The Wages of Agreement Is Death (for Film Fight)
By Josh Rosenblatt,
5:11AM, Thu. Jul. 10, 2008
I know, just when we’d settled into a pleasant state of extended antagonism, Will Smith comes along and ruins everything. No … you come along and ruin everything. I hereby take back all the nice things I said about you in the last post. By recommending we go see Hancock together, you have all but ruined Film Fight. Not only are we suddenly agreeing on everything, but my whole argument about the inherent lousiness of superhero movies has gone out the window! Defenestrated! (Hey, I finally found a way to use my favorite word. Ten years I’ve been waiting for this moment.)
Things were going so well, Kim! Remember when you accused me of engaging in circular argumentation? Remember when I told you your favorite director was an overrated hack? Remember when you beat me by 54 percentage points in the first day’s tally? Remember when I rang your doorbell and ran early on the morning of day three? Remember when you conceded that I had beaten you on every major point of debate? Those were great times, filled with laughter and fun and genuine animosity.
Now look what you’ve done.
You’ve turned us … agreeable.
Lucky for you, Hancock isn’t actually based on a comic book or we’d both be out of a job.
You’re right, though: Hancock was shockingly good. Not in the way The Battle of Algiers or The Thin Red Line or City of God was shockingly good but rather that I was shocked - shocked! - that it was good. I was convinced when I saw ads for this movie it was going to be another strong idea wasted. Surely if anyone could take the story of a drunken, foul-mouthed, despondent, self-loathing, world-loathing superhero and turn it into white-bread family fare, it would be Hollywood. Especially Hollywood in summer. And especially Hollywood working with Will Smith on the Fourth of July. Doom was assured.
But the damn thing was great, full of genuine emotion, subtle performances, real pain, real joy, real romance, thrilling sexual tension, and a directorial approach that had no business mussing up a potential billion-dollar franchise. Every time I expected director Peter Berg to give into his most commercial instincts and turn his damaged characters into cartoons, he would pull back to a quiet scene of Bateman and Theron in honest-to-goodness love or a close-up of Smith’s contorted, unshaven face as he struggled with the life of a superhero who has no secret identity to fall back on.
The real “hallelujah” moment for me came when Smith’s Hancock enters a bank to stop a robbery and is confronted by a homicidal maniac who has strapped his hostages with explosives that are controlled by a detonating mechanism he’s got gripped in his hand. Battling for alpha-dog status, the criminal and the superhero jaw at each other while Hancock casually fashions a circular blade out of one of the bank’s metal lampshades. Now, anybody familiar with movies knows what’s coming next: Hancock is going to toss that little steel Frisbee of his and slice off his opponent’s hand. But then the thief says something like, “If you don’t give up, you’re gonna have blood on your hands,” and the camera closes in on Hancock’s face … and I froze. Please, please, please don’t say it, Hancock. Please don’t make some awful pun about the metaphorical blood on your hands and the physical blood that will soon be pouring from his. Just toss that deadly discuss and get out of the room. Please don’t give in to the summer-blockbuster mentality! Fer crissakes, please!
And you know what? He didn’t. Kept his mouth shot, did the bloody deed, saved the day, and got out of there ... misery intact. One moment of writerly restraint and the movie was saved.
I could have cried.
Well done Will Smith, well done Peter Berg, well done Sony Pictures, well done Thomas Jefferson.
Poorly done Miss Jones. I’ll never forgive you for this.
Unless, of course, you can come up with a good and cantankerous reply to the following statement:
Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City was a heartless, lifeless, soulless exercise in green-screen indulgence disguised as a film … and further proof that comic books should never be made into movies.