in the end held up really well. I didn't really feel that the end was uneven or that anything felt patched up. Everything fit together nicely.
needaname85 7/2/2008 4:40:00 AM
Without seeing it yet...and I do mean YET. Going tonight. With Will Smith in it, critics could stand on the highest building and shout "DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE, IT WILL GIVE YOU CANCER!!!" But if it has Will Smith in it, people are going to come in droves and word of mouth will smash anything critics have to say.
almostunbiased 7/2/2008 5:07:42 AM
Yeah, Rotten Tomatoes had it at 35% last time I looked. I've seen this before with other super hero movies and then they still do well at the BO. I'm seeing it today. I just found out that my theater was showing it at 7 8 and 9 yesterday, not the usual midnight showing. Wish I would have known that sooner. If a lot of theaters were doing that it should have already made a lot of cash.
dragonrift 7/2/2008 5:48:35 AM
I saw it last night. It literally went from a breezy action comedy to a melodramatic, sappy version of "My Super Ex-Girlfriend." Is it worth seeing? Sure, it is a fun movie to watch, and you're guaranteed a few good laughs during the first 45 minutes. I mean, Will Smith shines in even his worst roles.<br /> <br /> But is it worth remembering? Not in the slightest. "Hancock" could have and SHOULD HAVE been much better with a concept as good as this.
Wiseguy 7/2/2008 6:43:19 AM
madmanic, different reviewer, different opinion I'll get to this sometime this week but for some reason it's not calling to me. I think TDK has so much of my attention that everything else doesn't seem to matter. Same thing happened when IM was out. The movie should make plenty of dough though but I still think it'll be #1 just one week.
ponyboy76 7/2/2008 7:17:28 AM
Yeah, I have never listened to reviews about movies like this. I made up my mind a long time ago that I was going to see this, so I`ll check it out this weekend. I have never ever seen a bad Will Smith movie. Even WWW was at least mildly entertaining. Maybe because I`m a fan, but Big Will kicks ass in all his flicks. That and I`ve also never seen a bad Peter Berg flick. That combination alone leads me to believe I`ll enjoy this. I don`t have to mention Jason Bateman and Charlize. On a side note. Obviously Jason Bateman like a few other 80`s stars have made a come back in their careers. When is Justine going to do something?
fft5305 7/2/2008 7:24:02 AM
Hey, if Hancock is being compared to MiBII and I, Robot, I am there. Loved both of those. Though I must admit, it took a second viewing to appreciate MiBII. I was a little disappointed when I came out of the theater, but once I saw it at home, I loved it. I think Will Smith is getting to the Kevin Costner in Waterworld point in his career. He's too big and too well loved, so the critics now feel like they have to tear him down and give him a bunch of bad press. Then, the public, lemmings that they are, start believing everything they read and stay home from movies they otherwise would have enjoyed. No, I'm not bitter....
Wiseguy 7/2/2008 7:38:40 AM
fft you make a good point except that most of the reviews I've seen including the bad ones say Will is the only saving grace of the film. So I don't think they're out to get him. The bad press sems to be directed at Berg for the twist and the way the mood of the film changes. Which is what I had read months ago when they started doing reshoots, which is why give it some credence. Still I'll check it out for myself, critics' opinions are just like assholes, we all have one and they all stink. Anyway I can't pass up any superhero movie.
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