Hancock is a brave movie as it has no real precedent. There's no existing fan base to draw on. There's no comic book from which it sprang with one mighty bound. The hero is damaged and dysfunctional but in a very different way to your Peter Parkers, Tony Starks and Bruce Waynes. And Hancock is a smart movie. In fact, 2008 looks like being the year of the smart action movie. Iron Man was excellent and Hellboy II: The Golden Army looks great too (I'm seeing it at a press screening next week so I'll let you know if it's as good as I think it will be). We've had a pretty good fourth outing for Indy and soon we'll be seeing The Mummy 3, The Dark Knight and ... oh ...
The Incredible Hulk.
I'm finding it hard to get excited about that one, I'll admit. If the trailers are what the studios put out to generate interest, I'm hugely disappointed. It looks dire. But we'll see.
Meanwhile, go and see Hancock. Not as bitingly satirical as I'd have liked it to be ... but it is a bit of good old-fashioned fun - the scene in the kitchen where Hancock is trying to get a tight-lipped Mary to discuss a particular subject is hilarious. The special effects are great and not too top-heavy that they smother the dialogue and characterisation. And all of the performances are pretty good. It's also not a long film. At 1 hour 32 mins, it seemed to fly by as quickly as Hancock himself does.
Just one criticism ... as is often the case, Hollywood assumes that everyone in the world shares its culture and history. We don't. When a film references American TV personalities, TV shows, baseball, basketball and football stars, we often really don't have any idea who or what you're talking about. Just as all of you Americans will probably not know who The Chuckle Brothers, Jonny Wilkinson, Andrew Flintoff, Dara O'Briain, Frank Lampard or Sue Lawley are. Or, indeed, what a Ruby Murray is.
I mention this as the film is partly-based upon the assumption that everyone knows that 'John Hancock' is a common Americanism for a signature. It all dates back to the American Declaration of Independence upon which the aforementioned Mr Hancock - Governor of Massachussets - left his large and much-flourished signature. Now, I knew this fact. Judging by the reaction of most of the audience, they didn't. It's just a little niggle, but worth mentioning. Whoever you are and whatever country you live and work in ... if you're going to make a film for international release, think twice before popping in a parochial reference. I have some personal experience of this in that my new book is currently being considered for the overseas market. Consequently, I am re-writing parts of it so that people outside the UK won't be sat around scratching their heads and saying 'Who was Lena Zavaroni?' or 'What on Earth is Blue Peter?' *
So Hollywood - think about your wider audience. Sometimes we'll get the reference. But a lot of the time, we don't. And that just creates frustration.
*Lena Zavaroni was a Scottish child star and singer from the 1970s/80s whose life was tragically cut short by depression and anorexia. And Blue Peter is a popular children's TV magazine-type show that is a staggering 50 years old this October.