7/2/08

What's With the Hate for Hancock?

So, evidently there are a lot of negative reviews about Hancock. I've read a couple and I understand their arguments, but I have to wonder if they ever actually thought about the plot before they went ranting. I'm going to try and untangle the web that these critics are weaving, but in the process I'm going to have to let loose a boat-load of spoilers, so if you haven't seen it, don't read past this paragraph. Suffice it to say that if you really think about what's going on, you will enjoy the movie.

Much of the criticism comes from wondering why such a fail-hero would would even try to help out at all. Alright, that's fair, I guess, if you look at it superficially. But I think it's a problem that can be solved by a single solution. A solution that also solves a second problem: why is he a fail-hero in the first place? Let me see if I can work through this with you...

John Hancock has lived for thousands of years with his wife, Mary. The two of them are part of a race of beings that are the origin of god mythology. When certain pairs of them get together, their powers are reduced, but still present. It's never explicitly stated that they are able to age when they're together (since they don't age when they're apart), but for the sake of this argument, I'd like to present that they still retain their eternal life so long as they don't get shot or hacked up or blown apart. So for part of their several-thousand-year life they had the powers of a god while for the rest of the time they were mere mortals who could live an awfully long time.

Let's say that for the first thousand years they played god with the rest of their race. But then after a while this race began to die off. When they figured out why, they decided to lay low. Hancock and Mary eventually fall deeply in love with each other. They get married and live quiet lives as long-living mortals for the next few thousand years. Hancock is happy, Mary is happy, they run into bumps along the way, but they generally live a comfortable life... for thousands of years.

Then suddenly it's the 1930's and they decide to go see a movie. On the way there they are attacked by muggers, Hancock is hit in the head and amnesia ensues. In the hospital, Mary decides that it's best for the both of them if they just stay apart. She moves on with her life and marries Ray... But Hancock, for the first time in THOUSANDS of years, is alone without a clue for who he is or what he is. Somewhere deep inside, Hancock is missing the one thing in his life that has kept his eternal existence stable and secure.

It doesn't take long for people to realize he has super-powers, so he decides he's a superhero. He thinks maybe this is his destiny and maybe this is what will make him happy. It fails. But he knows nothing else. So he continues. Meanwhile, the fact that he just doesn't care one iota about his own life (because he's missing something that he had for thousands of years) leads him to be sloppy in his crime-fighting, causing collateral damage of which a hurricane would be proud. Still, he's a natural-born protector, so he keeps on protecting.

Perhaps this carelessness causes Hancock to be sporadic in his rescue attempts. We open the movie with a child having to wake Hancock out of a deep sleep in order to stop some bad-guys. This leads me to think that maybe a lot of the crimes are just missed. Either because he's sleeping, nursing a hangover or just doesn't give a frak. Maybe this is why criminals believe they have a chance at getting away, and maybe this is why they believe they can challenge the superhero when he comes around. After all, it doesn't appear that he ever has the chutzba to actually kill anyone, so why not push the envelope a little and bluff their way out? The worst bodily harm he ever intentionally does to a person in the movie is cut their hand off. Of course, that's debatable... what he did to those two prisoners should never be attempted by anyone... ever...

So, Hancock has these superpowers and everyone knows about it. But they also know he's a jerk. I wouldn't be surprised if some people called him up once or twice and asked him to help out a little. He knows he's most people's only hope, so, true to his word, when people turn against him, he doesn't care what people think. I like to think that maybe sometimes he keeps up the superhero act out of spite. But why is he such a jerk? Why does he fail so badly at being a superhero? Because he's scarred and jaded by the decision of his only true love to leave him alone after thousands of happily married years. He may not remember who she is, but deep inside he knows something is missing. And it pisses him off that he can't figure out what.

A couple of mild arguments against the movie include that it doesn't know what kind of movie it is and that it's not really all that funny. Well, the movie has a lot to cover in order for us to get an idea of who Hancock is and who Ray is, but especially of the relationship between Hancock and Mary and what they decide to reveal to us about their past. I think the crossing between so many different "movies" reveals a depth of story-telling that is sadly lacking in much of modern media. It shows the characters are more than just images on a screen - they have more dimension than a lot of real people I know.

Really, the only argument that comes close to being valid is that it's not very funny. Don't get me wrong, though, there are some humorous parts. To be fair, however, there are humorous parts in Iron Man, which is not billed as a comedy. And I think that's the problem. The producers decided to call it a comedy when really it's more of an action/adventure. If they would have just called it that, then people would go to see it for the action and be pleasantly surprised by the light humor.

So there's my two cents worth... or... twenty dollars worth. Take it or leave it. I enjoyed Hancock and I think that most of America will like it, too. Maybe it won't win any awards, but when it comes down to it, it's all about entertainment value, and I think Hancock has a lot of it.