Hancock: (A Movie Review)
The movie is Hancock (2008) starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and Jason Bateman. The first thing to say is that I appreciate the performance of Jason Bateman; and I really appreciate him, in general, as a comedic actor. As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Bateman is part of a vanishing breed; an old school, throwback, penultimate 'straight man.'
Decades ago, when the term was used, the 'straight man' was understood to play the role---in a comedy duo or group---of, ostensibly, being an island of stability in a sea of chaos. The straight man was the seemingly rational counterpoint to the bull-in-a-China-shop disruption of the punchline grabber, the one the audience seems to most directly laugh at and with.
It was the interplay between the punchline grabber, who creates chaos and the straight man who tries to stop it and restore order, that produced the comedy. Without the mediation of the straight man, you have a situation in which two or more performers are doing nothing but constantly trying to one-up each other, playing to the audience for his own laugh-validation.
What this does, then, is create a small bubble-world in which everything is hilariously funny, but, therefore, nothing is. When this happens you get allegedly comedic movies that are so constantly over the top that they annoy rather than entertain.
Will Smith is black Superman, for all intents and purposes. He has no memory of who he really is, where he came from, or how he acquired his powers. He spends most of his time drunk and in a surly mood. He saves people when nevessary; but he tends to be careless of the details, because he wants to get back to drinking and stewing in self pity as soon as possible. As a result, the public perception of Hancock is mixed at best, tending toward hostile.
Enter Jason Bateman as an ace public relations man, who takes it upon himself to reform the public perception of the super-powered crank, that is Hancock. Now let's just cut to the chase. Because this is Will Smith we're talking about---and Will Smith does not really portray villains or even antiheroes---we all know that this ship is going to get turned around. We understand that Hancock is going to become the classic, uniform-wearing, pure-hearted, avatar of truth, justice, and the American Way, which is exactly what happens.
At this point, then, Jason Bateman's work is done, both as a character in the movie; and essentially, as Jason Bateman the performer, straight man, because there is no longer any chaotic resistance to his beseeching rationality. This is why, incidentally, I believe Mr. Bateman is at his best on television. His skill set seems to be best suited for series television---which seems to be where the most interesting work is being done nowadays, anyway. After all, in a series like, say, Arrested Development, his project of trying to impose his beseeching rationality upon a sea of chaos, is a never-ending journey.
The Kryptonite Effect
There is another aspect of this film I want to discuss briefly. I'm going to say that this is an important movie because of the way it made me understand the 'Kryptonite' motif, in a way I had never thought about before.
On the face of it, it seems bizare that Superman should be severely allergic to a piece of his own home planet, which is what Kryptonite is, after all. But the way this was handled by the Hancock film, made me understand that its not really the case that Kryptonite 'weakens' Superman, per se. Kryptonite actually normalizes him.
It is easy to forget that, had Krypton not been destroyed by Brainiac, Ka'lel would have lived out his life on his homeworld, where there would not have been anything 'super' about him. He would not have been able to fly. He would not have had ultra superhuman strength and speed. He would not have had his heat vision and x-ray vision, as well as other ultra superhumanly honed senses. He would not have been virtually immortal (Superman does not even have to eat and sleep; he only does so to fit in).
I recall a comic book issue (I think it was Action Comics #23) which is the origin of Lex Luthor, how he became a baldheaded, genius supervillain. Luthor had originally been a grand admirer of the 'Man of Steel,' and considered himself a friend. Luthor had worked out an innoculation which would have immunized Superman against the effects of Kryptonite.
Okay, things happened, Luthor lost his hair, turned against Superman, as well as truth, justice, and the American Way, in general, became a supervillain, and withheld the Kryptonite immunization from Superman. Superman processed that last item as perhaps for the best, after all. He thought his vulnerability to Kryptonite was a good way for him to retain a proper sense of humility and all that.
But I think the ramifications were most significant than that by an incalculable, exponential factor. Remember, the existence of Kryptonite and Superman's susceptibility to it, served for him as a touchstone to normality (or normalization). It served as a reminder to him that there was a planet and a people he belonged to, even if both were no more.
Now then, if Superman had actually been successfully immunized against the (normalizing) effects of Kryptonite, Ka'lel would have lost his touchstone to normality. He would have truly been rendered into a universal freak, a man who is really from nowhere. Not only would he have been a man without a country; he would have been a man without a planet. Frankly, I do not see how anyone with anything like a normal psychological make up, avoids throwing himself into the sun to end the agony of existence.
Charlize Theron's character
It turns out that Charlize Theron's character also has super powers, the very same super powers that Black Superman has. What are the odds? Just kidding!
Anyway---yada, yada, yada---it would seem that those two are the last of their extraterrestial species. When they are together, as 'pairs,' they are normalized to a physical state like Earth humans so that they can live out a properly finite life, grow old together and die, which is the proper way of things. Apart with no one of their kind in the vicinity, they have super powers.
It comes to pass in the movie that Mrs. Theron's character gets herself near-fatally wounded. Now, she is married to Jason Bateman's character, and they have a young son. They only way Hancock can help her is to leave the city. The further away he gets, the more her superhuman recuperative powers kick in, and she revives.
One is left hoping that Hancock can return at periodic intervals so that she can age along with her human husband, whom she loves deeply and wishes spend eternity with.
Thank you for reading.
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