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3 Stars Movies

Hancock begs to be read as a metaphor, but for what?

Peter Berg’s Hancock refreshingly begins in the middle, bypassing the superhero genre’s now-standard structure. But that leaves a great deal of mythology to relate later, especially for a story not based on an already well-known household name like Spider-Man or Batman. But like most superhero movies, it neatly lays groundwork for potential sequels and prequels.

Will Smith and Charlize Theron play estranged exes, who also happen to be thousands-year-old creatures that are mortal when paired — which begs to be read as some kind of metaphor, but for what? Mary (Theron) is married to a mortal (Jason Bateman), but how does an unemployed P.R. guy afford a gigantic house in L.A.? How did he get his great reputation if he’s unemployed?

Even when you learn Mary’s back story, her behavior doesn’t make sense. A gross, unfunny sex scene opens a pandora’s box of plot holes: how do they have sex with humans? Not to mention give birth? Is a half-mortal child also superhuman? How did Mary plan on explaining her agelessness to her husband and child? One of them was on the scene as recently as 80 years ago, so why have none of these creatures ever been heard from before, throughout history?

Hancock is shot in a notably expressive handheld camera style, and features special effects by John Dykstra (of The Matrix and Speed Racer fame). The DVD bonus features reveal many effects and stunts were done practically. Co-producer Michael Mann has a cameo appearance, and was attached to direct as some point, and the idea of a Mann superhero flick is truly something to imagine.

A few extra observations on the cast:

  • Casting a major movie star like Charlize Theron in what seems at first to be a small role is a kind of spoiler, but that spoiler is itself spoiled in a fleeting shot included in the trailer.
  • Jason Bateman’s characteristic dry, wry sense of humor is a big asset here, but he doesn’t seem to emote during scenes in which his character’s wife is dying.
  • Eddie Marsan can easily pivot from Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake, to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams, to Michael Mann’s Miami Vice, proving he must be one of the most versatile actors working.

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