Last week, we discussed the first half of Hancock, the 2008 superhero spoof starring Will Smith, Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron. And as the first half was ending, Smith was just finishing his transition from thoroughly unpleasant, drunken super-asshole to a well-meaning hero trying just a bit too hard to be polite while still maintaining an edge. It was funny and entertaining, with appealing performances by Smith and Bateman.
Oh, BTW, I don’t really do spoiler warnings as a general rule, but I’m going to throw one out here just because there’s a HUGE twist coming up. If you don’t want to know before you watch the movie for yourself, don’t click “more.”
Okay, fine, be that way. As the second half of the movie opens, Ray and Mary take Hancock to a fancy restaurant to celebrate his return to society and triumphant bad-guy bashing. And not only is Hancock getting a lot of positive attention (and clearly ill-at-ease with it), Ray is being approached by ad agency guys as well. They’re both winners!
Over dinner, Ray tells how he first met Mary, when she appeared almost out of nowhere to help him raise his son. And Hancock tells about how he came to in a hospital in the 1930’s with superpowers and amnesia, and how hurt he was that no one ever came forward to claim him.
And Mary, who has never liked Hancock, seems to have a change of heart about him. His story affects her so much she cries.
And notice the extreme close-up. Every review of this movie mentions ’em, but all I’ll say is, it was a pain to screen-cap this movie, because so many of the moments I want to show you only exist in my head between cuts in a scene made up almost entirely of close-ups.
So at the end of the night, Hancock helps a drunk Ray into bed, then helps himself to a kiss from Ray’s wife.
And although it’s supposed to be kind of inevitable, the kiss itself is kind of awkward and forced. And Mary apparently doesn’t love it, because she pushes Hancock away.
Like through two walls and out into the street hard. Hancock’s all, “whoa.”
Mary orders Hancock never to reveal her secret to Ray. Okay, we really didn’t see that coming.
And I mean, like, at all. This isn’t like The Sixth Sense or Fight Club, where when the twist comes, you realize the movie has been giving you clues to this all the way through. The “Mary is super,too” thing has received zero foreshadowing (unless you count some very minor stuff that I’ll mention in a second which is only tangentially related).
So next morning, Ray has a hangover and a hole in his house. Mary tells him that the hole happened when Hancock sneezed, then gives him a big plate of eggs with a side order of Australian vacation. She wants to be in the air before the eggs get cold.
Alas, Ray has a pitch meeting he needs to schedule, and Hancock is here for a visit. As Ray talks on the phone, Hancock tests Mary’s invulnerability by stabbing her with a cooking fork and bashing her in the head with a rolling pin while Ray’s back is turned. Mary finally tells Hancock she’ll explain everything to him that afternoon at his place.
Meanwhile, in prison, the bank robber whose hand Hancock chopped off is talking to the two thugs Hancock painfully humiliated on his first day in prison. And at this point, the movie is still trying to be somewhat satirical, as the three men talk like they’re in some kind of group therapy circle. But this particular group therapy circle has just sworn revenge on Hancock.
Mary shows up at Hancock’s trailer all slutted up, in heavy make-up and wearing a low-cut blouse, tight pants and spike-heeled boots.
She’s clearly supposed to evoke a superhero look, but it just seems so out of character for Mary…well, out of the character she was for the first half of the movie, anyway. Mary tells Hancock that they are gods or something, practically immortal (emphasis on “practically,” since they’re the last two left).
And as they’re talking, the sparks flying between them are so hot that Hancock’s Jiffy Pop is popping (that is not a euphemism), which should remind you that the last two times Ray has been in a room with both of them at the same time, he has remarked on how hot it is. I guess you could call this foreshadowing of the “Mary has powers” thing if you wanted to stretch it.
Hancock is not pleased by Mary’s answers, sure that she’s hiding something. So he threatens to reveal all to Ray and flies off. Mary chases him, and there’s a super-battle. They end up crashing into a street in the middle of the city, where Mary demonstrates the full extent of her powers by summoning a storm.
At least, I think that’s what’s happening. It may just be a larger manifestation of the Jiffy Pop thing. I don’t know.
And while all this is happening, Ray is giving his silly All Heart spiel to a group of baffled advertising execs who had invited him there to talk about using Hancock for merchandising opportunities or something. Hancock and Mary bash their way through a construction site, buffeted by hurricane force winds, and one of the ad execs remarks that it seems to be snowing. In Los Angeles.
Ray turns to look, and just coincidentally at that moment, Hancock and Mary crash into the building, smashing out the window of the room where Ray is giving his presentation. They land on the sidewalk below, where Hancock apologizes for whatever it was he did that made Mary so angry at him, which he doesn’t know and she won’t tell him about. Every man in the world who’s had a relationship with a woman has had that conversation. Ray sees them together. It’s not a good moment for him.
So later at Ray’s house, Ray and Hancock grill Mary about exactly who she is and what her relationship to Hancock is. And she drops the bomb that Hancock is sort of her husband. The immortals were apparently made in pairs, so not only are Hancock and Mary the last two survivors of the race, but they are sort of fated to be together. Every time she tries to leave him, he tracks her down.
But there’s still something missing in the whole conversation, we can feel it. There’s some deeper trauma that had to have happened to cause the split. And thinking about those pictures Hancock was drawing earlier, you have to wonder, could there have been a child involved? Did Hancock and Mary have a child? Given that they’re immortal, their child could be old or long dead. OMG, could Ray be their child? No, too young.
Anyway, Hancock goes to a liquor store to buy some bourbon (which only begs the question, where has he been getting the money to buy all this liquor and Jiffy Pop for so long?). And you have to wonder if this is supposed to be a big deal, him buying liquor, since he supposedly went through alcohol counseling in prison. But the movie has taken so many jarring twists since then that it hardly seems to matter.
The TV in the liquor store is playing a news report that the bank robber Hancock just put away has led a prison uprising and escaped using his “psychology professor” super-powers. Oh, and his name is Red Parker, Jr. Who ya gonna call? Bank Busters!
So obviously, Parker is coming to take revenge on Hancock. But seriously, what does he expect to accomplish? Hancock is incredibly strong and dangerous and has no known weakness. There is no Hancock kryptonite out there, as far as anyone knows. And at the bank robbery (just yesterday?), Hancock was shrugging off armor-piercing rounds and .50 cal rounds. So you have to wonder what Red’s plan is.
When the Sikh behind the counter rings up the bourbon, it comes out to $91.10. When Hancock complains, the Sikh repeats the price and covers the zero with his finger to leave “911.” Cause there are two dudes with guns hiding behind the counter, see. Hancock bashes one of them, but the other grabs the Sikh and holds the gun to his head. So Hancock tries to talk him down, then challenges him to a gun duel.
Only Hancock doesn’t have a gun, so he uses a candy bar. He Zagnuts the guy right through the window, but discovers that he is also bleeding from two gunshot wounds.
At the hospital, emergency room doctors work Hancock over, and he seems to be just like any other normal patient. He’s in shock , helpless, with needles piercing his skin like any other human. At home, Ray and Aaron (that’s right, Ray’s son, who has so far completely disappeared from the second half of the movie) have Spaghetti Madness without Mary when the news reports of Hancock’s condition come on. Ray and Aaron rush to the hospital along with Mary and a certain hook-handed individual.
Mary sits at Hancock’s bedside and explains that Hancock is losing his powers due to proximity to Mary, which explains a lot of things–the way Mary freaked out when Hancock faked being hurt by Aaron’s handshake, the odd unexplained bruise on his hand just before they kissed, Mary’s eagerness to take an Australian vacation (also not a euphemism, though it totally should be). They are designed to lose their powers in proximity to their pairmates, so they can grow old and live normal lives or some such nonsense.
And I get where they’re going with it intellectually, the idea that Hancock’s real weakness is love, like all of us, and that it’s not just a weakness but a blessing at the same time. But the way it comes up in this story feels like a betrayal of the cynical, satirical spirit of the first half.
Mary explains that throughout history, Hancock has been getting himself injured protecting Mary from danger. The words “racism” and “miscegenation” are never spoken, though there is clearly a subtext there.
And after Hancock got amnesia from having his head bashed in in Miami for holding hands with a white woman, Mary decided never to see him again, for his own protection. Two things missing from that story: Hancock’s real name, which we never learn, and this.
What the hell is the deal with the kid in the drawings? We know it’s not Aaron, because Hancock was doing the same drawing in the bar before he ever met Aaron. I get the idea that there was more to this story in earlier drafts and it just got sanded away over the development and production process. But what we’re left with doesn’t work.
Screw it, let’s have a fight. The two convicts Hancock humiliated in prison show up with guns to kill him, but Mary takes the bullets instead. And Hancock, who up till now has just been helplessly convalescing in bed, suddenly discovers that he’s super-strong again. This “losing their powers when they’re close together” thing really fluctuates depending on plot convenience, doesn’t it?
So Hancock fights bad guys, smashing the hell out of the hospital, while doctors try to stabilize Mary. Hancock gets stabbed by one thug and shot multiple times by Red Parker Jr. until he’s lying helpless and bleeding on the floor. And just as Parker’s about to put a bullet in his brain and kill him forever, Ray steps up and chops off Parker’s remaining hand with a fire axe. Which would be funny, except that Mary’s heart has stopped and Hancock looks like this.
Wow, what a downer for what was sold as a hilarious superhero romp. The only thing worse would be if they suddenly tacked on some sort of forced happy ending.
And Hancock’s up. He stumbles down the hallway and smashes out through a window (because it’s apparently too much trouble to go through one of the two windows he has already thrown guys through). And down in the street, he takes huge leaps, trying to take off and put distance between himself and Mary as her heart begins to beat again in the hospital. And then Hancock shoots into the sky.
One month later, Ray is walking outside with Mary and Aaron when he gets a call from Hancock in New York, telling him to look up. Ray looks up at the full moon (amazing that he hasn’t done so yet–just saying) and sees the All Heart logo.
Ray and Mary share a romantic kiss and Hancock takes off to fight crime.
And I end up seriously torn about this movie. Because it does a lot of things right in the first half, and then sort of shits on them in the second half, but even the second half has a pretty good performance by Smith and a lot of style. But in the end, it comes down as a very intriguing failure.
Still, it’s better than Tonight He Comes.
Next week: something more consistent. Unfortunately, it’s consistently bad.