BitDepth 636 - July 15

Hancock re-imagines the anti-hero at its extremes.
Post spandex contemplations

Will Smith as Hancock, superhero bum.

Hancock, Will Smith works mightily to thread a curious needle, portraying the heroic ideal in a most unheroic manner.
Cinema, as usual, is pretty late to this game. The era of spandex deconstruction began in the 1980's with the almost simultaneous publication of Frank Miller's abrasive
The Dark Knight Returns (1985), and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' obsessively detailed The Watchmen (1986).
Both graphic novels were the result of adults looking critically at the business they were involved in and, presumably, the idols of their youth with eyes jaded by the realities of maturity.
The results were spectacularly profitable for DC Comics and opened the floodgates for more than two decades of introspective, bleak reimaginings of heroes who owed more to the moral ambivalence of Mickey Spillane's heroes than to the polarised ideals of earlier ages of comics.

Books like
The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson and The Pro, by Ennis and Amanda Conner examined the off-panel activities of the colourful crimefighting set in lurid detail.
Powers, by Brian Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, two police officers engage in a procedural crime drama set on their beat, the turf traversed by superheroes and supervillains, who stand revealed in their investigations as largely cut from the same colourful, if decadent cloth.
Apart from the ground breaking Dark Knight (no relation to the upcoming Bale as Batman sequel) and Watchmen, currently in production with 300 director Zack Snyder, the sober keepers of comics' legacy have engaged in some mild revisionist thinking of their own.

Official second looks at the mythos
Marvels and Kingdom Come by painter du jour Alex Ross and writers Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid, respectively, contribute observations of the human perspective of superhumans striding (and floating above) the planet.
More aggressive was the run of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch on
Ultimates, a "real world" version of Marvel's flagship supergroup, the Avengers that's influenced more than a little by Bendis and Hitch's Authority, an outrageous graphic novel that took the notion of the supergroup to its logical conclusion and left it beached and wrecked on the rocks. When Millar and Hitch's Ultimates was turned into a children's cartoon, everything that made the book interesting was removed. Clearly, publishers realise that 24 frames per second are more dangerous than nine panels per page.

That's seems to be the thinking behind the excisions from Victor Ngo's script, so notoriously unflattering to the spandex set that it bounced around Hollywood for more than a decade before being made into a Will Smith vehicle.
It's worth noting that pretty much every modern day superhero has some kind of chain binding him to humanity. For Spiderman, it's guilt about the death of his uncle, Batman is obsessed with avenging his parent's murder, Superman owes a debt of gratitude to his farming foster parents and Bruce Banner would really just rather not be the Hulk.
But what if they just didn't care?
Hancock's astonishing first half embraces that notion, portraying what Mark Millar described as a "person of mass destruction," the superhero as surly, poorly dressed drunk wreaking havoc as he intervenes in lawful process.
It's when the film makes its abrupt turn towards the PG-13 required arc of redemption that it almost grinds to a halt. Despite Smith's impressive immersion in the character and the growing prominence of co-star Charlize Theron, the plot twist seems more required than realistic.
Hancock is worth seeing for that first half though. It posits, with some passion, that's we're all just one bad day in a cave with flying rats and a bite from a radioactive insect away from wearing our underwear over our pants and beating the unjust to a pulp.
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