July 07, 2008

"Hancock" as pro-American propaganda?

I wasn't planning on seeing it in the theatre, but the wife bought tickets for herself and numerous co-workers, and then asked if I wanted one. "OK, I guess," I said. The flick isn't bad, but IMO it isn't all that great either. It's standard current-era fluff, using top-of-the-line CGI to enhance its likability.

But I didn't even consider this aspect of the film: Pro-American propaganda. Usually I'm skeptical of such ... "digging" into a film's message, especially if it's a pretty specious endeavour. However, I think critic Kyle Smith is on target in his assessment:

Locking Hancock up is exactly what society decides to do, and in this film — directed by Peter Berg, who also made last fall’s film "The Kingdom," (I haven't seen this film -- Hube) about Americans and Arabs working together to foil terrorists in the Middle East — the title character is the enemy of the people. He has a few hundred lawsuits pending against him for all of the stuff he’s wrecked.

Even when he saves Ray’s life, people complain that he did it the wrong way. Ray thinks that’s crazy: Hancock is the barrier between decent folk and the bad guys, and though he isn’t perfect, the price we collectively pay for his services is more than reasonable.

The film is a witty defense of America as a rude, sometimes blundering but ultimately invaluable and benevolent force, although Berg, who took a lot of heat (mainly for being infuriatingly patriotic) for "The Kingdom," doesn’t press the message so hard that everyone is going to notice it. And anyway, he seems to drop it in the second half.

Not for nothing does Hancock share his name with one of the fiercest patriots in American history; the movie also takes pain to establish the eagle (a frequently seen image) as Hancock’s symbol, even at the beginning when it’s merely a patch on his ratty ski cap. “I’m the only one of my kind,” Hancock complains, by virtue of explaining his difficulties as the world’s only superpower. He has trouble getting along with others.

Smith also notes one funny moment where co-star Jason Bateman's son is being harassed ... by a French kid named Michel! Bateman's wife (played by the oh-so smokin' Charlize Theron) makes excuse's for the bully, but Hancock will have none of it. He soon-after scares the living crap out of the kid (by throwing him several hundred meters straight up in the air!) so that he'll never bug Bateman's son ever again. To Smith, this is an allegory of the US's relationship with France.

Many of the commenters take issue with Smith's review. One points to this review of "Hancock," too, though I can't make much sense of it personally.

Posted by Hube at July 7, 2008 10:33 AM | TrackBack

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