Rated: PG-13 (Theatrical Version)
Not Rated (Extended Version)
Length: 92 minutes (Theatrical Version)
102 minutes (Extended Version)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p
Languages: English, French Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, Portuguese, Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Korean, Thai, Indonesian
Consider a crime fighter who has super strength and the ability to fly, one who is ageless and indestructible. Surely such a person would be loved by all law-abiding citizens. Surely, that is, unless he also happens to be Hancock (Will Smith), an anti-social alcohol abuser whose paucity of people skills is exceeded only by his lack of concern for the extensive collateral damage which his crime fighting efforts cause.
This generally exciting and mostly original film opens with a high-speed police chase on a Los Angeles freeway. Nearby, a drunken black man sleeps on a sidewalk bench, surrounded by empty liquor bottles which leave no question about how he spent the night. A young boy pokes at the man until he wakes up.
“Hancock,” says the boy.
Hancock slowly opens his eyes and peers at the youngster. “What, boy?”
The boy points to television monitors in a store window which are showing the car chase. “Bad guys.”
“What, you want a cookie?” grumbles Hancock. “Get out of my face.”
The boy turns and calls out “Asshole" and then starts to walk away.
“What?” demands Hancock.
The boy answers, “You heard me.”
Hancock then struggles to his feet, grabs a bottle of booze, and suddenly flies away at warp speed. We know that this is not your typical superhero when, during his flight to the chase scene, Hancock has an unpleasant encounter with a flock of birds and nearly collides with a jetliner. When he reaches the freeway, Hancock manages to apprehend the crooks, but not before damaging or destroying highway signs, several police cruisers, and a few office buildings. The van which the fleeing criminals are driving ends up having an ignominious encounter with the Capitol Records building. Later, reporters estimate the property damage at $9 million.
Hancock later rescues an idealistic publicist, Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), when Ray’s vehicle gets stuck on the railroad tracks in the path of an oncoming freight train. Afterwards Hancock agrees to fly Ray home, where they meet Ray’s beautiful wife, Mary (Charlize Theron). The public’s perception of Hancock has grown rather sour, and Ray pitches an idea – Hancock should allow Ray to give him an image makeover, to turn him into a true superhero, one who would be beloved by the people. Hancock, who apparently has no friends, finds a connection with Mary, a connection which leads to a revelation about who he really is, and why he is the way he is.
This Blu-ray disc includes both the theatrical version of the film and a slightly longer extended version. Most of the additional footage in the extended version takes place during one lengthy scene wherein a young woman comes on to Hancock in a bar, and he then takes her to the hovel of a trailer where he lives. The scene is intended to demonstrate why Hancock has such difficulty relating with mere mortals. Apart from that scene, the differences between the two versions are mostly minimal, although there are some significant changes in a scene where Mary has a meeting with Hancock at his trailer.
The film sags a bit following an impressive bank robbery scene, and it tends to lurch uncomfortably between drama and comedy. Will Smith handles the title role with great aplomb. Jason Bateman is perfectly cast as Ray, the PR man who figures out how to humanize the irascible superhero. Charlize Theron is a bit too gorgeous to be totally believable as an ordinary suburban housewife, but she is a superb actor and her Mary turns out to be a bit more than she appears. Hancock has a highly original premise, and it might have been a great movie if it had completely retained the mood of the original screenplay, which reportedly is considerably darker than the finished product. Nevertheless, it is a quirky twist on the superhero genre and is an entertaining way to spend an evening.
The 2.40:1 1080p transfer is very pleasing. The images are sharp and smooth, with minimal grain. The CGI, credited to special effects wizard John Dykstra, is very realistic and seamless. Colors are vibrant and accurate, with no bleeding. Black levels are good and shadow detail is excellent. I did not observe any edge enhancement or annoying digital artifacts. The AVC MPEG-4 encoding is very solid and the overall effect is very cinematic. All in all, this is a first-rate Blu-ray disc. The film cost $150 million to make, and it shows.
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is excellent. Because this film has elements of both an action film and a romantic comedy, the audio varies from quite dynamic to somewhat subdued. The film includes four major action scenes when the soundtrack really comes to life. During those scenes the surround channels are used to good effect and the bass delivers a lot of punch. Surround effects are more discrete in the quieter scenes. The dialogue is always clear and intelligible and is never drowned out by the sound effects. Overall the mix is very solid and enjoyable.
There are a number of interesting supplements on this Blu-ray disc, but unfortunately a commentary is not among them. A commentary would have been particularly desirable with the unrated extended version, as it would have been enlightening to have director Peter Berg explain why the one lengthy scene was cut and why certain choices were made in others. Alas, for some unexplained reason a commentary was not to be.
One extra which is exclusive to the Blu-ray disc is an “On-Set Visual Diary,” a picture-in-picture feature which allows the viewer to watch “making of” footage of each scene in the PIP box while viewing the feature on the rest of the screen.
Also included are several featurettes.
“Superhumans: The Making of Hancock” features discussions by the producers (including Michael Mann) about how the original screenplay was held in limbo for a number of years. Several references are made to the darkness of the original script, and screenwriter Vince Gilligan acknowledges that he was asked to make the screenplay “more accessible” (i.e., lighter).
“Home Life” is an interesting featurette about how the Embrey house was built from the ground up on Universal’s lot. It looks very much like a real house and was used for interior shots as well. Producer Akiva Goldsman mentions that the house is nice enough to live in, except for the fact that there is no running water.
Techno-geeks will enjoy “Seeing the Future,” which demonstrates how the film was pre-visualized with computer graphics before any scenes were shot. Will Smith mentions that this process is a great help to the actors, particularly when they are shooting scenes in front of green screens.
“Suiting Up” is a featurette about the film’s costume designs, and “Building a Better Hero” goes into some detail about how the film’s special effects were created by John Dykstra.
“Bumps and Bruises” takes a look at how the film’s action scenes were set up and shot, and “Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes With ‘Dirty Pete’” examines the directing style of Peter Berg, who is described as a bit of a wild man.
This Blu-ray disc also includes D-Box Motion Code data for people who own a D-Box Integrated Motion System. A second disc contains a bonus digital copy of the film. There also are BD-Live features which will be available on the release date.
The main disc and the digital copy disc are both secured in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.
Viewers may want to avoid reading the description of the film which appears on the back of the keepcase, as it discloses a plot twist which some are likely to regard as a spoiler.
The Final Analysis
If Hancock is not quite the film that it could have been, it is sufficiently entertaining to keep most viewers happy. It was one of the bigger films of the summer, grossing nearly $250 million domestically as of Labor Day.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Release Date: November 25, 2008