Superhero Film ‘Hancock’ With No Superhero Ancestry Proves Bold But Deadly Decision

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Average: 2.8 (8 votes) Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – With superhero films as hot in 2008 as psychedelics were in the 1960s, the new blockbuster superhero film “Hancock” fits in with the label but without any of the ancestry.

While 2008 superhero films such as “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Dark Knight,” “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” and “Punisher: War Zone” (along with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” coming in 2009) are all based on previous stories with a previously ravenous fan base, “Hancock” with an alcoholic and listless Will Smith and Charlize Theron – who hides a surprise bombshell – literally comes from nowhereland.

Charlize Theron (left) and Will Smith in Hancock
Charlize Theron (left) and Will Smith in “Hancock”.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

In fact, “Hancock” is the only 2008 superhero film not derived from a previously established comic book.

Will Smith in Hancock
Will Smith in “Hancock”.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

The original script for “Hancock,” which was inked by Vincent Ngo in 1996 and called “Tonight, He Comes,” was shuffled through the Hollywood director’s circuit until director Peter Berg (“The Kingdom,” “Friday Night Lights,” “The Rundown”) finally ate it up in Oct. 2006. Filming began in July 2007.

Its truly original origin could have either been its golden savior or its deadly assassin. The decision ultimately proved treacherous as everything it tried to do to be different just made it the same.

Its originality actually might not seem so novel, too, once you consider the 1983 film “The Return of Captain Invincible”. In that film, Alan Arkin plays Captain Invincible and Christopher Lee plays his nemesis (Mr. Midnight).

Captain Invincible is asked to return from retirement to the superhero battlefields, but this time around, he’s a raging alcoholic. Sound familiar? Uh huh.

Upon closer scrutiny, the principal downfall of “Hancock” isn’t even in the question of its origins but more in the forcefulness of its script. “Hancock” felt entirely too written. A good film, of course, is written eloquently well – so well, in fact, that you forget it’s written. A hackneyed story feels forcefully written.

Will Smith (center) Hancock
Will Smith (center) “Hancock”.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

After writers Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan launched off on their journey to script a man who can demolish the street beneath him at the mere jetting away into the sky, they added Superman-like strength. As for where to go next, you can actually feel them pondering the decision. They then inked something cliché because they were already committed to the process and the big Hollywood dollars would be on the line.

Now Smith’s cliché costuming to look the superhero part was actually the least cliché part of the entire script. Smith’s character despised it, appeared awkward in it and actually successfully sold you on more authentically being that inebriated chap. Sporting a costume that looked like it could have been purchased at Walgreen’s on a man who felt more comfortable being naked was refreshingly witty.

Will Smith (second from left), Jason Bateman (second from right) and Charlize Theron in Hancock
Will Smith (second from left), Jason Bateman (second from right) and Charlize Theron in “Hancock”.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

All in all, we can’t be satisfied with all the “Hancock” plot twists and turns because we didn’t get to the heart of what actually makes a superhero a superhero. Will Smith himself doesn’t know and couldn’t tell you if you asked him – even after he has been jailed, rehabilitated and PR spun by Jason Bateman who’s trying to change the world.

StarView our full, high-resolution “Hancock” image gallery.

StarMore film reviews from critic Adam Fendelman.

While it is a bit of a twist to make your “good” superhero hated and then needed and then loved once he learns to love himself, focusing on that internal exploration of the superhero felt like the self-discovery process should have happened privately with Dr. Phil rather than as a central plotline in a major Hollywood film.

Now Charlize Theron’s character had teeth. Will Smith as an anonymous “John Hancock” who can’t remember his genesis is branded by the film as a Bruce Willis-like “Unbreakable” character, but who the heck is Charlize Theron? Is she just the scorching wife of PR man Jason Bateman or does she have something incredible up her sleeve, too?

“Hancock” director Peter Berg would have been better served directing this script with a focus on her as the central character – a character who veils who she really is under the guise of humanity rather than the bumbling, stumbling Will Smith who merely cloaks his superhero depression with a bottle. Any takers for “The Incredible Housewife”?

“Hancock,” which features Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman and director Michael Mann in a small acting role, opened everywhere on July 2, 2008. editor-in-chief Adam Fendelman


© 2008 Adam Fendelman,

Anonymous's picture


Next time, before you go into a large “This character is hiding a secret and they don’t show you in the trailer, but watch for this secret because it’s teh best part of the movie” put up “SPOILER WARNING” in the title of your review. Thank you.

JordanC's picture

Agree entirely.

“Hancock” felt entirely too written. A good film, of course, is written eloquently well – so well, in fact, that you forget it’s written. A hackneyed story feels forcefully written.”

I agree entirely with your review, but I just think that rather than it being over-written or “too written”, it’s just written badly. There are a lot of things in the script that seem to have been put there as a place-holder for contiguity with superhero movies that just don’t work at all.

The film didn’t really need to have the whole antagonist twist in it, because it just didn’t work and felt like it was in there for the sake of there being a bad guy. If it was rather, more focused upon Hancock himself and had a more believable turn-around story, it’d actually be palatable as a film, providing it kept all the worthless and unrequited side-plots and the unnecessary humour elements to a very bare, almost non-existent minimum.

Hancock himself wasn’t that bad of a character, he was actually quite a change, but because he is so barely even reflected upon it is frustrating that rather than focus on the reflective, sombre loner and his difficulty adjusting and acknowledging his humanity, we just see so many short-stops which end with smack-talking and stupid “tough guy” comedy moments which drive me crazy.

In I-Robot, he tries too hard to be serious and ends up just looking silly, trying to keep the same facial expressions each time he’s between scenes. At least in this film he had somewhat more of a range, but he needs to actually stop “acting” and start acting. If he was more believable in the role, rather than him being at differing levels of street-smarts and “cool”, then maybe he’d be worth considering for a similar role, but then again… who would want to try this again considering the fallout.

I know there are sparks of talent with Smith because he has an intuitiveness to him that is somewhat unique, but this horrible script and execution did it no favours.

samuel adio's picture


well personally i think you are rong, most people who have superpower in comics are known as geeky nice guys, but this film clearly shows how it would most lykly be if some one had these powers, and i felt the story in its self was oringinal but now knowing about the film “The Return of Captain Invincible” myb the film is not original but it is still better than most superhero films - becuase personally i feel most people grow bord of seeing these “nice guys” fly round in capes and nt do a single thing wrong and the twist at the end is what makes the hole film, it is not a corrny twist where hancock suddely remembers who he is through flash back and he comes from another planet or through and experiment or accedent and the who fac that the woman has powers and is his wife n how she is in the hospital sowing him the scars is genius n i raly use that word. even how he uses is powers is very cleaver becase it make you as an audience see that e is not used 2 being the gud guy, compare the way he lands and how superman lands for example, i du agree about what you say with him feeling uncomfteble with his suit but feel his whole like - wen he sayd “good job” and other things make him uncomfertable. but al in i i liked the film a lot becus it is diffrent from most super hero films i watched

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