Plot: What’s it about?
Will Smith, to me, is one of my all-time favorite actors. He’s a self-made man who has literally worked his way up the ladder over the past twenty years. He started out as a rapper with cohort DJ Jazzy Jeff (Smith’s moniker was “The Fresh Prince”) which then led Smith to his self-titled television show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and then the inevitable foray into movies was a foregone conclusion. Smith can pretty much do it all and do it well with action/adventure movies under his belt: Independence Day, Bad Boys and I, Robot to the more critically-acclaimed films like The Pursuit of Happyness and Ali to just plain fun movies like Men in Black”and Hitch. With Hancock, this was a combination of several of the above. A superhero movie about a superhero who doesn’t really want to be a superhero? Ok, a novel concept but throw in the fact that he’s a drunk and all of the sudden the plot thickens. Before it even hit theaters, Hancock was poised to be a success and it was, though it probably could have been so much more.
“John” Hancock (Will Smith) is the last one of his kind. He makes his living sleeping on park benches, reeking of the smell of alcohol and occasionally he helps out the city of Los Angeles by apprehending some criminals. The thing is, and this is what makes Hancock somewhat unique, is that he usually does more harm than good. He doesn’t know his own strength and as he flies through buildings or destroys a highway, the city of LA is left to clean up the mess and foot the bill. The city is rightfully ticked off and they want some action. As fate would have it, Hancock manages to save the life of Ray (Jason Bateman), a PR executive who is trying to sell the image of “giving” as a way for companies to do business. Ray sees the good in Hancock and everything else and uses this as an opportunity to reshape the image of Hancock in the eyes of Los Angeles. This begs the question, however, will Hancock go for it or will he continue to do whatever he wants?
Hancock is a novel idea for a movie and with the superhero movies literally dominating the box-office (Iron Man, The Dark Knight and Hancock were three of this year’s top films), this is a little way to poke fun at them. I feel the movie’s third act was a little far-fetched or as much as a movie about a drunk superhero can be, but still felt the film was entertaining. Add to this the charm and physical appeal of Charlize Theron and it’s a recipe for success. Hancock is all about having fun and enjoying yourself, there’s not a true deep message to be gleamed from it, rather just escaping for a few hours. The story works well and director Peter Berg has shown that he can make a good action movie like this but also some with a bit more bite as well (Friday Night Lights and The Kingdom). Fans of Will Smith will no doubt check this out if they haven’t already and the Blu-ray will be one of the year’s top sellers, but for a little more substance it might be best to check out The Dark Knight as well.
Video: How does it look?
As the 4K movies start to roll out, both new and old, it has to be a question to everyone considering a purchase…is it worth it? To some, getting a modern classic like Hancock both looking and sounding its best will be the next best thing to heaven. To others (ie. “the masses”) they could care less as they don’t even have a Blu-ray player. Obviously this site and others like it are geared towards the first group of folks. This was the first Sony title that I’ve taken a look at and after seeing some Ultra HD/4K releases from other studios I was impressed, but not blown away. Until now. Sony is one of the few studios that are releasing their movies in true 4K while others (Fox, Warner) are simply taking the movies and upscaling them to the new format. And when you see the Sony titles you’ll understand. Having seen the film on both DVD and Blu-ray, I’d say that I had a pretty good basis for comparison. I popped in the disc and I was just…stunned at how good the image looked. You can tell when the movie has a 3D look to it. The colors are more saturated, the detail is amazing and the Blu-ray looked pretty damn good to begin with. The film, now 8 years old as of this writing, was a big budget film from Sony and they’ve taken care of this title and I’d go so far as to say that this might be my new reference disc. The big difference between Blu-ray and 4K is the color saturation. Yes that “HDR” sticker on the front actually means something. Have a friend walk into the room and have the Blu-ray playing, then have them come back in and show them the 4K version. I’m guessing they’ll notice the difference. The only downfall? I’m starting to get spoiled by 4K and I don’t want that – I’ve got too many Blu-ray’s in my collection. Suffice it to say this one is a winner. I’m sure Hancock will drink to that.
Audio: How does it sound?
When the film first hit Blu-ray it featured a pretty robust Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. That’s been included as the down sampled audio version and a new Dolby Atmos track has been added as well. Truthfully, there is a difference in the Atmos mix, but it wasn’t as night and day as I’d thought. Then again, that’s the trouble with this new technology (both audio and video) is that the previous generation wasn’t really “bad” to begin with. Is there a difference in quality? Yep. Is it worth buying a new system to experience it? Well that’s up to you. There are many examples of amazing sound in the film: when Hancock stops the train, the entire ending sequence and even little things like the pavement cracking when Hancock lands. Every channel is utilized and it’s one of those movies that’s fun to turn up the volume, sit back and try to justify your home theater setup. Hey, don’t knock it – I’ve been doing it for years!
Supplements: What are the extras?
There appear to be no new supplements with this release and the film has had an unrated cut featuring 10 more minutes added into the film. This appears to be the theatrical cut, so I’m sure that’ll cause some whining among the masses who would want both cuts. Anyway, here’s what’s included.
- Superhumans: Making Hancock – Your basic EPK shot at the time of the film’s production with interviews with the cast and crew. It’s nothing new and even when it came out (2008) this felt a bit monotonous.
- Seeing the Future – A look at the pre-visualization process of a half dozen of the more intense CGI scenes. We see a before, during and after for each which is actually quite interesting.
- Building a Better Hero – Special effects wizard John Dykstra is profiled and his work with the effects and the integration within the film and its final stage.
- Home Life – A location featurette shows the house used for some of the films. It’s nothing too mind-blowing, but does have a few interesting segments.
- Bumps and Bruises – We get a look at the toll taken on the actor when he does most (but not all) of his own stunts. I’m sure he was compensated for his work, so I didn’t feel too bad for him. Bruises heal.
- Suiting Up – A look at some of the “superhero” costumes used in the film. Next…
- Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with Dirty Pete – Director Peter Berg rallies the troops for another day on the set. M’kay.
- Picture-in-Picture – The earlier Blu-ray exclusive is a visual commentary of sorts that’s sadly really not done any longer.
The Bottom Line
If you don’t like Will Smith in Independence Day or Bad Boys, then maybe his portrayal of an alcoholic superhero might whet your whistle? This 4K version ups the ante from the Blu-ray in terms of quality, but no new supplements have been added. If you’re trying to grow your 4K/Ultra HD collection – this is a good place to start, otherwise the Blu-ray should suffice.