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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

I’m looking forward to: ‘Hancock’

Biggest box-office hero of Summer 2008? Yeah, maybe it’ll be Indiana Jones. Maybe it’ll be the cute animated robot Wall-E. But maybe — just maybe — it’ll be Will Smith as the superantihero Hancock:

Smith’s got the upcoming Fourth of July weekend to himself, which is probably a wise thing: Smith has been the king of that holiday weekend since at least Independence Day more than a decade ago. In fact, Smith is the king of whatever weekend he opens a movie on: I Am Legend opened with more than $77 million over a nonholiday weekend, and only just left theaters last week, having taken in a quarter of a billion bucks domestically and more than half a billion worldwide. So it would probably be foolish to bet against Smith and Hancock.

And that’s apart from the fact that the flick looks pretty darn funny. Obvious, but funny. Hancock is a dude with superpowers but without, apparently, any of the civic-mindedness that typically goes along with it — you know, Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben’s great-power, great-responsibilities thing… At least, the powers and the sense of duty have always been joined in caped crusaders in the comic books these movies have been inspired by. But as USA Today noted recently, Hancock, who is almost nothing but character flaws, is an original creation for film: he doesn’t belong to Marvel or D.C. or anyone else. Which might have been a minus for the film’s box-office prospects — all those longtime comic book heroes have built-in audiences yearning to see them on film — if it were anyone else but Smith in the lead.

Not everyone’s as psyched for the film as I am. Great White Snark seems to think that the film should be classed as a “superhero parody” (which, he says, never work). But just because a movie is funny doesn’t automatically make it a parody… and Hancock certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to be sending up the conventions of the genre, but instead will give us a different kind of superhero. Certainly, director Peter Berg — whose last movie was the intense The Kingdom — isn’t exactly known as a maker of comedies, and when he does make a movie with comedic elements, like The Rundown, they tweak and snark rather than satirize.

And then there’s Alex at FirstShowing.net, who thinks the teaser trailer looks “absolutely, downright terrible” and offers this challenge:

How can anyone even like this? I invite you to prove me wrong. (emphasis in original)

I’m not sure how Alex wants to be proven wrong, but I’ll tell you how I can like this: Hancock seems like the inevitable end result of a road we’ve been going down for a while now with our superhero movies, as they outdo one another in their attempts to demonstrate that even superheroes are only human. You think the Dark Knight is messed up? He’s got nothing on Hancock. Of course Hancock the movie might not pull off the concept of a drunken, misanthropic superhero well, but it’s certainly one worth exploring. And if it can be funny about it, all the better.

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