I’d been hearing about “Hancock” in its various incarnations for the better part of a decade. Originally titled “Tonight, He Comes”, the script of the film floated around Hollywood for years, with the promise of a darker, deeper, and more mature superhero movie than what we’d seen to that point. Of course, after Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”, you could make a snuff movie starring Aquaman and The Green Hornet, and you’d still probably be a long ways off from making a film half as dour. If Hancock were going to reinvent the superhero genre, it certainly had its work cut out for it.
Will Smith stars as the titular hero; an incorrigible drunkard with a penchant for making bad situations worse. He’s a super zero, hated by the people he occasionally chooses to protect, and absolutely alone in this world until he meets Ray (Jason Bateman) – a well-meaning image consultant who feels he has the juice to give Hancock a public relations makeover that would make Superman blush. Ray’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron, who just gets hotter with every film she graces) seems to take an instant dislike to Hancock, and is especially wary of him spending so much time around her and her family. Hancock, however, feels an undeniable spark between them, but, before he can give it much though, he’s whisked away to prison (part of Ray’s plan) to serve out an 8 year sentence for all of the rampant destruction he’s caused around the city over the years. The idea is that, while Hancock’s away, the criminal element of L.A. will play, thus forcing the city’s residents (and the police chief) to realize just how much they really need Hancock. The gambit pays off, and Hancock is called into action, saving a bank full of hostages as well as igniting a citywide love affair with their newly reformed hero. Of course, the warm fuzzy feelings only last so long as Hancock finds himself face to face with someone from his forgotten past that not only threatens to undo all the goodwill Hancock and Ray have drummed up, but sap the hero of his powers altogether.
I’ve read loads of negative reviews and heard lots of angry chatter about Hancock’s second half, with most of the ire directed toward the film’s “surprise” twist (which is really obvious and should only surprise small children and house pets). Personally, I didn’t have a problem with it. I won’t go into much detail other than to say that it’s not the first time I’ve seen the plot device used (several comics have had heroes with similar origins), and I’m certain it won’t be the last. What I did find a bit disappointing was the tonal shift, however, as the first 40 minutes or so of Hancock is a fairly dark and –while peppered with the occasional knee slapper – mostly serious dissection of the life and times of a “real superhero”, with a focus on both the consequences of his actions and generally unrewarding nature of it all. It’s really intriguing stuff that’s sort of thrown to the side in favor of some big action set pieces involving the aforementioned twist, as well as a rather trite subplot involving an attempt on Hancock’s life by a bunch of escaped prisoners.
Still, I found myself really enjoying Hancock, even if it didn’t deliver on the promise of its first half. Smith does the grumpy Gus routine, and Bateman’s an always engaging screen presence, as is the lovely Theron. Director Peter Berg handles the big action admirably, but does his best work during the more personal moments (especially in the film’s unrated version, where he gets to explore the funny/sad side of superhero sex).
Sony brings Hancock to Blu-ray with a 1080p 2.35:1 MPEG 4 AVC transfer that is bright and beautiful and brimming with detail, right down to the prickly stubble on Hancock’s chin. Berg’s rather aggressive camerawork and the jarring nature of the flying sequences make detail a bit hard to register at times, but, overall, the film looks lovely, with vibrant colors and deep, lush blacks that really make the image pop.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is solid and packs decent punch, but lacks the oomph of tracks from similarly themed films. Dialogue is crystal clear and the surround mix offers nicely immersive effects, but, overall, the track felt a bit restrained. It’s a minor gripe, and obviously a matter of taste, as those I was watching the film with felt the sound was more than adequate (if not too loud! Wusses).
Hancock swoops onto Blu with a bevy of heroic extras, including both the theatrical and unrated versions of the film, “On-Set Visual Diary” BonusView Picture-In-Picture (which serves as something of a commentary/behind-the-scenes), BD-Live capability, and several short featurettes (that add up to just over an hour), including Superhumans: The Making of Hancock; Home Life; Seeing the Future; Suiting Up Building a Better Hero; Bumps and Bruises; Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with ‘Dirty Pete. Featurettes are all presented in 1080p, as are a handful of trailers for other Sony Blu-ray releases. There's also a second disc featuring a Digital Copy of the film for download to your portable media devices.
I enjoyed Hancock quite a bit more than I expected to, although I'm sure a lot of that has to do with all of the negativity surrounding this film upon its release. I avoided it in theaters as a result, only to find that I missed out on what would have been a pretty fun experience on the big screen. Of course, seeing the film in the comfort of one's own home on Blu-ray is a nice consolation prize, and I especially enjoyed the more adult "unrated" version included here.