Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Jae Head, Eddie Marsan, David Mattey, Maetrix Fitten, Thomas Lennon, Johnny Galecki
Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan
There are heroes. There are superheroes. And then there's ...
Hancock is a superhero whose ill considered behavior regularly causes damage in the millions. He changes when one person he saves helps him improve his public image.
$62.603 million on 3965 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby TrueHD 5.1
102 min. (Unrated Version)
92 min. (Rated Version)
Release Date: 11/25/2008
• Both Theatrical and Unrated Editions
• “Superhumans: The Making of Hancock” Featurette
• “Home Life” Featurette
• “Seeing the Future” Featurette
• “Suiting Up” Featurette
• “Building a Better Hero” Featurette
• “Bumps and Bruises” Featurette
• “Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with ‘Dirty Pete’” Featurette
• “On-Set Visual Diary” Picture-in-Picture
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Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
Hancock [Blu-Ray] (2008)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 29, 2016)
For a while after Independence Day became a smash back in 1996, the 4th of July turned into Will Smith Blockbuster Weekend. Men in Black followed in 1997, and Smith racked up plenty more mid-summer hits over the following decade.
Smith scored again with 2008’s Hancock, a superhero flick with a twist. Smith plays the title character, a man with tremendous powers who uses them begrudgingly.
Bitter and depressed for reasons that become apparent as the story progresses, Hancock hits the bottle hard, and his attempts to do good often backfire. This means he often earns the animosity of the mortals, a trend that Hancock exacerbates with his caustic personality.
After Hancock saves his life, publicist Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) decides to repay the hero with a PR makeover. Ray pushes to rehabilitate Hancock with the public and turn him into the hero he should be. The film follows that path along with some problems with baddies and mysteries related to Ray’s wife Mary (Charlize Theron), a woman with a complicated past.
On paper, Hancock looked like it could be a real winner. The anti-hero concept boasted tons of possibilities, and the flick’s position as a summer blockbuster meant it would feature top-notch production values. It looked like something with tremendous potential.
For many people, Hancock became a disappointment. It did fine at the box office, though its $227 million gross left it as the fourth biggest seller of the summer, as it placed behind The Dark Knight , Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Given the high-powered competition, fourth place is no embarrassment, but since many felt it might be the summer’s big winner, its final standing must be a letdown to some.
Many also felt less than enchanted with the film itself. Hancock earned lackluster reviews and quite a lot of animosity from the usual fanboys – undeserved animosity, I believe. No, Hancock doesn’t dazzle, but it satisfies most of the time.
I do agree with one of the complaints, though. Many thought Hancock offered a disjointed, rushed story, and I feel the same way, especially in its theatrical cut. (The Blu-ray also provides an unrated edition with 10 additional minutes of footage - more about that later.) Hancock follows the thread with the lead character’s rehabilitation well but falters somewhat when it gets into the Mary side of things, and it particularly sags during the scenes with the villains.
Honestly, I get the feeling that Hancock includes the baddies just because it feels they’re a requirement of a superhero flick. I sense that the filmmakers would love to eschew villains entirely but they didn’t want to go too far astray from the standard formula. That’s a mistake, more due to the execution of the subplot. This side of the film simply fails to go anywhere; it feels tacked on and vaguely unnecessary.
The Mary subplot proves more satisfying, and it’s certainly a more important aspect of the tale. I don’t want to spill too many beans because I want to avoid spoilers, but the Hancock/Mary relationship becomes a crucial aspect of the film. It just doesn’t fill out as well as it should. This part of the flick doesn’t truly disappoint, but I think it could work better than it does.
Despite those issues, Hancock as a whole entertains. Some of that comes from the sheer sizzle of its concept, and a lot of the credit goes to its star. Smith truly grew as an actor over the decade prior to Hancock. Back in the Nineties, he carried flicks more with his considerable charm and charisma, but over time, Smith was able to demonstrate greater skill.
That proves true for Hancock. Before the film’s release, many fans feared that his performance would consist of little more than proclamations of “aw, hell nah!” Those concerns proved unfounded. Although Smith doesn’t give Hancock the same depth he brought to 2007’s I Am Legend, he does provide much more personality than the character might normally warrant.
Perhaps since he came up through action flicks, Smith doesn’t treat the role in a condescending way. No one told him that superhero movies are supposed to feature two-dimensional characters, so he brings true heart to the part.
Really, the combination of Smith’s performance and the cool concept give Hancock enough juice to succeed. Nothing else about the flick excels, and it does sag at times; the first half definitely works better than the second segment. Nonetheless, Hancock delivers enough excitement, action and fun to make it an entertaining diversion.
As I mentioned earlier, this release includes both the movie’s theatrical cut (1:32:13) and an unrated edition (1:42:14). The most significant addition comes early in the film when a girl picks up Hancock at a bar. That scene runs about five minutes, so it takes up about half of the longer cut’s extensions.
Other additions seem less substantial. I noticed a little more to the scene during which Hancock puts a drunk Ray to bed, but otherwise I’d be hard-pressed to spotlight any specific alterations. I guess they’re there, but I didn’t detect any other additions; one line changes a piece of profanity, but that doesn’t extend the film.
Did any of the changes make Hancock a better movie? I don’t think so. I like the theatrical cut, and the unrated version doesn’t alter the problems I had with it. The villains remain sketchy at best, and the film still has its pacing problems.
In fact, the scene with the girl at the bar slows the flick even more. It’s an interesting scene on its own, but it doesn’t fit into the context of the film very well. It’s the kind of thing perfect for Blu-ray deleted scenes; I just don’t like it as part of the movie.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-
Hancock appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I felt pleased with the presentation.
Sharpness looked solid. Few signs of softness appeared, so the movie normally appeared concise and accurate. I detected no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and I witnessed no edge haloes. I also didn’t see any print flaws.
Hancock went with a standard teal/orange palette. Within those constraints, these hues came across with good clarity and vivacity. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows seemed strong. Some low-light shots were somewhat too dark, though. Overall, this was a very good presentation.
I also felt happy with the film’s Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, though it wasn’t a great mix. While the audio complemented the story to a good degree, it didn’t quite sizzle in the way one might expect from a summer blockbuster.
Still, the many action sequences managed to open up matters well. Hancock flew around the room in a satisfying manner, and his encounter with his counterpart packed a solid punch, especially when some wild weather widened the spectrum. All five channels got a good workout through the movie, though the soundfield lacked the true dazzle value found in most superhero movies.
Audio quality remained positive. Effects played the most important role, and they satisfied. Those elements were accurate and dynamic, as they showed good power and delineation. Music was full and rich, and speech seemed fine. The lines were consistently natural and concise. Again, the mix wasn’t quite strong enough to jump to “A”-level, but it was consistently satisfying.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio sounded warmer and fuller, while visuals looked tighter and smoother. In other words, this became the usual step up we expect from Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray echoes the DVD’s extras and adds one new component. From the DVD, we find seven featurettes and begin with Superhumans: The Making of Hancock. It goes for 12 minutes, 51 seconds and includes interviews with director Peter Berg, producers Akiva Goldsman, James Lassiter and Michael Mann, screenwriter Vince Gilligan, and actors Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and Jason Bateman. The show looks at the project’s origins, script, and development, bringing Berg on-board as director, cast and performances, and changes to the story and the film’s tone.
Though too short to provide a lot of detail, some interesting notes emerge here. We learn that Mann originally planned to direct the flick and find intriguing thoughts about the script’s development. There’s too much fluff on display, but the featurette includes enough good content to make it worthwhile.
Next comes the 15-minute and 11-second Seeing the Future. It includes notes from Goldsman, Bateman, Smith, Mann, executive producer Ian Bryce, and 2nd unit director/stunt coordinator Simon Crane. “Future” covers the film’s use of pre-viz techniques. We learn about these in an introduction and then sit in on planning meetings. We also see some of the pre-viz CG created for the flick. I like this glimpse at the processes and think that we get some good behind the scenes info here.
For Building a Better Hero, we get eight minutes, 15 seconds with Goldsman, Berg, Smith, Bryce, Crane, Mann, Bateman, associate director of graphics research Paul Debevec, visual effects designer John Dykstra, and visual effects producer Josh R. Jaggars. “Hero” concentrates on various effects. As with some of the other pieces, the brevity of “Hero” makes it somewhat incomplete, but it still manages to produce a smattering of interesting details.
Bumps and Bruises fills 10 minutes, 28 seconds with remarks from Berg, Smith, Crane, Bateman, Mann, Goldsman, Bryce, Theron, set decorator Rosemary Brandenburg, stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood and actor Eddie Marsan. This one examines practical effects, sets and stunts for a few scenes. I’m not sure why the DVD’s producers didn’t just combine “Hero” and “Bruises”, as both follow pretty similar subjects. Nonetheless, “Bruises” continues to work fairly well despite its brief running time.
After this we get the 10-minute, 48-second Home Life. It features Bryce, Bateman, Goldsman, and Brandenburg. “Life” takes a look at the set created for the Embrey house as well as Hancock’s trailer. We find a nice examination of these areas and this becomes one of the disc’s most satisfying featurettes.
For Suiting Up, we find eight minutes, 22 seconds with Berg, Bryce, Gilligan, Lassiter, Mann, Marsan, Goldsman, Smith, Theron, Jaggars, Dykstra, and costume designer Louise Mingenbach. We learn about the film’s costume design here. As with “Life”, the show gives us a good take on its topic.
Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with “Dirty Pete” goes for three minutes, 57 seconds. It provides notes with Berg, Smith, Mann, Goldsman, Theron, Lassiter, and camera operator Lukasz Bielan. This short clip tells us what a nut Berg is. It gives us a few decent shots from the set but not much more than that.
New to the Blu-ray, On-Set Visual Diary provides a picture-in-picture experience. As the movie runs, it shows footage from the set along with occasional comments from cast and crew. I like the emphasis on raw behind the scenes material, and that side of things makes the “Diary” a nice addition to the disc.
Previews presents ads for The House Bunny, Lakeview Terrace, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Men in Black and Hitch. No trailer for Hancock shows up here.
Though the film never quite excels, Hancock offers a mostly satisfying take on superheroes. It certainly takes advantage of its intriguing concept, and it does just enough right to make it a nice piece of entertainment. The Blu-ray provides very good picture and audio along with an erratic but fairly informative set of supplements. Hancock skewers the superhero norm in a clever manner.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of HANCOCK