2008 was a crucial year for superhero movies. Within a few months, Marvel Studios co-launched their cinematic universe iron man while DC reached a high water mark with The dark knight that it probably never made it to the top. But between those two industry-defining films, another superhero film offered a different perspective. Over a decade later, Will Smith’s take on the genre may have been right all along.

years ahead of its time Hancock was a refutation of superhero films before the genre got big enough to even need to be refuted. And while this Will Smith vehicle falls apart slightly in its fabled final act, it’s still worth checking out if you need a break from current Marvel/DC offerings.

But before you switch to Netflix, here’s why Hancock is worth a look (or revisit) and what you need to know first.

Directed by friday night lights Co-creator Peter Berg from a screenplay by Vince Gilligan (yes, the Vince Gilligan) tells Hancock the story of a superhero whose main trait is being terrible at his job. Will Smith’s John Hancock may have super strength, invulnerability, and the power of flight — but he also has a serious drinking problem. The people of Los Angeles (where he does most of his “crime-fighting”) hate him, and he hates them back.

Things take a turn for the better when Hancock meets Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a public relations expert who offers to help restore the superhero’s image. As part of the plan, Hancock agrees to go to prison, which backfires when crime in the city skyrockets in his absence. He is soon released and violently stops a criminal, earning him praise from a now-respected public.

The first half of Hancock endless fun to watch. Will Smith plays a superhero with a mixture of high spirits and pathos that only the fresh Prince of Bellaire could pull off. You’ll hate and love the character, who borrows the most interesting ideas from icons like Iron Man and Batman (their inner demons) without delving into the more complicated stuff.

Until the film does just that in the third act.

Things fall apart when Charlize Theron arrives Hancock.Columbia images

After saving the day, Hancock celebrates by having dinner with Ray and his wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), who, it turns out, is also a superhero. She then proceeds to reveal her complex origin story. I won’t bore you with the details, but the gist is that the longer these two stay in close contact, the weaker their powers become. This gives the film some real stakes in its final scenes, but it also clouds the original concept of a warlike superman by burdening everything with ancient lore. Ultimately, ruining the movie isn’t enough, but it’s enough for you to mentally look around before the credits roll.

But that doesn’t mean Hancock is not worth seeing. In a world where literally every imaginable version of superhero history is served up at all times, it’s fascinating to see Will Smith take his shot a full decade before superhero saturation. Before Deadpool and the Boys, there was John Hancock.

There have been various reports of a potential sequel over the years, with Charlize Theron most recently expressing interest while admitting that no actual progress has been made. But maybe that’s better. Hancock 2 would likely only delve deeper into this universe’s lore and undercut what made the original such a clever refutation of all the superhero movies to come.

Hancock now streaming on Netflix.

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