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Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2008

Format: Movie
By:   Peter Berg (director)
Genre:   Superhero
Review Date:   July 05, 2008
Audience Rating:   PG-13
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

"Call me an asshole, one more time." -- Hancock

This is a great year at the movies for comic book fans. There's Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Hellboy II, The Dark Knight, and this year’s big Will Smith Fourth of July release, Hancock.

I’m a long time fan of Will Smith, going back to his “Parents Just Don’t Understand” days. I wonder what Jazzy Jeff is up to these days.

Smith has had more hits (ID4, MIB) than misses (Wild Wild West, MIB II), so I looked forward to this flick. It helps that it also has Jason (Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium) Bateman and Charlize (Aeon Flux) Theron.

Smith is Hancock, a Superman-style superhero in Los Angeles who’s a bit of an asshole. He flies around drunk, that kind of thing. So while he stops crime, he’s not exactly beloved by the denizens of the city, most of whom wish he’d go somewhere else.

Hancock saves the life of a PR expert (Bateman). To repay Hancock, Ray tries to salvage his image. From here the movie is a redemption story, as Hancock learns to not be quite such an asshole.

Then in the last third, the movie zigs where you expect it to zag, and moves from a light superhero comedy into a pretty heavy drama. A lot of people will be thrown by this tonal shift, but I dug it. It gives the movie extra heft that you don't get in your standard summer fluff.

What will really make Hancock work for you (or not) are the performances of Smith, Bateman and Theron. I liked Smith as an unlikeable character for a change, instead of his usual goofy charmer type.

Smith’s wanted to do a superhero flick for a while, even buying the rights to a Rob Liefeld character to make into a movie back in 1997. It’s obvious he’s having fun wearing a costume and bouncing bullets off his chest.

Bateman uses his natural charm to make Ray earnest and believable where he could have been hokey or schmaltzy.

Hancock’s special effects are really well done, and Los Angeles gets quite trashed in the fight scenes, with wrecked cars, smashed buildings, and three mini-tornadoes.

It used to be that comic books would always outdo movies because they didn’t have a budget; you can draw anything. While they may not match Steve Ditko’s bizarre Dr. Strange adventures, the movies can match most standard superhero fare now.

There are a few places where the movie is uneven. If you’re a comics fan, there is a lot that is pretty familiar to you, such as the “superhero as jerk” theme.

However, for the general movie going, non-comic reading public, this is new, so I cut the flick some slack there. It’s also pretty cool that superhero movies have become easy enough to make so that a non-comic-based Hancock can come around.

Hancock is a fun ride and worth checking out. It isn’t the best superhero flick of the summer so far, but it’s a solid entry into the catalog. It’s like one of those three-issue indy mini-series that make a good break from the regular books in your weekly comics stack.

RevSF staff writer Gary Mitchel would like for bullets to bounce off his chest.

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