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There are heroes... there are superheroes... and then there's Hancock (Will Smith). With great power comes great responsibility — everyone knows that — everyone, that is, but Hancock. Disgruntled, conflicted, sarcastic, and misunderstood, Hancock's well-intentioned heroics might get the job done and save countless lives, but always seem to leave jaw-dropping damage in their wake. The public has finally had enough — as grateful as they are to have their local hero, the good citizens of Los Angeles are wondering what they did to deserve this guy. Hancock isn't a man who cares what people think — until the day that he saves the life of PR executive Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), and the unpopular superhero begins to realize that he may have a vulnerable side after all.
For more about Hancock and the Hancock Blu-ray release, see Hancock Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 19, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Will Smith (I), Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Eddie Marsan, Johnny Galecki, Thomas Lennon
Director: Peter Berg
» See full cast & crew
Hancock Blu-ray Review
'Hancock' puts a new spin on the Superhero genre.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 19, 2008
You have a calling. You're a hero, Hancock. You're going to be miserable the rest of your life until you accept that.
With the deluge of superhero movies to smash through theaters this decade, several of them first-rate films, Hancock comes as something of a refreshing, if not terribly odd, take on the genre. Hancock presents audiences with a superhero unlike any before, a character seemingly devoid of personality, incapable of spiritual or emotional growth, and representing the worst qualities of man despite abilities that would otherwise set him apart as a larger-than-life, lovable, dependable, heroic citizen. Make no mistake, virtually every franchise delves into the not-so-pretty side of life as a superhero; The Dark Knight in particular sets the standard for the exploration of the deep inner conflicts that come with extraordinary abilities. Hancock sets itself apart thanks to its sobering, perhaps even disturbing, look at an anti-hero, a man with the abilities of a Superman, but standing for anything but "truth, justice, and the American way." Surprisingly deeper and somewhat more serious and intelligent than the advertisements might suggest, but ultimately not a terrific movie, Hancock is nevertheless a film with some twists, turns, and a heart, one that does its best to play as a meaningful look at the bonds of love and the importance of trust and self-image.
Hancock (Will Smith, I Am Legend) is a superhero with the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, withstand gunfire, and has the strength of The Incredible Hulk on steroids. He is also a reluctant hero, a man unappreciated by the masses, seen more as a curiosity rather than a man with amazing abilities, using his powers for good but creating more chaos and destruction than is necessary in the process. Hancock's life is anything but glamorous; he is a slovenly, unkempt drunkard who finds solace at the bottom of a whiskey bottle, routinely passes out on public benches, and lives off of popcorn inside his trailer home. He never disguises his true identity as a mild-mannered reporter or billionaire playboy; his aggressive tactics and mean-spirited demeanor are an open book for public ridicule, his antics routinely captured on video, played back on the news, and saved onto YouTube for posterity. When Hancock saves an image consultant named Ray (Jason Bateman, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium) from what would have been a particularly nasty train crash, ruining several other vehicles, inadvertently harming a bystander, and crushing the locomotive in the process, Hancock's excessive use of force is once again the source of public ridicule and scrutiny. A grateful Ray pressures Hancock into considering an image make-over, beginning with serving a prison term to show the city that he is capable of reform, not to mention that the value he provides in assisting local law enforcement with particularly difficult assignments will be quickly realized in its absence. Meanwhile, Ray's wife, Mary (Charlize Theron, Sleepwalking), exhibits odd behavior around new family friend Hancock; her piercing glances and all-too-personal reactions to Hancock's life story perhaps revealing that she, too, may be hiding a secret from her family, more knowledgeable and certainly more familiar with Hancock than she is letting on.
One thing that viewers will immediately note during a screening of Hancock is the film's jerky, quick-moving camera and even quicker edits. Much of the experience gives Cloverfield a run for its money as the camera bobs, weaves, zooms, jumps, and tilts with every passing frame. Most every scene feels confused, jumbled, and somewhat difficult to follow. In a way, it seems to suit the action well, particularly during the film's first act. Hancock himself is a character as confused and shaky as the camera. Whether inebriated, crash-landing into the pavement, or tossing large objects to and fro, his movements, thought processes, and rigorous, over-the-top shenanigans are anything but focused and steady. In this case, the handheld approach works rather well, punctuating one of the film's themes and accentuating Hancock's questionable attitude, demeanor, and over-the-top superhero theatrics.
One thing that Hancock does very well is to gradually build its characters and story, beginning the movie with what is almost an unwatchable display of Hancock's antics. Hancock's demeanor, his origins, and his attitude towards life in general come into focus as the story grows, making for a more satisfying experience than what the film's generally unpalatable, single-themed opening act seemed to promise. Hancock, at first glance, is anything but a sympathetic character. It is certainly difficult to find a shred of remorse for a character that is only superficially developed, audiences seeing only a drunken, unkempt man who only reluctantly performs those duties expected of him, and without regard to others. Nevertheless, as his past comes into focus, as he opens up, as he attempts to clean up his image, the film's plot and meaning begin to take shape, the back story begins to make more sense, and the character becomes one of the more sympathetic in recent memory. His is a rather touching story of confusion and loneliness, the story of a man searching for his place in the world, a world where physical gifts aren't necessarily the only ingredient to happiness.
The film also succeeds at building an aura of mystery around the Charlize Theron character. Her every scene reveals something out of the ordinary, a sense that she feels something towards Hancock, though what that may be remains a mystery insofar as this review is concerned. Her passing glances and piercing gazes seem to signal some sort of fascination with the character. Is it a physical attraction? An awe at the power he represents? Or is it something deeper, more meaningful, more important to the story and its characters than meets the eye? Once her secret is revealed, the film is allowed to delve into territory not necessarily expected of a film such as Hancock; herein lies a rather touching look at the bonds of love, friendship, trust, and hope. In a way, Hancock plays out as a tragedy, one cloaked in special effects, quick cuts, jerky camera movements, and a robust audio presentation, but a tragedy nevertheless, one that may leave audiences pondering the film's take on love, hurt, separation, and dependence long after the film comes to an end.
Hancock Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hancock saves the day on Blu-ray with a very good, but not exceptional, 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer. The image sports tremendous detail but offers a color scheme that sometimes pushes particular colors, including greens, reds, and yellows, giving the film a rather uneven look. The movie is also just a bit dark, obscuring some of the fine detail throughout. Also hindering the visible level of detail is unsteady camerawork, the image not always able to focus and revel in its imagery, leaving many of the backgrounds, and some of the foregrounds, blurry and undefined. The film's prison sequence is highly stylized, the image awash in bright whites and a hint of bright blue, accentuated by only Hancock's orange jump suit. Still, when the film slows down enough, the level of visible detail is generally extraordinary. A scene where a basketball escapes from the inside of the prison fence particularly stands out. As Hancock retrieves it, the dirt on the ground features great texture and detail as every granule is seemingly visible, and the wear-and-tear on the prison yard basketball lends to the image a nice vitality and level of realism that brings the scene to life. A fine layer of grain is retained over the entirety of the image, lending to the transfer a nice cinematic look and feel. The transfer exhibits nary a blemish, as expected of a recent release. Black levels are also incredibly rock-solid throughout, but flesh tones feature a rosy tint. There is enough good here to make the transfer an overall pleasing experience, and it has the look and feel of being true to its source, a rather dark, jumpy, perhaps even at times messy look, and it is replicated rather well on this Blu-ray disc.
Hancock Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack that accompanies Hancock never quite reaches the level of reference quality one might expect from a high profile popcorn action movie. Nevertheless, it is a good soundtrack, but not quite as robust or engaging as other, similar soundtracks. A rap song that plays the first time Hancock takes flight lacks a bit of punch, but comes through with excellent clarity and spacing, flowing nicely from each speaker. Surrounds are also active through most of the picture, generally in support of the front, carrying much of the atmosphere, and offering some discrete effects during the action sequences, though there is sometimes not a sense of total immersion. The track features several standout moments, such as when Hancock takes off like a rocket, breaking the pavement beneath his feet, perhaps even surpassing the speed of sound, the audio forcefully pushing through the soundstage full-throttle. Each of the film's in-flight sequences, for that matter, are engaging and bass-heavy. A multi-tornado, extreme weather event sequence in chapter 12 is especially exciting as the sound englufs the listening area with its destructive force, the scene as good as anything Twister threw at Blu-ray audiences earlier this year. A police shootout sequence in chapter seven is also well done. While there isn't as much rear channel activity as one might expect form this sort of scene, the shots reverberate through the soundstage with nice impact, clarity, and volume. A dialogue sequence in chapter nine between Hancock and a bank robber features solid dialogue reproduction, including an echoing effect that reverberates into the back. Hancock presents listeners with a mix that is far more than adequate, but it feels like a slight letdown next to some of the best action-oriented soundtracks on the market today.
Hancock Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hanckock lands on Blu-ray with a supplemental package smaller than one might expect of a summer blockbuster. The main attraction is a picture-in-picture (Blu-ray profile 1.1) feature entitled On Set Visual Diary. Appearing in a rather small box on the bottom right hand corner of the screen, the secondary image remains on for the length of the feature. Viewers are taken behind-the-scenes of the making of most every major sequence, featuring interviews, pre-shoot dialogue, green screen effects, and plenty more. Several featurettes are next. Superhumans: The Making of Hancock (1080i, 12:51) features interview snippets with cast and crew, and the piece looks at the origins of the story from the early screenplay, the choice of a director, the casting (and plenty of back-patting), and the themes of the film. Seeing the Future (1080i, 15:11) offers a look at a series of pre-visualization sequences for several key moments in the film, framed around the context of the scene and the usefulness of the technology as recounted by members of the cast and crew. Building a Better Hero (1080i, 8:15) looks at the tedious process of bringing the film's special effects to life. Bumps and Bruises (1080i, 10:28) examines the making of several of the film's key effects sequences. Home Life (1080i, 10:48) takes a closer look at shooting the film's scenes that take place at Ray and Mary's home, as well as the trailer where Hancock resides. Suiting Up (1080i, 8:22) looks at the film's costumes. Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes With "Dirty Pete" (1080i, 3:57) shows director Peter Berg's lighter side. Also included are 1080p trailers for The House Bunny, Lakeview Terrace, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Men in Black, and Hitch. Hancock is a BD-Live (Profile 2.0) enabled feature that allows access to Sony's homepage that offers information on the studio's rewards program, trailers, and the possibility of movie-specific bonus content at a later date. Finally, Hancock is D-Box equipped. Disc two of this set contains a digital copy of the film for playback on personal computers and select portable video devices, though it does not appear to be iTunes/iPod compatible, at least on a computer running Mac OS X.
Hancock Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hancock is a solid, but not spectacular, film, one that is worth the effort thanks to a surprisingly focused and meaningful story. Parts of it work, others don't, but the underlying themes make the Hancock character one of the more interesting in recent memory. Will Smith turns in an adequate performance as the film's title character, and the film also features a seemingly endless supply of impressive visuals, if not a bit obscured by the jerky camera movements. Sony's Blu-ray presentation is certainly good, but not quite the reference material one might expect of a brand-new, effect-laden Will Smith blockbuster. Both the video and audio are well above average, but both seem lacking that last bit of polish to push them over the top and into the upper-tier of Blu-ray transfers. Likewise, the supplemental package is fine, certainly less than expected, but the material included is of a high quality. Hancock is an enjoyable summer popcorn movie with an unexpected and welcome depth to its main character, and is at least worth your Blu-ray rental dollars, and the disc is good enough to warrant a purchase by fans.
Hancock: Other Editions
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Hancock Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - November 25th - November 25, 2008
As a depressed drunk who lives in a trailer home, 'Hancock' is not your typical superhero. Sure, he will play the role and help people, but only when its convenient. Will Smith's character only begins to understand his own importance when he is helped by Ray Embrey ...
• Hancock Special Features Revealed - September 2, 2008
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced the special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Hancock', due to hit store shelves on November 25th, day-and-date with the DVD release. As we reported on Friday, video will be presented in 1080p AVC accompanied ...
• Hancock Gets Blu-ray Date - August 29, 2008
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that they will release the Will Smith summer hit 'Hancock' on Blu-ray on November 25th, day-and-date with the DVD release. No technical specs have been announced at this time, but expect the typical 1080p AVC video ...
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