Composed by John Powell
Varese Sarabande (2008)
Chase (358 kb)
Brings Meatballs (359 kb)
and Transfiguration (356 kb)
More clips from
Hancock at Amazon.com
“There are a lot of
ideas introduced in this score that we very well may get fuller doses of in the
future. For now, we are left to puzzle over HANCOCK and his
score. We can listen to it right through, be entertained for
3/4 of an hour, but be left with a gnawing incomplete feeling..
then there is Hancock
Review by Christopher Coleman
There has certainly been no shortage of hero and superhero films this
Summer...and good ones at that. The main marketing tack of Will
Smith's latest July 4th extravaganza sought to distinguish this film from
your ordinary, run-of-the-mill heroes (Indiana Jones perhaps?) and
superheroes (Iron Man, Hulk, Batman?). These clever guys chose some
interesting words to close their tag line, "...and then there is Hancock."
I doubt it was their intent, but that is the phrase that has lingered in
my brain since listening to the score and seeing the film.
Just what is HANCOCK? A superhero film? A comedy/action film?
It's hard to say exactly. In the film, the question at hand is,
"Just WHO is Hancock?" He appears to be a super-do-gooder with the
standard set of superpowers: speed, flight, superength, virtual
indestructibility, but the brotha has a few issues too. He's an
arrogant drunk lacking even a modicum of manners. He intends to help
out society, but usually leaves a wake of inadvertent destruction that
negates any good he may have done. He's a superhero with amnesia; an
identity crisis and has seemingly given up on finding out who he is and
more importantly "why" he is. And it may well have gone on that way,
but he meets struggling public relations agent, Ray (Jason Bateman) and
his girlfriend, Mary (Charlize Theron) and destiny moves its hand.
It becomes Ray's mission to transform Hancock into the hero he was meant
to be - one the people of Los Angeles will love and appreciate. The
new question becomes whether or not Hancock will be able to make the
sacrifices and changes necessary and eventually come to understand who he
is...and how Mary factors into his life as well. The premise for the
film is certainly interesting, but the whole package is a bit difficult to
classify. It has many of the elements of a classic,
Summer-superhero-film, but it seems the intent of the director was to
stand those elements on their ear a bit. There is a comedic edge - a
fairly adult comedic edge, an uncomfortable and telegraphed plot
twist, and then a predictable resolution. Hero flicks, I get.
Superhero films? No problem, but then there's HANCOCK and I'm just a
This off-axis spin of the superhero genre carries over into composer JOHN
POWELL's score. Powell has delivered great work for quasi-hero films
like THE BOURNE series and superhero films like X-MEN: THE LAST STAND.
His ability to provide an appealing musical score for such films was never
in doubt,...but then there is HANCOCK. It would certainly be a
safe bet that given this “fresh” canvas to work from, with no previous
existing themes or comic book series as baggage, that Powell would create
something new and interesting to define the lead character and ultimately
the franchise (and we all know that is where we are headed.)
What we get, though, is a rather schizophrenic score... or maybe a score
that has become just as lost as our would-be hero has. In the
music for HANCOCK, there are a number of recognizable elements.
There are those that we'd expect in a Summer blockbuster film, but also
there are the unexpected that JOHN POWELL almost always infuses into his
projects. The themes and ideas used to communicate the personality
of the film are all interesting in and of themselves, but when taken as a
whole, like the film, it feels a bit off... as if there was one piece of
the puzzle missing. You can see the parts and even imagine what the
overall picture is, but there is an annoying gap that nearly ruins the
Powell identifies the misdirected superhero, Hancock, with a bluesy
concoction of electronic guitar, organ, harmonium, drums, bass guitar and brass.
(I guess the local hillbilly-bass and jaw harp players weren't available
to record with the Hollywood Studio Symphony on this one.) Although, not
used at the onset of the film, this theme Powell introduces immediately in “SUV Chase” (1). We find
Hancock's down-home theme
returning in action pieces such as “Train Disaster” (3). The
corresponding scene in the film makes use of a different blues cut. On the
soundtrack, it's also heard in “Indestructible”
(15) and “Death and Transfiguration” (19). Another prominent theme for the
film is introduced in “John, Meet Ray “ (2). Very unassuming to start but
by the time we reach “Mary Brings Meatballs” (9) it becomes evident (at
that uncomfortable plot twist) that this theme is actually the film's
romantic element. With the truth of John Hancock and Mary’s relationship revealed,
Powell goes on to utilize this piece; employing it at climactic moments of
the film: “Mortal” (17) and “Death and Transfiguration” (19). It is here
that the once unassuming motif
full blown orchestral fanfare – a highlight of this score to be sure.
Of course, few superhero films can be simplified down to only offering a
hero's theme and romantic theme. There has to be more and Powell
certainly obliges. First, we have Powell's theme for
Hancock’s PR-man and friend, Ray. Some of the lightness and levity for
HANCOCK is found here. Ray's theme is
built on pizzicato strings and woodwinds and features that "bouncy" form
that can be found in other Powell scores like HAPPY FEET or the under-appreciated ENDURANCE.
Again, we first hear it in "John, Meet Ray" (2) and later in "Superhero Comix"
(7). Of even further interest is "Getting Therapy" (10) -
a tender and introspective piece that, at the halfway point, features a
wonderful medley of cello, violin, guitar, piano and then harmonium.
"Hollywood Blvd." introduces a couple of elements that I love: an
explosion of latin rhythms and brass, a cool rhythmic hook that takes me
back to Graeme Revell's great work for THE SAINT, and then a 70s blast
with high note rhythm guitar...all in the space of a minute or so.
JOHN POWELL has become one of Hollywood’s most entertaining and fresh
composers over the last decade, so regardless of the success or failure of
the film, my hopes for HANCOCK’s score were set high. While adequate for the film, POWELL’s score, this time out,
is an odd blend of styles that doesn’t give this film as distinctive a
personality as I would have liked. The 44 minutes of score released by Varese Sarabande contains 20 tracks,
most of which fall way short of 3 minutes in length. In fact, there are
only 3 tracks that exceed that duration. The film version of the score is
significantly different that Varese's release. As happens all too
often, the composer's score has been edited and rearranged to bits.
As mentioned above, in some cases, completely different cues are used in
the film which only heightens any sense of disconnect we might feel with
the score. The film features a handful of source cues that occupy
short but significant moments of the film. In the first act the
music in the film is noted more for its inclusion of source tracks than
score including: Ludacris' “Get Out the Way” to “Colors” by
Ice-T, to the “Theme from Sanford and Son” by Quincy Jones. None of
this soundtrack release. The problem with HANCOCK soundtrack is not the
total running time but that these short cues aren't long enough for
development of the material. There are a lot of ideas
introduced in this score that we very well may get fuller doses of in the
future. For now, we are left to puzzle over HANCOCK and his
score. We can listen to it right through, be entertained for 3/4 of
an hour, but be left with a gnawing incomplete feeling. Should
HANCOCK and Powell return, we'll have another opportunity to experience
more music from this new world and perhaps with a true nemesis (and
associated music) on hand, that uneasy feeling will be gone.
Of course, this assumes the conventional paths of hero and superhero films
but, well, then there is HANCOCK.
||You Should Go!
||Mary Brings Meatballs
||I Really Hate that Word
||Upon Us All
||Death and Transfiguration
||The Moon and the Superhero
||Total Running Time (approx)