Explore how Hancock Conforms to the Genre Expectations of a Superhero Film.
Stefan Newton 10H
Explore how ‘Hancock’ Conforms to the Genre Expectations of a Superhero Film.
Throughout many decades, superhero films have been the highlight of our cinema experience. From comics like Marvel and DC, blockbusters have exploded onto our screens, from a life saving spider (Spiderman) to a huge great green monster (Hulk) being hunted down by the American Army. Film companies in the last decade have been set on producing hit blockbusters for adult and child audiences. Productions like Batman have targeted both audiences by producing figures that sell millions - the latest production ‘The Dark Night’ earned a whopping $400 million in its first 3 days of release. The production of the hit, iron-man that attracted a massive audience featured similar success, enough success that the crew have been back to work and recently released a sequel that has produced record breaking gross earnings. Hancock wasn’t far off and certainly acquired a similar thrilling experience.
The typical features of the superhero genre have definitely been consistent dating back to the classic, almost comical movies of ‘66 where the standard villain plans evil plots for the hero to stop. A love interest that is always complicated. And a side-kick/ companion that helps out but generally just hangs around being a pest, (Robin, of the 1966 Batman convention). These distinctive characters and storylines, without a doubt, have changed due to many years of similar film storylines that have forced directors to be slightly more adventurous with their basic plot, but despite this the typical feature have still been unvarying. Mary Jane Watson has kept Spiderman on his toes throughout three productions; Alfred (batman’s mentor) is a new character introduced to the batman series and Robin has been left out of the recent edition to the Batman series- The Dark Night which featured many of the usual characters. The villain: The Joker, played by Heath Ledger. The love interest: Rachel, and the loyal sidekick: Alfred. Despite the typical characters still playing an important role in the storyline, the general format of the superhero character has changed, became more true to life as oppose to seemingly comical performances and ‘special’ effects featured in the early production of batman in 1966. The superhero gadgets in the Dark Night have been thoroughly improved to create an outstanding aspect to the film overall. The bat mobile has been fully refurbished and revamped into a military looking vehicle that gives a formal look to an ever evolving batman exterior and status.
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Film posters play a significant role in the production of a film. Not only allowing the viewer to be drawn in and eager to know more, therefore raising sales figures, but identifying the target audience and sensing the type of film those viewers might be enticed by. The Superman Returns film poster is a prime example of this marketing. The poster features Superman as the main character in the centre of the poster, with his back to the world, wearing the symbolic Superman costume. Secondly included is the damsel in distress looking longingly into the superheroes eyes. Whereas Superman is turning his gaze away from her, possibly suggesting that she is not and can never be his priority, implying that he has more at stake.
Another perfect illustration of this advertising is The Dark Night in which the mood of the poster is rather different. The sense of destruction and violence is imminent. The up-shot of The Batman invites him to appear powerful and in the background, a fire hints at fear and destruction and the popular logo of The Batman almost seems as if Batman is at the heart of this fear and destruction. The slogan: “welcome to a world without rules” proves this theory even further.
The film poster for Hancock however brings forth a different vibe to a superhero movie. The aspects of the previous posters are somewhat formal and powerful; the main characters featured are dressed dominantly in costume and look overpowering to the audience. The Hancock poster still relies on the main character for the central role but the attitude seems rather sluggish and feeble as Hancock’s lethargic facial expression and vagrant facial features do not appear heroic at all. And as he looks into the city reflected in his cheap plastic glasses he not only appears hassled but fully reluctant to even attempt to help it.
In the opening of the film we are introduced to a scruffy looking drunken man commonly known as an “asshole”. Everything from his scruffy torn hat imprinted with an eagle to his unkempt hooded jumper and shorts all give the worrying impression of a homeless person. Not the type of introduction many would expect from a superhero. Within the first few seconds it is clear that he is loved by few and hated by many and lives a half-sour life. On one hand his actions save people’s lives but in contrast cause mass destruction in the process as he foolishly takes to the air in a manner that can only be described as reckless drunk flying. His acts of so called ‘heroism’ not only caused $9,000,000 worth of damage but gains him a fully disrespected reputation. From the first scene his sunglasses are the only cool and idol like thing of his image but they are only necessary because of the hangover he has gained from the bottle of alcohol he carelessly carries around with him.
“My Spidey-Sense is tingling”. Almost all superheroes have cunning intuition so much that it is almost comical how often they arrive by the nick of time. Hancock however is still comical but in a completely different sense. Our first image of Hancock is that of him fast asleep on a street side bench looking as rough as rough can get and his cunning intuition is nowhere to be seen among the many empty drink bottles. He is calmly awoken by a young boy who tells him of his duties as a superhero pointing to ‘bad guys’ on the television. This pretty much sums up Hancock’s ability to sense danger. Being awoken by a small child to whom he tells ‘get out of my face’ on a street bench after gaining a seemingly heavy hangover.
“It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no its Superman!” the way a superhero flies says a great deal about the superhero himself. The fact that superman can be mistaken for a steady flying plane creates the impression of formality and trust. Within the first few minutes of the film after Hancock is awoken form a drunken hangover and alerted of danger by a small child he takes to the air in a manner that can only be described as ‘drunk flying’. His acts of so called ‘heroism’ not only cost the city $9million as he flies into a flock of birds, merely misses a plane and smashes head-on into a road sign as he recklessly sways from side to side much like a drunken man would walk. This is further provoked by the hand-held camera shot angle which creates a clumsy impression which fully sums up Hancock’s flying skills, what a coincidence.
The regular superhero speaks politely to the public, addressing them as equals and accepting gratitude with ease. Superheroes try to say what the public want to hear and before Hancock’s mentor arrives on the scene Hancock seems happy to do nothing but offend the common public. By verbally insulting the public in the way that he does, for instance, a reply to a member of the public who claims they are going to sue Hancock “well you better sue McDonalds, because they fucked you up”. As well as telling an eight year old to “get out of my face”. This type of behaviour gains Hancock bad reputation as well as setting a bad influence on young children of which other superheroes are keen to do on a regular basis. Halfway through the film, due to the arrival of his mentor Ray, we see Hancock apologising to the public in a formal manor. This type of personality further improves his public image and thoroughly signifies a change in behaviour and character and marks a ‘U turn’ in which Hancock takes during the course of the film.
He makes further changes as well as this. His mentor Ray looks to increase the well-being of Hancock’s public image by introducing him to a costume of which he claims ‘this is a uniform, uniform represents purpose” and he is entirely correct in saying this. Every superhero wears a uniform as either a part of secret identity or to represent ‘purpose’ and symbolism. Rays attempts to improve Hancock as a person and a public hero succeed with great success when after spending two-three weeks in prison the police are calling for him to save the day, and Hancock arrives (in the uniform) and in perfect style like the role model that he has become, accomplishes the tasks perfectly and thrives in the applause he gets from an ecstatic citizen crowd. A crowd pleased to see a complete change in the superhero that they used to hate and call a burden.
Having watched the whole film and to summarise it Hancock makes an extraordinarily significant change due to the arrival of Ray Embray who attempts to help Hancock change his personality inside and out, from a self-centred, ignorant ‘asshole’ to a public hero of whom the local community are happy to see, saving the day.