My wife and I saw “Hancock” Saturday evening. The prelude to it was a delicious Roasted Sirloin Focaccia Sandwich at Outback Steakhouse. I want to try to work out something like that at home–sliced steak or roast beef, provolone, and herbs in garlic focaccia bread with French Onion soup for dipping. Good food.
But in the movie, Will Smith plays the down and out superpowered man who gets a grip on himself. He begins as a self-centered jerk and ends as a respectable hero. It’s the same story we’ve told a thousand times. Someone moves from self-destruction to productive citizen, overcoming alcohol, drugs, abusive behavior, doubt, fear, and anything keeping him from his full potential. “A life lived in fear is only half lived,” as the lead dancer’s father said in “Strictly Ballroom.” Hancock is the same story within a superhero fantasy. That’s why it’s a strong movie.
“Hancock” is essentially a comedy. That’s why it ends the way it does. Even in the serious tension of the final scenes, you can see comedy elements at play. They aren’t funny, but they are more lighthearted than the atmosphere and action call for. What themes are in the story are not heavy handed, so they could be missed, but I think it would be a good film for youth leaders and professors to watch with a group and talk through the messages afterward.
To begin with, the alcoholic hero may cause needless property damage—watching the train hit him was still incredible even after seeing it a few times in previews—but he doesn’t take the path to becoming a villain. He’s selfish and arrogant, but he when the kid wakes him up to show him the criminals on live TV, he goes to stop them. He even spares their lives. He is a hero at heart.
Another point without giving away the remarkable details of the story, Hancock’s abilities are explained as being created for humanity’s hope. He was created to be a hero, but he choose not to be. He could choose to be the jerk you see at the beginning of the movie, or he could choose another path explained later. Either of these choices would reject his purpose, and the fact that he could reject it makes this a human story.
Third, becoming the hero he is at the film’s end involves shared sacrifice (which I can’t explain without giving it all away).
Finally, when it comes to the topic of saving the world, you could stir up some good thinking by asking why Christ Jesus didn’t do more demonstrate his great power. Should he have come as a superman and shaken the world more than he did? (Note Luke 16:31 for an applicable spiritual truth.)
It may not be as meaty as talking through “Groundhog Day,” but “Hancock” is just as good a movie.