‘Hancock’ fights superhero clichés with gusto but runs out of steam early


3.5 of 5 stars

    The script for “Hancock” has been floating around Hollywood for more than 10 years, and the abundance of superhero movies at the cinema this year makes this the perfect time to unleash it on summer movie fans.

    John Hancock (Will Smith), like most comic-book-style heroes, has superpowers. He has incredible strength, the ability to fly, invincibility and immortality. Unfortunately, he also has amnesia, alcoholism and a grudge against humanity.

    The first third of the movie shows Hancock fighting crime and saving lives by destroying property and angering the citizens of Los Angeles. In short, he’s the world’s least-popular superhero.

    After being saved by Hancock, Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), who is described as “the Bono of public relations,” decides to help Hancock change his image.

    Watching Smith rebel against the iconic superhero stereotype is great fun, and “Hancock” certainly peaks early. As Hancock battles his personal demons and learns some secrets about his past, the movie falls in line with the same clichés it fought against at the beginning.

    Director Peter Berg made “The Rundown” an excellent popcorn flick, but he stumbled slightly with “The Kingdom.” He seemed to struggle when trying too hard to wedge a message into an otherwise frivolous action movie.

    “Hancock” displays the same weakness, but to a lesser extent. The movie never becomes bad — it just loses steam. As Hancock learns more about his past, his character becomes just like every other superhero at the multiplex.

    The mediocre plot is boosted significantly by entertaining performances and beautiful cinematography. Smith could make an infomercial entertaining and Bateman and Charlize Theron round out a relatively small list of big-name actors.

    As a summer blockbuster, “Hancock” lands most of the punches it throws, and its flaws do little to drag down an overall enjoyable movie. It doesn’t dethrone “Iron Man” as the best superhero movie of the summer, but so far, it sits significantly ahead of the rest of the crop.

Brendan Praeger is a senior in journalism education. Please send comments to edge@spub.ksu.edu.