Global box office superstar Will Smith continues his tradition of opening a blockbuster hit over the American Independence Day weekend. This time he stars as an unconventional - in fact, in many ways, unlikeable - superhero who learns to care for the puny humans he's always having to save. Alan Silverman Alan Silverman has this look at Hancock.
"Hancock" looks like the typical inebriated vagrant: sleeping on a Los Angeles park bench, clutching an empty whiskey bottle, wearing unwashed stained clothes and badly in need of a bath himself. However, when he springs into action - albeit reluctantly - it's clear this guy could be something special.
He can fly. He has super-strength and bullets bounce off him. But there's also a certain lack of finesse.
"He's a good guy, but he kind of does things that get construed as bad," says actor Will Smith, who stars as "Hancock."
"He drinks a little too much. He's an alcoholic super-hero," Smith explains. "He can fly, but he's flying drunk, so he kind of bangs into buildings and things like that. People don't like him a lot, but he still is impelled every day to go out and save people."
Then, one fateful day, as a speeding freight train bears down on a car stalled on the tracks, Hancock arrives just in time to save its driver from being crushed. Never mind that the super-hero also causes the train to derail; the driver wants to repay the good deed. His name is Ray, a public relations agent specializing in improving the images of his corporate clients in the naïve belief that people really want to do good things.
Jason Bateman co-stars as Ray.
"This guy 'Hancock' actually wants to become a little bit better and the things I'm asking him to do are not tough," Bateman says. "I'm asking him to shave his face ...to wash his body ...to get out of that hat that he wears and the surfer shorts and get into a nice, tight, leather super-hero suit. You have to act the part if you want to be treated seriously."
Oscar-winner Charlize Theron co-stars as Ray's happily domestic wife Mary, who has misgivings from the moment the surly super-hero blunders into their lives.
"She hates him," Theron says. "She absolutely hates him. There's a real animosity instantly toward him, which, of course, means that she's crazy about him ...in girl terms. Boys don't know that. The meaner we are to you, the more into [interested in] you we are."
But Theron enjoys the idea of twisting audience expectations in, what she calls, "a beloved genre" like the super-hero movie.
"To kind of turn that upside-down and say, let's look at this from a completely different angle. What if super-heroes were not perfect? What if they were actually closer to us as human beings? What if they were alcoholics and tired of saving people and were actually lonely and wished they had love: taking that beloved perfection out of it was really brave and interesting," she says.
Director Peter Berg adds that Hancock also taps into - and toys with - what audiences expect from its charismatic star.
"The fact that he is Will Smith and has a very unique place in the hearts of the planet Earth, which I have now found because I've traveled around the planet with him. It's remarkable," Berg says. "It can be Moscow, Berlin, France, Spain ...people absolutely love this man and he makes them feel happy. You can't divorce that from the reality of the character. They are one and the same. It is very hard to lose Will Smith in his characters. We had to acknowledge that and play to it. That is why Will Smith is such a big force not so far removed from a super-hero because the guy basically is a super-hero. It made sense."
Hancock was shot on location in Los Angeles with a script co-written by Hollywood veteran Akiva Goldsman whose previous work with Will Smith includes the 2007 hit I Am Legend and 2004's I, Robot. The producers include Michael Mann, who directed Smith in the 2001 bio-pic Ali.