Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.
Hancock is a 2008 superhero comedy film starring Will Smith as Hancock, alongside Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron.
I remember when this film came out and black comedians joked that the first black superhero was an alcoholic bum. But I always thought the premise of the story was good and had a lot of potential specifically because it was something that had never been done before.
Most superhero films do not explore the human side of their superheroes. Instead, a lot of focus is put on their powers and abilities and the consequences of having those powers. Hancock, however, explores what would happen if a normal, flawed, everyday person (who still had a good heart) somehow mysteriously had super powers. I mean . . . could you imagine that drunk homeless dude you see on the corner every Friday with a sign being endowed with super strength overnight?
Unfortunately, this film, while starting off with great promise, only half-way delivers. It's something that has always disappointed me, but I still enjoy re-watching the film nonetheless (it's free on Amazon Prime as I'm writing this).
Welcome to my analysis of Hancock.
Who is Hancock?
The film opens with a drunk Hancock passed out on a bench as armed criminals are seen on the news robbing a bank (or something). A little boy wakes Hancock up, and the superhero groggily snatches up the bad guys, car and all, and dumps them for the police to find (ruining a lot of city property in the process).
Within the first ten minutes of the film, we learn that Hancock is a drunk, irresponsible, mess of a superhero who the entire city of L.A. hates and despises, despite his good intentions.
The entire thing comes off as very funny, but before long, the audience is made to realize that Hancock is a drunken mess because he's deeply depressed. He's all alone in the world, has no one he can talk to, and according to a scene that was (wisely) cut from the film, he can't even enjoy physical intimacy with another person because he could accidentally kill them just by climaxing.
Once it's revealed that Hancock doesn't even know his real name, his drunken depression becomes less funny and more sympathetic and leaves the audience wanting to see him reach his full potential as a superhero.
The First Half is the Best Half
This is where Ray (Jason Bateman) comes in.
Ray is a kind-hearted man who is trying to change the world. He is the first person to take a look at Hancock and see his worth. As a result of this, he sets out to help Hancock answer the calling of being a superhero.
Hancock's transformation as Ray helps him reform is the best thing about this film. It takes up precisely the first half of the movie, and it's so good, it leaves the audience wondering why the entire film wasn't about their dynamic.
Ray's friendship with Hancock is both touching and amusing.
Sometimes people come into our lives to help us become who we are meant to be and/or to just help us become better versions of ourselves. These people are typically known as a soulmates, and they don't always have to be romantic. Soulmates can be friends or family members as well.
When Ray appears in Hancock's life, he acts as a soulmate to him, guiding him with loving patience through a complete reform from drunk and irresponsible to dependable, considerate (Hancock stops accidentally, carelessly destroying everything) and put together.
At about the middle of the film, Hancock has undergone a complete transformation. He arrives at a crime scene shaven and wearing a nice costume, rather than showing up with stubble and in his boxer shorts. He is careful not to destroy everything as he lands and manages to not only save people's lives but gain their admiration.
Unfortunately, after this point is where the film takes a downturn. Instead of having Hancock fight a villain and save the city or something, we instead are forced to endure an entirely new twist on the plot, where it turns out that Ray's wife is really Hancock's wife and the only other superhero left in existence.
The Second Half of the Film: Bad
I kind of hate the second half of the film, and a lot of people would agree that it was completely unnecessary and not really a great addition to the story at all. There was a rumor that something else entirely was supposed to happen, but then it was deemed too "dark" for the film. So the original second half was cut and this is what we got stuck with . . .
They should have just made the entire movie about Hancock's reform and left it at that. For several reasons.
The first reason? Hancock and Mary (Charlize Theron) are a very obvious metaphor for twin flames.
The Twin Flame Metaphor (Barf)
According to the spiritual community, twin flames are the same soul split into two bodies, but they are rarely born on Earth in the same time period and thus, rarely encounter each other.
If they do encounter each other, it's with the purpose that one helps the other to grow and change as a person, becoming who they ultimately were meant to be. But twin flames are also not meant for romance (despite what people say) and are instead about a journey toward self-love.
They are basically like soulmates (they love each other, they help each other grow), except they kind of hate each other as much as they love each other and can't be around each other without hurting each other.
All of this was taken and turned into a plot for the film, the end result being that the film is really a metaphor about personal growth. (ZZZzzz.)
Again, all of this was so annoying and completely unnecessary because it really didn't make for a great story. Twin flames, by their very nature, are the worst love story ever told because they are essentially one person in two bodies fighting against themselves. Aka self-hatred struggling to become self-love.
Why the writers thought they could make this a compelling story is beyond me.
There's also the fact that Will Smith and Charlize Theron had zero chemistry. In fact, the lack of chemistry between them was so bad that this film convinced me that Will Smith is actually gay.
Nope. I'm not even joking.
There have been rumors swirling for years about his sexuality, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was true. Gay actors are often asked to sign contracts where they agree to hide their sexuality so that their movies will sell in foreign countries. I feel like Will Smith is one of those actors (and possibly Jada, too).
It's not just this film that convinced me. (In fact, this film didn't so much as convince me but confirmed my suspicions.) Will Smith has never had great chemistry with the love interests in any of his films, and whenever he's asked to kiss or touch a woman on screen, it's with an awkwardness that only a gay man would have.
I'm not judging or insulting Will Smith. I myself am gay and more power to him and Jada if this is true. I can understand him wanting to protect his career.
Unfortunately, Will Smith being unable to pretend to be straight kinda kills the ridiculous romance plot they tried to force between Hancock and Mary. That said, the romance would have been ridiculous either way. I'm just saying the lack of chemistry made it worse.
Hilariously enough, Charlize Theron was really bad at pretending to enjoy lesbian sex in Monster, which kind of made it hard for me to believe her and Christina Ricci as a couple. And I say that while acknowledging that Theron is an amazing actress who otherwise depicted Aileen Wuornos perfectly.
Will Smith is a great actor, too. It's just that . . . some things can't be faked. And people like me, who are gay and have tried to fake straightness, can spot the truth a mile away.
An Alternate Ending
The ending would have been better if Hancock simply lost his powers and had to fight without them against ordinary people. Basically, it would have been the second half of the film as it happened before, except no dumb romance plot with Mary.
Instead, Mary would remain skeptical of Hancock, only to be slowly won over in a quick montage as Hancock does more and more good deeds throughout the city. Then something happens where he becomes mortal, and Mary and Ray have to help him fight.
Again, it would be the same movie but without the dumb "twin flame" nonsense. And maybe there would be some explanation for his powers, like he's a fallen angel or something . . . Again, basically the same, just without the Mary romance.
People complained about the villains, but I liked that they were ordinary criminals. There's a theme here of ordinary flawed persons taking prominent roles that people missed.
The villains of the film are deliberately not mad scientists or psychic aliens or random guys who wandered into goop and gained superpowers. Their only superpower is basically being able to shoot a gun, and it works wonderfully to nearly kill Hancock.
I loved that Hancock was forced to face the consequences of his actions and fight ordinary people on their terms. After all, these were people he had harmed in a very unnecessarily cruel manner. He shoved the head of one up another's ass . . . Just so wrong.
I always felt it was a juvenile joke and didn't have a place in the film, but given Ray's reaction later . . . it was worth it. Jason Bateman was really, really good at reacting to Hancock's hijinks with shocked hesitation. Then he would reprimand Hancock in that soothing, patient parent voice . . . It was all just so great.
Why, oh, why couldn't the entire film have just been that? The journey of a broken mess into a great hero?
But I suppose it's pointless dwelling on what could have been and how a thirteen-year-old movie could be improved. Best to enjoy it for the flawed, broken mess that is . . . just like Hancock.