2008 // USA // Peter Berg // July 8, 2008 // Theatrical Print
C - In the abstract, Will Smith's reluctant, negligent superman, John Hancock, is a comic hero with an admittedly cunning twist. And Smith, to his credit, uses his own boundless charisma to nicely affect the mysterious messiah's transition from sophomoric alcoholic to godling with a conscience. In the end, however, the Idea and the Star alone cannot elevate Hancock when the filmmakers have relatively pedestrian ambitions. The film's best moments are also its nastiest—such as when Smith flings a little bully a few thousand feet into the sky to put the fear of Krypton into him. Too often, however, Hancock lunges for cheap sentiment or weak laughs. Berg's camera captures the distinctive glaze of modern Los Angeles, but also insists on a style that consists primarily of constant, distracting jiggling. I wasn't bothered by the out-of-left-field revelation in Hancock's third act, but its poorly conveyed implications and the confused, tension-free climax ensured that the "surprise" was wasted. The early glee at watching Hancock's disastrous attempts at heroism (and Smith's "Fuck Y'all" attitude) just barely make up for the generally limp storytelling, or the discomfiting subtext in a black man—even a black superman—who needs to go to prison to learn a lesson.