Hancock (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language.
Length: 92 minutes
Grade: ADAA=A
Budget: $150 milion
Box Office: $624 million (228 U.S., 396 Intl.)

Written by: Vinceng Ngo (A couple obscure films) and Vince Gillian (primary writing credit is writing 30 X-Files episodes.)
Directed by: Peter Berg (Actor, Writer, Producer, and Director of The Kingdom, Friday Night Lights, The Rundown, and Very Bad Things)
Starring: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and Jason Bateman

Hancock is a man with super-hero powers who tries to help people but winds up being hated by LA because in the process he always causes at least as much damage as he prevents. Ray Embry is a PR specialist decides to teach Hancock how to be a good hero after being saved by him, but this decision creates tension in the Embry home because his wife thinks Hancock is nothing but trouble.

Entertainment Value: A
I was engaged in this movie from start to finish. It was surprising, intriguing, visually stunning, and conceptually rich. I had been worried that this would be yet another disappointment where someone comes up with a genius premise for a movie and then botch it in the making. Not so. They didn’t just execute the great concept well, they actually had far more substance to deliver than even the starting concept would promise.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity B, Violence D, Language D, Illegal Activity C
Hancock is constantly drunk, although in fairness this shows as a clear character defect. The violence is pretty constant, including a couple of very vulgar scenes involving a hand being cut off, a man’s head being shown inserted inside another man’s rear end, and many scenes with bloodshed, gun violence, and super-hero mayhem. The other problem here is virtually constant not-quite-R language. Actually, I was a bit surprised that this didn’t get an R rating. Certainly not for young kids or even teen kids.

Significant Content: A
Reaching out to help those in need is the mark of a hero, especially if the person he is helping is a misguided hero in need of the love and guidance. Saving a life is worth far more than the destruction of property. Seeing the good in someone, especially when he doesn’t see it in himself, is noble. People resent you when you don’t solve their problems their way. A little tact goes a long way. Loneliness leads to anger and resentment when people reject what you do for them. Violence solves many problems. A hero will be miserable if he rejects his calling. There’s even a hint at God in here. In short, this film is about love, redemption, and transformation. Not too shabby for a movie that opens on a super-hero passed out drunk on a city bench.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
Where to start? The visual effects here are, quite simply, amazing. But the thought value is unbelievable. I saw Christianity all over this movie, both in the main parts and especially in the end. What a wonderful exploration of the question, “What would it look like if a super-hero hated himself?”

Discussion Questions:
~Considering Hancock as the derailed powerhouse he was designed to be, what lessons or comparisons might be drawn between him and the modern Church or the modern Christian?
~Hancock destroys tons of property to save a few lives. Is this rational behavior? Could he have done the same task less destructively?
~The people of LA reject Hancock because he does the miracles they want in a way they don’t appreciate. How is this the same problem that God faces with people?
~How does Hancock’s loneliness lead to his behavior? Why does he hate himself so much? Is his self-hatred a flaw or a mark of nobility, once its source is explained? What is his definition of success, and how does he fail to meet it?
~Ray’s wife chides him, saying, “You see the good in everybody, even when it’s not there.” Is this a flaw? What would Jesus say?
~Discuss how this movie is an example of the basic Christian duty to neighbor the lost and the difficult. Would you want Hancock in your life if you were Ray? Compare this story with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
~How does the expression of love transform people in this movie?
~Does Hancock respond to Ray’s love and neighboring him? Is he redeemed in the end? Is he transformed?
~Concerning the ending, what sacrifice is Hancock making and why is he making it? What is he really giving up, and how does this represent Christ’s sacrifice for us on the Cross? Would you have made Hancock's choice?
~Discuss the concept of Hancock allowing himself to be imprisoned when he could clearly break out any time.
~Do you know anyone who is more comfortable being hated than appreciated? How does rejection lead you to forsake doing what will please others out of the fear that this is too costly a risk to take?
~What is the meaning of the all-heart concept and logo? Is this movie explicitly selling Christianity charity?
~Can a person ever be happy who rejects his true calling?
~Could this movie have been made without the vulgarity and profanity? Would it have been as entertaining or compelling? How do these elements contribute to the image of Hancock as the anti-type hero?
~If Hancock is so angry and miserable, why does he still try to do good? What does this say about him?
~What does this movie have to say about the concept of soul-mates? What about the idea that love makes us vulnerable, even mortal?

Overall Grade: A
Wonderful, and I’m so glad to see that it made gobs of money because the themes here are so glorious. If you don’t see all the deeply Christian elements of this movie after watching it, email me and I’ll gladly share them with you in more detail. I didn't want to ruin the twists.

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