hancock – with spoilers, not that it matters

so, here’s what might have happened. some time ago, a coupla guys sat down to write the treatment for a new superhero movie. one of them had a pretty decent pedigree, having put together the scripts for about thirty x-files episodes; the other was newer to the task, but had proven his chops in the composition of one of the few jet li movies to manifest a grasp of film grammar – ‘fearless’ (not the fantastic peter weir-jeff bridges existential work of 1993, which if you haven’t seen you should stop reading this and rent straight away). the idea goes something like this: let’s do a movie about a superhero that looks a little different from the rest. let’s do a movie about a superhero who doesn’t know where he came from, or why he’s here. let’s do a movie about a superhero who wakes up regularly drunk and depressed, and causes mayhem every time he tries to save someone; leaving a trail of metallic wreckage throughout the urban landscape familiar from superbatspiderxmen movies of the past. let’s make him unique: an unpopular superhero. let’s put him on the receiving end of anger from the public; and in need of some redemption. let’s mix things up a bit by making his only friend – in this case a p.r. consultant – married to a beautiful woman who feels a little strange around our protagonist. let’s make the revelation at the centre of our story be that this superhero is the most truly tragic superhero in movie history. let’s make him a lonely amnesiac who has been suffering a crisis of identity for over eighty years; and let’s make the beautiful woman his wife of several thousand years, who, like him, does not age because she cannot. she has left him alone because – in a twist that is potentially up there with ‘the usual suspects’, ‘the crying game’ and ‘taxi driver’ – she is his superhero pair, and they have discovered that even though they love each other, when they are in physical proximity, their powers weaken, and they are vulnerable to attack. let’s end the story with both of them nearly dead at the hands of their enemy, and deciding to part in order to save each other. sure, we can start the tale with a little humour, a little amusement, a little dance with the audience; but the point of this story is to pull our hero out of his lackadaisacal jokey reverie. the first half of the movie is ‘mystery men’ meets ‘the long weekend’ or ‘days of wine and roses’, and the second half is the secret love child of ‘unbreakable’ and the david banner full-of-pathos parts of ‘the incredible hulk’. in that regard, it will be a rare thing: a mainstream hollywood movie that manages to be both entertaining and artful, dramatic and intelligent; honest about its own terms.
alas the realisation misses the mark – ‘hancock’ coulda been a contender, but … have a listen to the film talk podcast for more on ‘hancock’ and other movie lore
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