2 May 2009

HANCOCK (Dir. Peter Berg, 2008, US)

Will Smith as the unlikeliest of superheroes; Hancock

The Will Smith sci fi comic book comedy blockbuster ‘Hancock’ seemed to arrive in the summer of 2008 without the build up or hype surrounding instantly recognisable studio franchise films like Indiana Jones and The Dark Knight. Despite the film’s mixed critical response, Will Smith’s bankable and imposing star status once again assured international commercial success. Costing up to $150 million, directed by Peter Berg and Produced by Michael Mann, ‘Hancock’ was a major tent pole summer release executed with very little originality, adhering to a more than familiar Hollywood narrative that unfolds with disturbing predictability including cynical action sequences. Having said all this, the casting of Will Smith alongside Charlize Theron seems to provide the most interesting aspect and it is hard not to see the allegorical aspects concerning inter racial relationships in the context of a supposedly progressive American society. Will Smith’s star image has been consistent in presenting him as the everyman who like Tom Hanks exudes a charismatic ordinariness and family friendly public profile that is both non offensive and apolitical.

Starting with Sidney Poitier in the 60s, black Hollywood actors have always had to carry the added burden of choosing roles responsibly in fear of misrepresenting the black community and perpetuating negative stereotypes. Though Will Smith is the most powerful and bankable film star working in Hollywood today, his family friendly image tends to affect the on screen relationship he has with his female co stars because too much intimacy could potentially alter his original star image. In all the films Will Smith has starred in to date he has never kissed a white woman or a major Hollywood A list actress until now. However much this kiss between Will Smith and Charlize Theron is part of the film, the idea that the two of them cannot be together as husband and wife acts as a careful reminder of the stark reality of racial intolerance in today’s supposedly liberal society. ‘Hancock’ is a barely competent Hollywood film yet it offers a fascinating insight into the complexities of Will Smith’s star image and how audiences may still not be ready to see him get intimate and physical with a white A list Hollywood actress. It will be interesting to see how they develop this thematic inter racial thread in the sequel to ‘Hancock’.

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