Hancock (Soundtrack) by John Powell available at Amazon.com



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Hancock by John Powell


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Hancock (Soundtrack) by John Powell
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Hancock (Soundtrack) by John Powell

Composed by John Powell
Varese Sarabande (2008)

Rating: 6/10

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Listen to this soundclip of Hancock by John PowellSUV Chase (358 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of Hancock by John PowellMary Brings Meatballs (359 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of Hancock by John PowellDeath and Transfiguration (356 kb)

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“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..

HancockAnd 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 little puzzled.

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 whole thing.

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 becomes a 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 these make 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.

Rating: 6/10


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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 SUV Chase 2:01  ****
2 John, Meet Ray 2:04  ***
3 Train Disaster 2:39  ***
4 Meatballs? 0:57  ***
5 The Trailer 2:01  ***
6 French Asshole 1:32  **
7 Superhero Comix 0:43  ***
8 You Should Go! 0:51  ***
9 Mary Brings Meatballs 1:35  ***
10 Getting Therapy 2:18  ****
11 To War 1:19  ****
12 I Really Hate that Word 0:48  ***
13 Standing Ovation 1:06  ***
14 The Kiss 2:20  ***
15 Indestructible 2:05  **
16 Hollywood Blvd 6:24  ***
17 Mortal 5:27  ***
18 Upon Us All 1:19  ***
19 Death and Transfiguration 3:55  ****
20 The Moon and the Superhero 3:12  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 45 minutes  




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