I think the authors of the script, Ngo and Gilligan, constructed an incredibly insightful blueprinted metaphor for the antithetical repulsion-continuum of Love/Power that was roundly overlooked by the folks who made the movie. Charlize Theron, it seems to me, was the only above-the-line contributor who brought to the project a genuine sense of what the movie was doing in a picture dedicated to the annoying signature of Peter Berg, aka, CAPTAIN JIGGLE(cam). I always like Will Smith.
The central conflict running deep in the film is the range of emotional and behavioral artifacts that accompany singular power versus those that come with intimacy. Flowing from that deep and fundamental, antagonistic conversation are all the intricate subtextural elements that result in a film that opens with an hour-long view into the nihilistic existence of a pointless, alienated, derelict superhero whose loneliness in the second hour is redeemed by the discovery of his forgotten, immortal counterpoint. The dynamic 180° switch is achieved with admirable wtf-abruptness, but the reveal of the supercouple filled my head with questions that remained unresolved while the film raced on at a new blistering pace to reach its own conclusion. Sequel?
Remarks in the DVD’s special-features disk suggest that the interpersonal conflict of this immortal couple are now (and have always been) permanent, but nothing in the dialogue highlights irreconcilable differences, apart from Mary’s allegation that she is the more powerful of the two of them. I think she believes that statement to be true because she chose to abandon her mate in Miami in 1928, while he (like a discarded puppy) eventually found his circuitous way back to her side. I find that intimation fascinating because it goes to the heart of the intrapersonal polarity of proximal-intimate-vulnerability contrasted with remote-anonymous-immortality&singular power; not unlike superheroic blackburied Captains of Industry (moms&dads) who barely know their kids.
Oddly, there are previews on the special features disk for The International and Lakeview Terrace. Having seen and enjoyed the former, I’ve queued the latter to find out whether Lakeview Terrace does a better job of treating intersexual race and the abuse of power. Tom Tykwer’s made films I enjoy tremendously, and Handjobcock (like Dolores Claiborne) reaches deep into forbidden regions below the belt where it juggles our cultural balls and fumbles them slightly short of the goal that’s even (or FAR) more important than the particular story about which they’re told. I lay responsibility for those fumbles on Taylor Hackford and Peter Berg.
In Hancock, Mary explains their immortal identities to amnesiac-John, “We’re gods, angels…now they call us superheroes…”. I misunderstood her reading as, “We’re God’s angels…”. Without a copy of the script to make better sense of her vitally-important expository statement from written punctuation, I caught the theatrical release about six months ago and went with the second, theological reference.
That’s exactly the kind of confusion that’s directly attributable to the director/editor. I went off on an utterly unnecessary tangent (involving Dogma, The Prophecy, Constantine, Devil’s Advocate…) because Peter Berg authorized an under-punctuated reading of God’s angels/gods…angels…. Friday Night Lights is thrilling to me for reasons that sidestep the Peter Berg signature; Dekter-cam on steroids, sloppy diction, minced edits. Hancock interrupts a ($91.10) liquor store hold-up in the second half of the film. The bullet that penetrates his newly-vulnerable torso is whisked past by the camera in a way that confuses the reason for his registered consternation and the anatomical location of the wound, and an important moment that’s far more central to the story than Berg’s excessively-energetic camera moves.
Berg gravitates into material that fascinates me, but I think the projects he’s involved in suffer from his involvement in them. He’s like John Hancock in the first half of the film. It’s a tossup whether he’ll save the beached whale or scuttle the lovely ship. Less Peter Berg PR is better.
Later: Demeter is mentioned as one of Mary’s historic avatars. It strikes me as almost self-evident that when Hancock is reintroduced in a custom-fitted black superhero suit, with caution-yellow piping and an eagle outline on the back…that Mary really should (as John’s bonded antitheses) get into the downtown knockdown-dragout with him in a classic, white, flowing ensemble. They dressed her in black. Red is the name of Hancock’s mortal antagonist, which suggests Jason Bateman’s motif really ought to be green (sustainable, life-promoting, freshly optimistic, yadada yadada yawn.) Nobody in the audience needs a degree in classical literature to dress this movie’s most central characters in keeping with unsubtle mythological schemes, but while the filmmakers went to interesting extremes to think through (invisible) stuff like intricate decor-detail in the homes of the heroes, they kinda overlooked a few disturbing things. Like Mary’s son, Aaron, practically disappears about 75% of the way into the film. I’m not saying I missed him, but the offspring of the divine EarthMother prototype and a quixotic, idealistic new-age public relations dynamo might have had SOME kind of mythic part to play in resolving his mother’s emotional dilemma. Okay, maybe he wasn’t the product of immaculate conception…I’m just saying they made her an iconic soccer mom, then flushed her (son of man and god) kid down the cutting room toilet. Mess with powerful archetypes, make a film with prescient vision. Ya know? You betcha!
(I hope this Sarah Palin allusion makes sense to absolutely nobody real soon.)
Ngo’s idea is said to have spent years kicking around in development. I think it could and should have been brought to the screen in a form that would have been infinitely more satisfying, especially to Dykstra.
Correction: This is my fifth pass through the film, and I always forget that Mary is Aaron’s stepmother. That invalidating fact smells like a duct taped patch that simply won’t stay glued. I’m hopelessly stuck on the story they didn’t tell. The film they made highlights sublime self-sacrifice and finds remarkable virtue in running away from love, like taking pride in your Monday morning commute back into the mouth hell…that puts bread on the table and the kids in boarding school. It could also have been a whole lot worse.
If Redd Foxx made a catchphrase out of the threat to put one man’s head up another man’s ass, that would explain the choice to play the Sanford and Son theme through the moment when Hancock makes it happen. If not, it’s a vaguely funny musical quote that’s mostly deeply sappy.