2 Stars — Shallow

In the mythical world of super-beings, the human condition is exaggerated in ways that help us better see ourselves. From the story of Hercules, who used his enhanced strength to “make the world safe for human beings,” to that of Prometheus, a Greek Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity (for which he was severely punished), mythical beings struggle with their existence just as we do. The difference is that they do so on a grand scale. Although our failures may cause us or our family pain, when mythical beings fail, everyone suffers. This is seen clearly in Hancock, the mythical saga of John Hancock (Will Smith) directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights).

A troubled being who has supernatural strength and is impervious to attack, Hancock does not know who he is. For 80 years, since he suffered a blow to his head, he has had amnesia and when the nurse asked him to put his “John Hancock” on a form, he thought that was his name. Thinking he is “the only one of his kind” among inferior human beings, his concern for humans has caused him to dedicate himself to protecting them. The only problem is that he has medicated his deep feelings of isolation and loneliness with alcohol and his drunken attempts to help people have been huge fiascos. The result is that instead of being appreciated for his heroic deeds, he is hated and despised, which reinforces his loneliness and isolation.

But one day, a truly good human is caught in traffic on a railroad crossing with a train coming. When Hancock saves him but causes a huge derailment, the crowds turn against him, but this good man, Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), publicly thanks him for saving his life. This act of kindness begins a relationship in which Embrey is able to help Hancock change his image and change his ways in order to get along better with people.

The way this happens is not what we expect. The story has a surprising twist that makes the film far more interesting in the telling of this tale than the simple message that even superheroes need friends. Hancock is far more than just lonely and it is this complexity that deepens the messages of the film. However, the messages of this modern myth remain incomplete in the end and less enlightening than the myths of old. It is a fun film at times but needs more thoughtful insights into life than this vulgar anti-hero presents to be more than entertaining.


» The name that is used by humans to describe Hancock is crude. Do you believe this choice by the writers helped or hurt the film? Did the low level of humor hurt or help the entertainment, values or audience appeal?

» When the twist in the plot occurs, the question of identity for Hancock comes full circle. Who do you think he really is?

» The relationship that Mary (Charlize Theron) had with Embrey was destined for difficulty. Do you think it was fair of Mary to involve herself in Embrey’s and Aaron’s (Jae Head) lives in the first place?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.