If Will Smith can be counted on for anything, it’s delivering a blockbuster movie during the 4th of July weekend. His mid-summer smash this year was a bit different than Men in Black and Independence Day, though. Rather than play a hero in the truest sense of the word, Smith donned a stocking cap and stepped into the shoes of Hancock, a drunk has-been hero that provided the Fresh Prince a dramatic departure from his normal happy-go-lucky starring role. And now, Sony is releasing an Unrated version of Hancock on Blu-ray Disc just in time for holiday shopping.
In Hancock, Smith’s character has become so detested by society that his borderline R-rated interaction with everyone, including children, would make Bad Santa look like a Saint (Nick). The cure to Hancock’s misguided public perception is positive PR, which Ray (Jason Bateman) offers. Ray spends the first half of the film working with Hancock to improve his image, including a voluntary stay in prison. Bateman’s interactions with Smith are some of Hancock’s finest moments. Despite one unlawful act after another, including a funny confrontation in prison in which Hancock shoves one guy’s head up another man’s rectum, Ray remains as calm as a strategic PR guy can, all while plotting a positive step forward to help control the damage in the public’s eye.
Unfortunately, a small subplot during the first hour of Hancock sets up a dramatic change in direction about halfway through the movie, when Ray’s wife Mary (Charlize Theron) shows quite clearly that she wants Hancock to stay hidden away from the limelight. Eventually, Mary exposes some secret information and sends the film — and its new plot — spiraling into an overdramatic mess. With Hancock’s public image repaired, the script delves into a convoluted solution to Hancock’s past tied to Ray’s wife and even explores Hancock’s origins. Although an intriguing idea, it’s never fleshed out as well as it should be, and the meat of the issues just get overblown completely.
Hancock is presented in an AVC MPEG-4 1080p encoding that climbs an uphill battle with the over-saturated and grainy photography used in this film. The good news is the grain texture and detail from the theater is replicated wonderfully, with no digital noise reduction. Unfortunately, other problems surface in Hancock, including many occasions in which the black levels fall apart, losing any sense of gradation. It’s common to blame the appearance of black crush on an LCD display device, but I’ve never encountered black crush as rampant as it is on Hancock.
The audio is a different story, as it’s offered in a strong 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix that helps forgive the video to an extent. When Hancock’s action kicks in with an immediate car chase and the superhero “launching” off the concrete with a sonic boom there’s no misunderstanding the mix packs a strong punch. Surrounds are used throughout all the big action set pieces and dialogue is never lost even when threatened to be drowned out by gunfire, crashing and explosions. The effect worth returning to is the several “launching” scenes which are usually preceded by silence that only heightens their impact.
The bonus features in Hancock are quite varied, but none of them really stands out as anything special. The first is an On Set Visual Diary Picture-in-Picture feature, in which the window box is persistent throughout Hancock with lots of director insight and pre-visualization information. The content follows smoothly with the film so it is always relevant. My only complaint is the window could have been framed bigger. Those with screens smaller than 47 inches will be straining to see what’s going on.
Next up is Superhumans: The Making of Hancock (12:51). In this feature, the producers and cast scratch each other’s backs while reminiscing about how the project finally came together. Ironically, this has nothing to do with the process of making the film, as the title suggests. So why are we watching this, again?
Seeing the Future (15:11) is cut into eight two-minute segments that delve into pre-visualization techniques for Hancock’s major action sequences. Meanwhile, Building a Better Hero (8:15) covers creating a digital Hancock from full body scans. Bumps and Bruises (10:28) is another special-effects feature, but one that discusses not CGI, but the production’s efforts to use real-life actors for stunts as much as possible. An example is putting Will Smith on a line for flying and flipping a car with Bateman in it.
In Home Life (10:48), the producers explain why the Embrey family house was built from scratch on a backlot. An interesting if pointless investigation goes through some of the home’s decorations including Mary’s cultural books that she’s collected over time for healing.
Suiting Up (8:22) discusses what went into designing the superhero suits and all the decisions made during the process. Also included, and more interesting, are other character outfit tidbits like villain Red’s. Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with Dirty Pete (3:57), on the other hand, needs to be suited up itself — in a straightjacket. Insane or crazed Pete is a more appropriate title for this brief featurette; give this guy some booze and he is Hancock.
Setting the misdirected second half aside, the character of Hancock and is an enjoyable reformed drunken mess Will Smith deserves to revisit with a tighter script. Despite my issues with the video transfer, I’m willing to revisit Hancock if for nothing more than to enjoy Big Willie being an “asshole” to any and everyone again. Hancock won’t be the most memorable Blu-ray release this holiday season by a long shot, but it is worth giving at least a rent.
Buy Hancock Unrated Edition on Blu-ray at Amazon.com.
- Score: 8