Revisiting Hancock (with spoilers)
I revisited the film this evening. It’s still disturbingly tame. The review I wrote last July reaches most of the objections I’m going to raise presently:
A guy spends about 80 years on Earth without knowing why
- he can fly,
- isn’t vulnerable to bullets, knives, speeding trains…
- doesn’t age,
- moves with incredible speed,
- and is about as strong as Godzilla.
But he’s also an antisocial asshole that nobody wants to know. So he drinks a lot and leads a remarkably reckless and haphazzard, superpowerful existence. He’s opposed to crime and evil, for no discernible reason…and to the best of his knowledge, he’s the only person on Earth who’s cursed or blessed with these attributes that make him a definitive outsider — with the unenviable tendency to punch gaping holes through his sexpartners courtesy of his superpowered orgasms: Control issues. Zeus, Christ, Lucifer…superhuman stereotypes to avoid.
With a wealth of comic opportunities to exploit, the film didn’t linger on the miscegenation topic of white Charlize Theron and black Will Smith as lovers who were made for each another (One man, One woman). Nor did it struggle to evaluate the implicit value of lives saved against replacement costs of private and public property damaged by the recklessness of an inexpressibly lonely, brokenhearted, derelict superhero. An asshole is anywhere your stuff becomes shit. The step-mother loophole still bothers me, as does the choice to end the film by dropping an enormous corporate logo on the moon saying, I HEART YOU. It feels like an unbelievably tedious patchwork of appeasements to keep mercantile feathers unruffled. I loathe the taste of horsefeathers!
Pitching Hancock to Jackman would obviate that ticklish race-thing, but Jackman’s Woverine already has that amnesia thing going, and…fuckit, Smith! and write around the implications. Theron chooses Bateman over Smith for his more-sustainable values, and to willfully override the obsolete dictates of providence (by sticking with the dictates of prejudice).
Perhaps the most unexplored of several underplayed themes involves the central premise that Mary Embrey (Charlize Theron) chose to abandon her destined, natural (black) partner after thousands of years of ambivalence about his proximity and the normal lives they’d lead in a humanly-brief and permanent mortal bond. How would that play in Tupelo, Provo, Cairo, or in theaters frequented by humans? The backstory of their relationship is wholly delivered by Mary in fits and starts and half-truths that make exposition entertaining, but leave an intrigued audience a great deal less than satisfied.
If proximity is the Achiles Heel that dooms these two to intimate mortality (and happiness) — is normal, human life so repellant? And how is Mary’s choice to deny her predestined (and frequently conincidental) entanglement with John a good choice? If John is forever condemned to life without his definitive true love, where’s the happy ending for, you know, the title character? Handjobs?
The other thing about Hancock that really, deeply bothers me, (apart from the far more meaningful stuff this entertainment carefully avoided confronting) is that fact that Vince Gilligan (the showrunner of Breaking Bad) is credited for co-writing it, along with Vincent Ngo — 12 years in development hell.
This new discovery of Gilligan’s involvement bodes ill for the satisfactory resolution of Walter White’s tale. Will monumentally interesting, contemporary real-life issues of good/evil, strength/vulnerability, power/compassion, partnership/estrangement/betrayal/family/ruin/legal system/property/addiction/life be treated with comic and xfx reckless abandon as in Hancock? or will Walter’s many problems resolve more interestingly than John’s did? Tune in until the end of time…or series cancellation…suckers.