Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Jae Head, Eddie Marsan, David Mattey, Maetrix Fitten, Thomas Lennon, Johnny Galecki
Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan
There are heroes. There are superheroes. And then there's ...
With great power comes great responsibility - everyone knows that - everyone, that is, but Hancock (Will Smith). Edgy, conflicted, sarcastic, and misunderstood, Hancock's well-intentioned heroics might get the job done and save countless lives, but always seem to leave jaw-dropping damage in their wake. The public has finally had enough - as grateful as they are to have their local hero, the good citizens of Los Angeles are wondering what they ever did to deserve this guy. Hancock isn't the kind of man who cares what other people think - until the day that he saves the life of PR executive Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), and the sardonic superhero begins to realize that he may have a vulnerable side after all. Facing that will be Hancock's greatest challenge yet - and a task that may prove impossible as Ray's wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), insists that he's a lost cause.
$62.603 million on 3965 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
102 min. (Unrated Version)
92 min. (Rated Version)
Release Date: 11/25/2008
• “Superhumans: The Making of Hancock” Featurette
• “Home Life” Featurette
• “Seeing the Future” Featurette
• “Suiting Up” Featurette
• “Building a Better Hero” Featurette
• “Bumps and Bruises” Featurette
• “Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with ‘Dirty Pete’” Featurette
• Digital Copy
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Hancock: Unrated Special Edition (2008)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 8, 2008)
Ever since Independence Day became a smash back in 1996, the 4th of July has turned into Will Smith Blockbuster Weekend. Men in Black followed in 1997, and Smith has racked up plenty more mid-summer hits over the following decade.
Smith scored again with 2008’s Hancock, a superhero flick with a twist. Smith plays the title character, a man with tremendous powers who uses them begrudgingly. Bitter and depressed for reasons that become apparent as the story progresses, Hancock hits the bottle hard, and his attempts to do good often backfire. This means he often earns the animosity of the mortals, a trend that Hancock exacerbates with his caustic personality.
After Hancock saves his life, publicist Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) decides to repay the hero with a PR makeover. Ray pushes to rehabilitate Hancock with the public and turn him into the hero he should be. The film follows that path along with some problems with baddies and mysteries related to Ray’s wife Mary (Charlize Theron), a woman with a complicated past.
On paper, Hancock looked like it could be a real winner. The anti-hero concept boasted tons of potential, and the flick’s position as a summer blockbuster meant it would feature top-notch production values. It looked like something with tremendous potential.
For many people, Hancock became a disappointment. It did fine at the box office, though its $227 million gross left it as the fourth biggest seller of the summer. It placed behind The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Given the high-powered competition, fourth place is no embarrassment, but since many felt it might be the summer’s big winner, its final standing must be a letdown to some.
Many also felt less than enchanted with the film itself. Hancock earned lackluster reviews and quite a lot of animosity from the usual fanboys – undeserved animosity, I believe. No, Hancock doesn’t dazzle, but it satisfies most of the time.
I do agree with one of the complaints, though. Many thought Hancock offered a disjointed, rushed story, and I feel the same way, especially in its theatrical cut. (The DVD also provides an unrated edition with 10 additional minutes of footage; more about that later.) Hancock follows the thread with the lead character’s rehabilitation well but falters somewhat when it gets into the Mary side of things, and it particularly sags during the scenes with the villains.
Honestly, I get the feeling that Hancock includes the baddies just because it feels they’re a requirement of a superhero flick. It sense that the filmmakers would love to eschew villains entirely but they didn’t want to go too far astray from the standard superhero formula. That’s a mistake, more due to the execution of the subplot. This side of the film simply fails to go anywhere; it feels tacked on and vaguely unnecessary.
The Mary subplot proves more satisfying, and it’s certainly a more important aspect of the tale. I don’t want to spill too many beans because I want to avoid spoilers, but the Hancock/Mary relationship becomes a crucial aspect of the film. It just doesn’t fill out as well as it should. This part of the flick doesn’t truly disappoint, but I think it could work better than it does.
Despite those issues, Hancock as a whole entertains. Some of that comes from the sheer sizzle of its concept, and a lot of the credit goes to its star. Smith has truly grown as an actor over the last decade. Back in the Nineties, he carried flicks more with his considerable charm and charisma, but over recent years, Smith has been able to demonstrate greater skill.
That proves true for Hancock. Before the film’s release, many fans feared that his performance would consist of little more than proclamations of “aw, hell no!” Those concerns proved unfounded. Although Smith doesn’t give Hancock the same depth he brought to 2007’s I Am Legend, he does give the role much more personality than it might normally warrant. Perhaps since he came up through action flicks, Smith doesn’t treat the role in a condescending way. No one told him that superhero movies are supposed to feature two-dimensional characters, so he brings true heart to the part.
Really, the combination of Smith’s performance and the cool concept give Hancock enough juice to succeed. Nothing else about the flick excels, and it does sag at times; the first have definitely works better than the second segment. Nonetheless, Hancock delivers enough excitement, action and fun to make it an entertaining diversion.
As I mentioned earlier, this DVD includes both the 92-minute theatrical cut and a 102-minute unrated edition. The most significant addition comes early in the film when a girl picks up Hancock at a bar. That scene runs about five minutes, so it takes up about half of the longer cut’s extensions.
Other additions seem less substantial. I noticed a little more to the scene during which Hancock puts a drunk Ray to bed, but otherwise I’d be hard-pressed to spotlight any specific alterations. I guess they’re there, but I didn’t detect any other additions; one line changes a piece of profanity, but that doesn’t extend the film.
Did any of the changes make Hancock a better movie? I don’t think so. I liked the theatrical cut, and the unrated version doesn’t alter the problems I had with it. The villains remain sketchy at best, and the film still has its pacing problems.
In fact, the scene with the girl at the bar slows the flick even more. It’s an interesting scene on its own, but it doesn’t fit into the context of the film very well. It’s the kind of thing perfect for DVD deleted scenes; I just don’t like it as part of the movie.
The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+
Hancock appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not a bad transfer, the picture was a bit erratic.
Sharpness usually looked solid. Some light edge enhancement made wide shots a little soft at times, but those instances didn’t create substantial concerns. Instead, the movie normally appeared concise and accurate. I detected no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws were absent. Grain could be heavier than normal, but that appeared to stem from visual design, not from the transfer.
Hancock went with a surprisingly warm palette. A few scenes gave the flick a blue look, but the movie usually focuses on a saturated, golden appearance. I thought the tones could be a bit too heavy, but they usually appeared pretty solid. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows seemed decent. Some low-light shots were somewhat too dark, though. Overall, this was a good but not great presentation.
Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Hancock. While the audio complemented the story to a good degree, it didn’t quite sizzle in the way one might expect from a summer blockbuster. Still, the many action sequences managed to open up matters well. Hancock flew around the room in a satisfying manner, and his encounter with his counterpart packed a solid punch, especially when some wild weather widened the spectrum. All five channels got a good workout through the movie, though the soundfield lacked the true dazzle value found in most superhero movies.
Audio quality remained positive. Effects played the most important role, and they satisfied. Those elements were accurate and dynamic, as they showed good power and delineation. Music was full and rich, and speech seemed fine. The lines were consistently natural and concise. Again, the mix wasn’t quite strong enough to jump to “A”-level, but it was consistently satisfying.
All of the set’s extras appear on DVD Two. We find seven featurettes and begin with Superhumans: The Making of Hancock. It goes for 12 minutes, 51 seconds and includes interviews with director Peter Berg, producers Akiva Goldsman, James Lassiter and Michael Mann, screenwriter Vince Gilligan, and actors Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and Jason Bateman. The show looks at the project’s origins, script, and development, bringing Berg on-board as director, cast and performances, and changes to the story and the film’s tone.
Though too short to provide a lot of detail, some interesting notes emerge here. We learn that Mann originally planned to direct the flick and find intriguing thoughts about the script’s development. There’s too much fluff on display, but the featurette includes enough good content to make it worthwhile.
Next comes the 15-minute and 59-second Seeing the Future. It includes notes from Goldsman, Bateman, Smith, Mann, executive producer Ian Bryce, and 2nd unit director/stunt coordinator Simon Crane. “Future” covers the film’s use of pre-viz techniques. We learn about these in an introduction and then sit in on planning meetings. We also see some of the pre-viz CG created for the flick. I like this glimpse at the processes and think that we get some good behind the scenes info here. (By the way, the final clip is a joke, but it’s a fun one.)
For Building a Better Hero, we get eight minutes, 15 seconds with Goldsman, Berg, Smith, Bryce, Crane, Mann, Bateman, associate director of graphics research Paul Debevec, visual effects designer John Dykstra, and visual effects producer Josh R. Jaggars. “Hero” concentrates on various effects. As with some of the other pieces, the brevity of “Hero” makes it somewhat incomplete, but it still manages to produce a smattering of interesting details.
Bumps and Bruises fills 10 minutes, 28 seconds with remarks from Berg, Smith, Crane, Bateman, Mann, Goldsman, Bryce, Theron, set decorator Rosemary Brandenburg, stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood and actor Eddie Marsan. This one examines practical effects, sets and stunts for a few scenes. I’m not sure why the DVD’s producers didn’t just combine “Hero” and “Bruises”, as both follow pretty similar subjects. Nonetheless, “Bruises” continues to work fairly well despite its brief running time.
After this we get the 10-minute and 47-second Home Life. It features Bryce, Bateman, Goldsman, and Brandenburg. “Life” takes a look at the set created for the Embrey house as well as Hancock’s trailer. We find a nice examination of these areas and this becomes one of the DVD’s most satisfying featurettes.
For Suiting Up, we find eight minutes and 22 seconds with Berg, Bryce, Gilligan, Lassiter, Mann, Marsan, Goldsman, Smith, Theron, Jaggars, Dykstra, and costume designer Louise Mingenbach. We learn about the film’s costume design here. As with “Life”, the show gives us a good take on its topic.
Finally, Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with “Dirty Pete” goes for three minutes, 57 seconds. It provides notes with Berg, Smith, Mann, Goldsman, Theron, Lassiter, and camera operator Lukasz Bielan. This short clip tells us what a nut Berg is. It gives us a few decent shots from the set but not much more than that.
A few ads open DVD Two. We get clips for Blu-Ray Disc, The International and Lakeview Terrace. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for The Pink Panther 2, The House Bunny, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, The Pursuit of Happyness, Men In Black, Hitch and The Lazarus Project. No trailer for Hancock shows up here.
Finally, the set includes the now-ubiquitous Digital Copy. You can use this to duplicate the flick for various portable devices. I’ll never do so, but if you dig it, knock yourself out!
Though the film never quite excels, Hancock offers a mostly satisfying take on superheroes. It certainly takes advantage of its intriguing concept, and it does just enough right to make it a nice piece of entertainment. The DVD offers generally positive picture, very good audio, and a decent roster of extras. I recommend Hancock for fans of action-comic book flicks.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2444 Stars|| Number of Votes: 45|