Released in 2007 and starring Will Smith, Hancock is one of those movies that are often despised by movie critics for their one-note message but, nevertheless, are well appreciated by viewers for having fun with it. Even nowadays, when superhero movies have literally become a subgenre, the idea of making the lead character, i.e., a superhero for whom the audience is supposed to be rooting, a good-for-nothing lazy bum is rather new and, thus, leads to a range of comedic and dramatic possibilities. While it would be wrong to claim that Hancock is a perfect movie, it has the right combination of action and wistful feeling around it that is just enough to add more depth to its plot and characters. Although the key scene of the movie, in which Ray, one of the side characters, reveals to Hancock the reason for his unpopularity is rather straightforward in its message, the underlying ambiguity of the tone and the idea of mutual ostracism between the lead character and the society elevates the movie from a lowbrow comedy to a rather deep drama.
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The dialogue is the first element of the scene that grabs the audience’s attention and makes them relate to the characters immediately. The contrast between Ray’s passion and Hancock’s detached attitude and unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious problem leads to numerous comedic possibilities, and the movie explores them extensively. Ray’s continuous commentaries on Hancock’s acts of heroism and stupidity contrasted with the lead character’s abrupt responses create the tension that is mostly comedic in its nature, yet also serves as the foundation for a more complex, nearly tragic conflict between Hancock’s nature and desires. The scene culminates in Ray’s simple yet profound commentary about saving people, being rejected, and then rejecting people in response, which practically sums up the ethical and philosophical problems addressed in the movie.
Setting and Clothing
The choice of the setting which is used for the scene is truly brilliant. The conversation about Hancock’s public image is supposed to make the lead character face a lot of unpleasant facts about his personality, which he used to discard. Therefore, there is an obvious element of awkwardness that both characters, and especially Hancock, are supposed to feel. The use of the comfortable and cozy setting of Ray’s home, which makes a pitch-perfect contrast with Hancock’s scruffy and shabby appearance, serves the purpose of pointing out the said discomfort perfectly. The room in which the characters talk, while not being a model of orderliness, is well-lit and has an overall feeling of coziness, comfort, and family life, whereas Hancock’s appearance screams of living in anything but comfort. Even the color scheme of the room, which is mostly represented by shades of yellow, light-brown, and orange, stands in sharp contrast with Hancock’s dark-blue clothes and dark glasses. Thus, every single element of the setting is used to render the idea of unpleasantness and the internal conflict that the lead character is experiencing, as well as the shock of the revelation that he is about to have.
What adds to the complexity of the seemingly simple scene of Ray trying to revamp Hancock’s image of a superhero is the camera movement. Even though the idea of a shaky camera had been used to death by the time that the movie came out, the choice of the strategy is, in fact, justified because it has a distinct and important purpose of portraying the internal conflict that is tearing asunder the lead character. The uneven and erratic camera movements that increase as Ray continues talking about the reason why Hancock is so hated stress the main character’s unwillingness to change anything about himself and at the same time wanting to become a part of the society. The fact that the camera holds for quite a while on Hancock, who is seemingly disinterested in Ray’s analysis of his social problem, while Ray continues talking, increases the tension and, thus, compels the audience to sympathize with the hapless superhero.
The scene does not feature any use of music, which is a rather unusual move for a movie, and a superhero one, at that. For a film about a hero with superpowers, to include the appropriate soundtrack into the scene would be a common way of stressing the emotional tension. However, much to the director’s credit, the crucial messages of the movie are conveyed to the audience without the soundtrack that would restate the obvious and compel the audience to feel in a certain way about the characters and the scene. Instead, the movie trusts its viewers to be smart enough to recognize the complexity of the issue without being spoon-fed about it with the help of an emotional soundtrack. For instance, the moment at which Hancock picks up the red logo designed by Ray and tries to shift the focus from the discussion of his antics to Ray’s career and art could have been easily transformed into a sappy and overly sentimental one with an emotional soundtrack. However, the movie remains silent, with only the dialogue between the lead characters providing the emotional fuel. Thus, the bitterness of the scene becomes even more distinctive.
The special effects used in the scene are mostly shown when Ray is using his computer and incorporate a lot of CGI. Hancock flying into the sky straight off the ground and throwing a whale into the ocean are the key elements of the scene that feature special effects being used to enhance the action. The special effects serve mostly a comedic purpose and showcase Hancock’s irresponsible side, whereas the rest of the scene is portrayed without any visual enhancements. As a result, the contrast between the silly elements and the tragic message underlying the scene becomes all the more obvious.
Although the characters talk mostly about what makes a superhero, the problem of social isolation is evident in the scene. When Ray says that it is not a crime to treat people poorly, but it is, in fact, quite counterproductive, he sets the ideas of internal conflict, the need to fit in while remaining an individual, and the necessity to be accepted among others as crucial themes of the film. Therefore, the scene under analysis becomes central to the movie, as well as crucial to understanding Hancock’s motivations and character arch.
Despite the fact that Hancock is not a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch, it provides a new way of looking at the persona and the very concept of a superhero, as well as the nature of social alienation, and the scene in which Ray tells Hancock the reason for him to be so unpopular is a graphic example of that. The director makes perfect use of a combination of a simplistic dialogue and complex, action-packed, computer-enhanced imagery, thus, making the message incredibly memorable. After a series of comedic visuals, the suddenly serious and even arguably grim idea about what makes social isolation possible sinks in incredibly well. Thus, what is often dismissed as a lighthearted comedy with little intelligence, in fact, turns out to be a dark commentary on the relationships between the society and its pariahs.