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HANCOCK
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
Director:  Peter Berg
Audio:  Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio:  Sony
Features:  See Review
Length:  92 Minutes (Theatrical), 102 Minutes (Unrated)
Release Date:  November 25, 2008

“Did you shove a man’s head up another man’s @$$?”

Film ***

We’re used to the big, climactic action sequences in superhero movies…ones like in Superman II which seemed to have left all of Metropolis in ruins.  Or Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Dark Knight…good guys fighting evil ones always seem to keep construction crews in demand.

Hancock, if nothing else, shows that there IS an aftermath to super-destructive crime fighting, and it ain’t always pretty.  Will Smith plays the most unusual superhero to date; one that likes to booze, does good deeds only with the maximum of reluctance, and seems to disdain people in general.  And the feeling is mutual.

Hancock has all the accoutrements: super strength, speed, he can fly, he’s bulletproof…but he’s no Superman.  In fact, when the film opens on a high speed police chase and shootout, Hancock is sleeping one off on a park bench, and is berated into doing something by a child who, based on what he says, doesn’t exactly see Hancock as someone to look up to.

The world has had enough.  Hancock does some good, but always with a hefty price tag of collateral damage, and his boozing and unsanitary habits are hardly the traits to inspire the people.  Then one day, he saves a fellow named Ray Embrey (Bateman) from a train wreck, and Embrey wants to return the favor by, in a sense, saving Hancock from his OWN train wreck.

Embrey is a public relations man who believes he can create the formula that will make Hancock a better man and superhero and pave the way for his public acceptance.  His wife Mary (Theron) doesn’t trust the bungling hero, but Ray is convinced he can make it work…even if it means Hancock has to voluntarily go to jail for a while.

When the world starts missing the heroics of Hancock, the time is ripe for a comeback…but will the sober, awkward super man ever be able to reconstruct the bridges he so clumsily demolished (literally and figuratively, I suppose)? 

The movie is at its best when it’s a treatise on the notion of a troubled superhero; one who isn’t intrinsically good but does what he does seemingly out of obligation.  It’s a terrific part for Will Smith, who has done plenty of solid work on the screen including a couple of Oscar-nominated turns, but might be at his career best here. 

The film doesn’t work as well when it gets off the track with an unforeseen plot turn that kind of changes the notion of what the movie set out to be and made it something quite different.  It’s still good, but I felt it would have been better had it simply followed through all the way on the original premise.

Director Peter Berg delivers the comedy with some applause inducing special effects sequences…I loved how Hancock handled a beached whale, for example.  I enjoyed the movie, but at the same time, I kind of missed what I was led to believe was going to be the driving point of the story.  Just the idea of a superhero in perpetual rehab was comic enough; it didn’t need tweaking or diversions.

BONUS:  You have the option of watching either the theatrical version or ten minute longer unrated version on this disc.

Video ***1/2

Sony has delivered a solid hi-def transfer here.  There is a touch of murkiness here and there, and some darker scenes that don’t quite have the same definition, but brighter scenes are crisper and more detailed, and the action sequences make the most of 1080p capabilities.

Audio ***1/2

No real complaints about the TrueHD offering, which is formidable…again, the action sequences bring out the best, with lots of subwoofer and rear channel usage.  Dialogue is cleanly rendered, and the uncompressed audio delivers nice subtle ambient effects in the quieter moments.

Features ***

The disc contains seven featurettes chronicling the many aspects of making the film, with interviews with Peter Berg, his crew, and three main stars.  There is also a Blu-ray exclusive Video Diary available in picture-in-picture format while you watch.  And rounding out is a bonus digital copy of the movie.

Summary:

Superheroes aren’t always reborn…sometimes, they’re just repackaged.  Hancock offers a delightful twist on the formula, but might have been even better had it stuck to the plan all the way through.

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