Aug 01 2012

Learning Writing Skills from Hancock

1. Hancock’s personality and interaction with other people made for some interesting conflict. The train scene with Hancock, Ray, and the other people at the intersection is a great example of Hancock’s alienation and anti-social nature. He’s one of the few superheroes that people generally hate, as opposed to, say, Superman.



2. The mechanics of Hancock’s superpowers were very fascinating. When he kicks off the ground to propel into flight, it yanks stuff up out of the ground. His invincibility could be cliche, but was used creatively (the shaving scene was a kickass example of that). The physics behind the powers was believable. In contrast, Superman has to use special Kryptonian razor blades when he has to shave (ugh!).


3. Superheroes can commit crimes, and they can get in trouble for it. Hancock went to prison because of the way he used his powers. He had several crimes hanging over his head: aggravated assault and battery, destruction of property, reckless endangerment, and even endangering the safety of a minor (the French bully he launched into the sky). This is very refreshing—in most superhero stories where the police are antagonists, they don’t actually add significant consequences to the characters’ actions. (For example, Batman might have a chase scene or two with the police, but it rarely actually costs Batman anything).


4. Hancock’s significant other was an interesting twist, but could be confusing and contradictory. During the major fight scene with Hancock and his “wife,” she keeps screaming that she hates him, and that she’d never forgive him for what he did. What did he do? They never explain what he did, and they gave no reason for why she’d hate him. Then, in the hospital scene towards the end, she explains how he always saved her over the centuries, and how he was meant to be humanity’s hero. But didn’t you say earlier that you were faster, stronger, and smarter than him? Lady, you’re confusing me!


5. The immortality schtick was annoying. Hancock’s “wife” telling him about the countless generations they spent saving the world got really annoying, really fast. Hancock went over the fact that he was immortal. Repeating that fact was just irritating.

5.1. The weakness was a refreshing change. Their only weakness is when they pair up with each other. It makes love out to be something wonderful, yet dangerous. This is much better than having a heart attack when you bump into a glowing, green rock. And the weakness takes their powers away rather than incapacitating them, which makes it possible for them to still contribute to scenes rather than limping around helplessly.


6. Some characters/scenes could probably have been removed. The two men Hancock “attacked” later teamed up in jail with the man who robbed the bank. When they attack Hancock at the hospital, the two prisoners die by defenestration almost immediately. If they don’t add to the fight, get rid of them. Their roles are so minor that they barely exist. Also, the (admittedly humorous) scene with the hooker at Hancock’s trailer had no long-term effect on the story and could have been cut or shortened.

6.1. On the other hand, they could have developed the eagle motif more. It was enticing, but did nothing to enhance the story, and it didn’t explain Hancock’s fascination with eagles.


7. The protagonist vs. protagonist conflict was great, but could’ve been better. The protagonist vs. protagonist was great, but could’ve been better. The conflict Hancock and Ray had with one another showed they had different ways of approaching a situation. The most memorable example of this was when Ray was trying to convince Hancock to show appreciation and respect for law enforcement by saying something like “Good job,” but Hancock’s response to that is that “If they’re doing such a great job, why the hell do they need me?” But it would’ve been better for the story if they’d fleshed this out some more, to show that Hancock and Ray didn’t always see eye-to-eye about certain principles of heroism.


In contrast, the protagonist-vs-protagonist relationships in Dark Knight were much more memorable because the good characters were constantly second-guessing and arguing about how to approach problems (like Lucius vs. Batman over the sonar concept, Dent vs. Gordon over employing corrupt police officers, and Alfred vs. Bruce over crossing a line with the mob, etc).


8. The prison rehab scene could’ve been fleshed out more. When Hancock checks into rehab in prison, he always says “Pass” in their sessions. Until, at the end of his sentence, he says, “My name is Hancock, and I guess I have a drinking problem.” That’s it? To justify having these scenes, we need to have more resolution and/or character development. It would’ve made the story much more three-dimensional.


9. Leaving the origin story so vague was an excellent choice here. “Hancock” is one of the only superhero stories that doesn’t have a full-fledged, dramatic, 30 minute opening that describes what made Hancock into a superhero. It adds a hint of mystery to the story of Hancock and where he came from. In contrast, the first half of “Batman Begins” focused on how Bruce Wayne trained hard to become the Batman. In particular, the Ra’s al-Ghul training sequence took a lot of time and didn’t do all that much to develop the characters.”       

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Learning Writing Skills from Hancock”

  1. Maxon 01 Aug 2012 at 3:25 pm

    i saw this movie because my aunt saw and didnt remember much about, and she told us it was cute. the amount of swearing was hilarious

  2. JJon 01 Aug 2012 at 4:10 pm

    People complain that the movie went from being a comedy spoof on superman to taking itsself way to seriously after hancock got out of jail. There’s still humor in the latter half just not so overt. I personally love the film despite its flaws.

  3. Deweon 01 Aug 2012 at 6:38 pm

    I like the rehab scene, actually. Hancock’s one sentence seemed unimportant and insignificant to the rest of the prisoners, but him being congratulated by the other prisoners seemed like a good development to me.

  4. Milanon 01 Aug 2012 at 7:30 pm

    I also felt there was a mood shift from corny to serious halfway through. That coincided with explaining the powers and their nuances. The mythos seemed to overwhelm the characters, made Hancock serious, but I couldn’t make the same adjustment perhaps because the reasons were so cerebral. Perhaps if Hancock felt some remorse for his earlier behaviour then I’d feel serious too.

    [Perhaps this article helps reinforce storytelling skills rather than writing skills.]

  5. Josson 01 Aug 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I hadn’t heard of a superhero movie named Hancock, so when I saw the title of this article in my feed I thought you meant that you had writing tips from John Hancock XD. The bit about his fascinating superpowers tipped me off ;).

  6. deadmanshandon 01 Aug 2012 at 9:44 pm

    The movie had a lot of flaws but I spent way too much of it laughing to care.

  7. JJon 02 Aug 2012 at 9:57 pm

    They also never explained how his “wife” could summon hurricanes while he can…throw people? Makes great visuals in the movie but story telling wise a little iffy. Idk maybe I’m just nitpicking

  8. JPon 03 Aug 2012 at 12:52 pm

    You should do one for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

  9. ChickenNoodleson 24 Jun 2013 at 1:28 pm

    What about the mechanics of his powers was so fantastic?

  10. B. McKenzieon 24 Jun 2013 at 5:21 pm

    “I hadn’t heard of a superhero movie named Hancock, so when I saw the title of this article in my feed I thought you meant that you had writing tips from John Hancock XD. The bit about his fascinating superpowers tipped me off…” John Hancock was the Brett Reid/Green Hornet of the 1700s, a perfectly mundane billionaire playboy surrounded by characters that actually are extraordinary. Incidentally, JH and Green Hornet were about as useful in action scenes.

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