A Flawed Hero
There is a standard formula when it comes to comic-book superheros. It goes something like this: First you tell about the birth of the character - where he came from, how he got into his current situation. Then he battles evil on a wide scale - general crooks and bad guys. Then, finally, he meets his archrival and the real battle begins. Some stories deviate from this slightly, but usually that's the general order.
Hancock does the whole thing backwards. We arrive in the middle of the tale, with a man of heroic strength, but far less than heroic character. While Batman and Wolverine each have their inner demons, neither is a borderline-homeless raging alcoholic. And so begins the tale.
Hancock is not a likable hero. Not by any means. He spends the first half of the making us genuinely uncomfortable. And that's really the whole point. Hancock is not the easy-to-understand, nice-guy superhero. Even Wolverine, for all his growling and adamantium claws, is clearly a good guy at heart. You're not so sure about Hancock.
Which to me, makes him a better role model than most superheros. There are some "stock characters" in storytelling. One is called the "competent man." The competent man is the guy who does everything right, looks good, gets the girl, gets the bad guy, and quickly recovers from his blunders. James Bond, Superman, James T. Kirk - they're all examples of the competent man.
On the other hand is the "everyman." Everyman is like you and me, flawed, struggling, weak, a little fat around the middle. Hancock is so appeal ling because he is an everyman, wrapped up in Superman's body. Immortal, invulnerable, yet deeply flawed.
I liked Hancock because he really turns out to be more of a hero than most heroes. I think that he represents a great role model; not for young boys, but for men. We all have our own flaws and weak points. Let's face it, the average man is far from hero material. But within us all is the God-given potential to be something larger than we seem. Hancock doesn't just battle bad guys; he battles himself - his fears, his doubts, his insecurities. I really felt for him during one scene where he is in a prison therapy group. Day after day he goes and listens to these other tough men share their inner feelings, yet passes when it's time for him to share. Finally, all the other inmates encourage him to say something, to which he haltingly replies "My name is Hancock, and I drink and stuff." Man, I can think back to times when I've been in groups like that, a newcomer not wanting to open up. That takes real strength.
The surprising twist in the film's final act shows another side of the heroic character: self-sacrifice. Without giving too much away, Hancock demonstrates the difference between phileo loving and agapeo loving - his final sacrifice is a true Christ-like, sacrificial love, giving up fulfilment in being not alone anymore, in being loved, and choosing instead the good of the woman he loves.
In all, I think that Hancock is a good model for Christian men; a demonstration that despite all that comes against us, that despite all of our flaws and inner battles, we can still be the hero in the lives of our family, our church, our community. All it takes is some love, and a willingness to submit to the destiny that God has planned out for us.
Review time: This is a typical Will Smith summer blockbuster. Lots of action, humor, romance and destruction. Justin Bateman is simply brilliant as a good-hearted publicist who wants to improve Hancock's image. While this is not an Oscar kind of role, Charlize Theron shows why she is an Oscar-winning actor; you know from jump that there is something deep and dark in her character, and her silent reactions in the restaurant scene were perfect.
There is quite a bit of minor cussing, especially the one word that gets Hancock mad. There is plenty of violence, but little blood. There is one scene in the prison of questionable taste, but it is played for comic effect, and is not really objectionable. Hancock is another demonstration that Will Smith can carry a mediocre film, such as he did in I Am Legend and Men in Black 2. (Of course, no one could carry Wild, Wild West.)
If you haven't' seen this film, (and you have kids) I'm sure this will be on the list when it hits the Redbox or Blockbuster. It is suitable for older children, though I might wait for the TV cut for younger kids. But take the time to discuss what heroism really is after the movie.