Bad Astronomy review: Hancock

By Phil Plait | July 4, 2008 6:07 pm

Hancock movie poster
"Hancock" is a superhero movie starring Will Smith, out in theaters now.

I mean, c’mon. Will Smith as a superhero. That has megahit written all over it! But a lot of critics have panned it, saying it’s inconsistent, uneven, can’t make up its mind, etc. etc.

Well, I liked it. So did my family. In fact, it prompted Mrs BA — and she is usually right about such things — to say, "Critics are stupid."

"Hancock" was hilarious. There were lots of LOL moments, and a whole lot more I smiled at. The special effects were great. And Charlize Theron… well, I am but a mortal man. Wow.

Will Smith, as usual, was great. He’s a scientologist, which irks me greatly, but he’s a fine actor, and really funny and fun to watch.

The movie is a wee bit uneven, with a scene dropped in near the end that was directed in an overly dramatic way compared to the rest of the flick. But the story set that bit up, and so nothing I saw in the flick was really inconsistent, or deus ex machina (though some lines of thought were dropped, like control of weather and emission of heat due to strong emotions, which was too bad). I am really really tired of superhero movies with the hugely overblown villain that shouts all the time and utters ridiculous lines. "Ironman", as cool as it was, suffered from this and in my opinion made the ending pretty dumb.

You’re a supervillain. I get it. Don’t yell at me.

Charlize Theron in Hancock. Man.But hey, you didn’t come here for my opinion of the movie — though you should, because I am always right and I express myself in a humorous and readable way — you came here for the physics.

OK then. Spoilers, blah blah blah. Be ye fairly warned, says I.

OK, first off, Hancock can fly. Right. Well we’ll just have to let that go. He’s not just jumping, because he changes direction, and doesn’t slow down along his trajectory. So he’s really flying, and it’s a superhero movie, so we just have to accept that.

Like almost every superhero movie (and let’s face it, most science fiction movies) the main scientific issue in this flick is inertia. He drops an SUV from hundreds of meters up, lets it fall most of the way, then just grabs it and swings it around. When he grabs it, it would have been falling at over a hundred kph, and the guys inside would have been hamburger when he stopped it.

Hancock standing next to the whaleThis scenario happens over and over again, like when he throws a little kid (who deserved it) like a kilometer into the sky, then simply catches him just before he hits the ground. He grabs a whale by the tail and throws it a kilometer out into the sea. I think that would have ripped the tail off the whale, or at least done some damage. The whale hits the water and should have been turned into dog food. And at the very least it would have thrown Hancock into the sand about a hundred meters deep.

Well, maybe he balanced the downward force with an upward flying force. Hmmm. But hey, that won’t work! They make a big deal of him making a hole in the ground every time he takes off and lands. So he can’t balance the forces well. Oops.

At one point, he gets hit by a train. He doesn’t move at all, but the train gets crushed (and all the cars pile up). Wouldn’t he at least skid a little way? And if he doesn’t, he’d leave more than just a dent in the train a meter deep. It takes a lot more than that to stop the thousands of tons of train.

And where does he (or any superhero) get his energy from? Taking a 90 kilo guy and thrusting him into the air at hundreds of kph takes quite a bit of energy. Even all the liquor he drinks wouldn’t do that. The only time that’s ever been dealt with was years ago on the doomed Flash series; after an episode of super-speed, the Flash had to eat tens of thousands of calories of food. I loved that.

I do have a nitpick: Hancock got shot a bazillion times at the bank, but his uniform was intact. In fact, why doesn’t his ski hat get torn off his head when he flies?

But that’s really all there was. Mrs. BA asked where he got all the red paint at the end, but I figure he went to Mars and scooped up a lot of iron-rich regolith.

And, well, I wasn’t gonna mention this, but… I think instigating a cranial-rectal occlusion — let alone surviving one — is physically and medically impossible. But that was an extremely funny scene.

OK, so in conclusion:

1) Physics is tossed out the window — literally, in many cases — with the usual suspects of momentum, inertia, and gravity suffering the most.

2) It’s a good flick. Not a great flick, but a good one. Definitely worth seeing as a matinee.

3) Critics are stupid. That’s probably your takeaway wisdom here.

So go see the movie, buy some popcorn (or smuggle in the chocolate, which is what I always do), and enjoy. That’s what superhero movies are for, anyway.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Science, SciFi

Comments (75)

Links to this Post

  1. Science Doesn’t Sleep (6.7.08) | BEYONDbones | July 7, 2008
  1. IBY

    I have always thought critics were full of themselves. Most only seem to enjoy the serious all sad kind of movies. I almost never listen to them.

  2. IBY

    Okay, that is hyperbole, but you know their opinions are sometimes bollocks :)

  3. Kurt

    Many critics are stupid but not all of them. You just have to find that one critic who has the closest taste as yours. I love Roger Ebert. He actually gave Hancock a thumbs up!

  4. Critics are stupid… unless they’re bashing Expelled.

  5. “I do have a nitpick: Hancock got shot a bazillion times at the bank, but his uniform was intact.”

    it has been said that Superman generates a low level field of energy around him. which is how they explained his cape getting torn first in tougher battles. when the costume gets torn, that’s when you know he’s in a fight for his life.

    “In fact, why doesn’t his ski hat get torn off his head when he flies?”

    (see Indiana Jones rule #2)

    as for the train, well, it’s hinted at in the movie that they are gods or at the very least god-like. which, in all cases, refers back to magic. and in any story imaginable, magic is the great equalizer to story and logic of physics. :)

    i really dug Hancock. it’s definitely worth seeing in the theatre.

  6. “Okay, that is hyperbole, but you know their [critics’] opinions are sometimes bollocks”

    You speak as if “critics” were a single entity. They’re not. Some are smart and perceptive, most are not (just like in any other profession; I’m sure Mr. Plait can come up with quite a few “stupid bloggers”). And they rarely reach a consensus.

    I think Plait should watch PRIMER. It’s about as realistic (and naturalistic [and mind-boggling]) as science-fiction movies get.

  7. Phil Phan

    “…cranial-rectal occlusion…”

    LOL, I had to read that over twice to understand what you were saying. Saw it yesterday, and the film was awesome. I agree that critics are stupid; the movie was funnier than I expected.

    BTW, where’s your review of WALL-E? Its a space/futuristic/robotic moive, I thought you’d be all over it :)

  8. I’ve been wanting to see Hancock. I’m glad you thought it was funny. The whole Scientology thing irks me, too. He claim’s he isn’t a Scientologist, but he does tend to promote it quite a bit, so it does make me wonder.

  9. Jim

    I liked the idea that no matter what he put them through, his shoes were always intact.

  10. quasidog

    ‘He’s a scientologist, which irks me greatly’ .. why does that need to be mentioned ? Who cares if he is a scientologist. I’m sure someone could use the same line about an athiest, and who cares if someone is an athiest.

    BTW .. a critic does not always say negative things. By definition you are a critic, this review being a critique of the movie. Pointing out all of the physics problems is a critique. Does that mean Mrs. BA thinks that about you ? ;p jks

  11. Boosterz

    I concur. The critics that were dogging this movie are idiots. It wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen but it was still good and a lot of fun. And the cranial-rectal inversion scene is right up there with the anal dwelling butt-monkey scene from Bruce Almighty. I almost laughed MY ass off.

    BTW, every single one of you guys misspelled $cientology.

  12. Gilles

    I’m pleased that you make efforts to use the ISM (International System of Measurements) but please, the symbol is km/h, not kph.

  13. baryogenesis

    ‘He’s a scientologist, which irks me greatly’ .. why does that need to be mentioned ?
    Let’s say Ben Stein has a role in a future movie and does a credible or even superb acting job. You think anyone here is going to give him a pass for his other well-known activities? Not likely. Why not call these people on their cult activities? They’re public figures. They can handle it. Heh, heh.

  14. Sagoober

    Phil should definitely see and review Primer.
    The parts that I understood kicked ass.

  15. Kerry Maxwell

    The “All critics are stupid” line has too strong a scent of anti-intellectualism for me. They may be considering the film in question in a different context than you are, but that does not make them idiots.

  16. What?!? A movie not obeying physics? That never happens! Actually, I have long since given up on animators actually attempting to portray physics as realistic. Everything from (and I’d say especially) martial arts movies to super hero movies have writers too lazy to even consult an undergraduate physics student.

  17. Strimmer

    Just saw Wall-E, and thought that movie was most fantastic.
    There are several scenes in Space that the BA can look over for accuracy…..

  18. Dan Jackson

    I don’t think will is a Scientologist. He says that he’s a Christian but finds some teachings of scientology “Brilliant”, and finds alot of analogs between Scientology and the Bible. So I wouldn’t call that an outright scientologist, but he’s getting dangerously close to it.

    Are there any celebrities that openly speak out against Scientology? Besides Trey Parker and Matt Stone?

  19. This is not the first time I hear someone saying they need to smuggle their food into the movie. I find that very strange.

    We have laws that deny married sales here (Brazil), so that if you are selling me a movie theater, you can’t force me to buy your popcorn. I always enter the movies with 2 bags full of food goodies and bottles, right in everyone’s faces. Can’t you do that in america? That’d suck.

  20. Jack Vermicelli

    “We have laws that deny married sales here (Brazil), so that if you are selling me a movie theater, you can’t force me to buy your popcorn.”

    It’s not that they’re forcing you to buy their snacks with their movie, it’s that they have the right to make not bringing in outside foods a condition of their doing business with you. So it’s either be sneaky or buy the theater’s overpriced stuff.

  21. You may like Dr. Horrible, as a super-villain, anyway.

  22. Jose

    Who cares if he is a scientologist?

    I care if he’s a scientologist. In fact, I don’t think you can point out the fact that he’s a scientologist enough. He’s part of a dangerous money making cult that preys on people when they’re at their lowest. Does knowing this mean I’ll be less likely to this movie? You bet.

  23. gopher65

    Have you heard the song “The Reason” by Hoobastank? When I first heard it a few years ago I really liked it, but one of my friends didn’t. When I asked why she didn’t like it, she replied, (paraphrased) “Because it is the same as many other songs in that genre. It’s just a cheap rewrite!”

    The reason (heh) why critics don’t like movies like this is the same as the reason she didn’t like that song. This movie is just a cheap, mediocre copy of movies that have come before it. It does nothing new, and it makes *juuuust* enough mistakes to be a little bit annoying. To you and I that’s not a big deal. But to a critic? These people watch TONNES of movies. Watching another mediocre rewrite of the same overly-rehashed idea must drive them crazy. Just like you and I get driven crazy by radio stations that replay mediocre songs again and again.

    So I understand why critics give the opinions they do, and why they sometimes seem snobby.

  24. Zucchi

    I enjoyed the movie too. Great premise; could use some evening out in the third act. Generally great special effects.

    I didn’t worry about the physics too much. I think DC canon is that Superman generates a force field that allows him to pick up, say, a battleship by one end without it breaking or suffering inertial effects. If that applies to Hancock, then Walter the Whale wouldn’t have been harmed by Hancock grabbing his tale and flinging him; of course then he had a ballistic flight through the air and unfortunately landed on a yacht.

    Same for Michel, the snotty French kid. That was satisfying.

  25. Zucchi

    Make that “tail”, not “tale”. As in, the whale’s tail. A tale of a whale’s tail.

  26. Electro

    Is Will a scientologist? I don’t know.

    Is the movie any good? Have’nt seen it yet.

    Would believing in that crap make him an uninformed Nit? Yah.

  27. Jeffersonian

    Critics are the experts in their field. Never listen to someone that’s devoted their life to an area or subject.

  28. tom.a

    Movies aren’t reality, even Documentaries, and too often critics and audiences fail to keep that point in mind. The best movies, imo, take reality and bend it, per the story they are telling, to entertain. I agree with BA on this one, this movie was solid entertainment, lots of scientific failings and a few story quirks but overall entertaining.

  29. I saw it today too. I have a few thoughts on your review.

    The first, which I hope you read is: Don’t Stop! I love your movie reviews. I love movie reviews in general and a science twist is always interesting.

    The second is, I heard Smith looked at the ideas behind Scientology and defended Tom Cruise, maybe I’m in denial, but I don’t think he is a Scientologist through and through.


    The moment the movie revealed that the entities were once revered as gods and angels, the whole inertia thing was safely thrown out the window, it’s magic, which I hope no one minds in fiction. That said, ripping up Lunar regolith, man wouldn’t astronomers be slightly perturbed? However I liked the whole premise behind the powers. All I was thinking of was matter vs. antimatter.

    Anyway I liked it a lot as well, though the critics do get it right often enough, you just have to listen carefully to what they’re saying.

    P.S. I got to see the preview for the new version of The Day the Earth Stood Still!

  30. Mena

    If the whale didn’t lose his tail, what’s going on in the picture above? Is that a “making of” picture?

  31. Malachi

    1) I like the movie reviews, keep em up.

    2) If you want a look at what I think is a good balance between nitpicking and teaching about scientific inaccuracies look at:

    3) Will is either a full blown scientologist or an apologist for them, which is very nearly the same thing. Either he’s ignorant or he’s bought into the cult.

    I like Tom Petty even though he mentions god a lot (I’m an atheist), but scientology is a money grubbing cult, so for me that’s different. Every time I see Tom Cruise in a movie I’m immediately put off by it, yet I sat through “The Mailman” just to see Petty’s role in it.

    4) The point about critics being too focused on the history of the medium and less focused on whether a movie is “good” is well taken. I’ve found that James Berardinelli at walks that line very well. He gave Hancock 2 1/2 stars out of four, which seems reasonable given what I’ve heard about it. He gave Iron Man 3 1/2 and Indiana Jones 2 if that gives you any idea about his views.

  32. Will Smith is a scientologist?

    Aww, man. That was the worst spoiler in the whole post. It poisons all of his movies for me.

  33. Utakata

    Dan Jackson wrote:

    “I don’t think will is a Scientologist. He says that he’s a Christian but finds some teachings of scientology “Brilliant”, and finds alot of analogs between Scientology and the Bible. So I wouldn’t call that an outright scientologist, but he’s getting dangerously close to it.

    Are there any celebrities that openly speak out against Scientology? Besides Trey Parker and Matt Stone?”

    Steve Martin wrote, directed and stared in with Eddie Murphy, Bofinger…which was a scaving but humorous critique of Scientologists. Oddly though, it was the last great movie that either of those two ever did. Perhaps the movie was it’s own so fufilling prophesy…welcome to Mindhead. Welcome to Mindhead. …

    As for Will Smith being a scientologist, I have to concure…I think there was an article written where he disclaimed that he was when this all came out out about him.

  34. baryogenesis

    Not to focus too much on scientology….but people are known to lie or at least downplay associations, esp when it involves a public career, so don’t believe what they say (although it might be true, of course). If anyone is interested in a recent interview, supposedly by an ex- member, this is well worth a listen. Two things struck me after listening: first, he ‘s holding back for “the book” to come, and second, too much blame is put on the Leader as opposed to the whole rotten organization itself.

  35. Chip

    For those who dig old movies along somewhat similar lines, I recommend
    Alexander Korda’s 1936 classic: “The Man Who Could Work Miracles”. The screenplay was written by H.G. Wells.

    (“Hancock” is not a remake of it, but “The Man Who Could Work Miracles” is a great little movie, and funny too.)

  36. Patrick Pricken

    Yes, the Gods forbid that critics actually look at more in a movie than whether it contains LOL moments. I mean, what are they thinking, with their edumication and all? I can tell a good movie just as well as them, can’t I?

    I would even agree that a lot of critics today do *not* have the requisite knowledge, just like science reporters often aren’t versed enough in science. But that doesn’t mean science reporting is stupid, per se, and that I as a non-scientist can judge new stories just as well as a good science reporter even if I never read scientific literature at all.

    It’s exactly this attutide that has led to a lot of movie reviewers being sacked – not only this attitude, of course, but it played a part. Joe Shmoe thinks he’s just as good a reviewer as a good critic, so why pay for an informed opinion? Why? Hmm… I would have thought Phil had an idea as to why.

    I mean, you can’t simply say you disagree with what most critics wrote about Hancock, no, “the critics are stupid”.

    BTW, Roger Ebert has lost a *lot* of what he may have once had as a reviewer. To give an example I like more: They give the movie 3/4 stars. But then again, why even bother? Film critics are stupid, after all.

  37. DoctorOHM

    Critics are not stupid, critics are human with their own opinions. Find one that often likes the same movies you do, litsten to that one and ignore the rest!

  38. t-1000

    Don’t you know Hancock(like most superheroes) relies on special mass manipulating Clarke tech to achieve his superhuman feats.

  39. tussock

    BTW, it’s not just catching the kid, but also propelling him up there in the first place. Saw it in the adds here, and it’s got to be a few hundred G. People’s bodies turn inside out when you do that to them.

    Whale: pulls skin from tail, mushing connective bits beneath. Train: digs runners up with hero’s impenetrable legs (it’s the weakest link that breaks), derails train.

    Magic be damned, real physics on a superhero would be massively fun to work into a story. Clothes are terribly weak.

  40. RE: Chip’s mention of Well’s “The Man Who Could Work Miracles” and old movies.

    Old movie buffs will want to see when the recently discovered FULL copy of METROPOLIS (in Argentina) is released. I have watched various versions (yes, I LOVE the movie), including one that added notes for the missing sections. Now it’s complete.

    As for not being allowed to bring in food.. the theaters don’t make money on showing films, they actually get their profits from the food sales in the theaters!


  41. I have the chime in with the pro-critics crowd. Sure, they can sound pompous, but if you pay attention to what they actually say/write, more often than not they present a well-informed opinion. As opposed to a random opinion, which we have enough of already.

  42. Karl O

    I have not read any of the critics. I just went to see it, blind. I really enjoyed the first half, but…


    Though I was really intrigued when hancock gets thrown through the wall by the sweet innocent housewife, I felt the payoff of that mystery was cheap.

    It’s like “Lost” and “X-Files” compressed into 90 minutes. The writers build up this huge mystery, ramp it up with more tanatalizing details, and finally it becomes clear they have NO idea where they’re going with it. The payoff doesn’t satisfy after all the buildup. The “reveal” that they are imortal beings is cool, but the bit about being each others “kryptonite” seemed pretty arbitrary to me. The seemed to get a LOT more powerful when they first clashed. Then a line is tossed off about how “it’s never happened this fast before” near the end.

    It seemed like the writers felt, once they’d waded this deep into arbitrarily made up crap, they could make up any weak tripe, and we’d buy it. Reminded me of many religions really… scientology, christianity, whatever.

    This is my first post here i believe, after lurking for a year or so.

    I love you site, Phil! I feel kinship with you with every post you write.
    …or nearly all. Funny it’s your take on a silly movie that got me stirred up enough to write this screed. Heh.

    I love your reviews, and I teach high school physics, so I especially apreciate the shout outs to Newton. For this one, I have to disagree with you on pure story grounds. Great opening, nice playing with the hero genre, but ultimately killed by a weak ending.

    Keep fighting the good fight.

  43. fred edison

    Typo police. You wrote,”deuX ex machina,” but you probably meant “deuS ex machina.”

    Then you wrote, “Be ye fairly warned, says I.” Did the ‘international talk like a pirate day’ start early this year? I didn’t get the memo. 😉

    I like Will. Cool guy. If he has a DVD on Netflix I’ll watch it. I’ve heard him say that special effects sell movies, which he learned early on in his career. So far he has been in quite a few movies with special effects, and has a fairly good track record at the box office. I guess if it works don’t break it.

    I don’t know him personally, but he seems like a genuinely nice guy. He has a positive attitude and always talks about working hard and making a difference in life. IOW, your attitude can affect other people and he knows this. But he also practices it daily in life, which many of us may not do.

    Critics? Who needs stinkin’ critics? There is one critic I listen to and that’s me. I love science fiction to death. Cherish it. It’s great when science can meld into science fiction cinematically in some way, but it isn’t going to stop me from enjoying the pleasure of fantasy and the wonder of imaginary worlds. Enjoy.

  44. Michelle

    It does sound like a nice flick… But my friend told me it was the biggest disappointment he had after Indiana Jones 4.

    …Then again, who said you have to listen to your friends? I’ll just wait for the DVD. 😛

  45. Pop

    Everyone has missed the whole point, including BA. The movie is a cartoon with real live people playing the parts of animated characters. When you watch an animated cartoon, you don’t sit there and think, ” Well, that’s not possible. How can Daffy Duck have his beak shot off and still talk?” No, you just accept it because it’s a cartoon. Same thing here. You don’t go to a movie like this thinking it just might be possible for someone to be a superhero with fantastic powers. I mean…

    Now, let’s all get back to watching these types of movies and turning off our critical minds for the duration of the movie. There’s plenty of real life situations requiring critical thinking to occupy us. But, I understand BA blogging on this. After all, when one runs a blog, one is always on the look-out for material to blog about.

  46. About that bit about smuggling food…
    I recently went to see WALL-E (best movie I’ve seen in years) and I had some ice cream from outside the theater with me. And I told the ticket taker person “I’m taking this in with me.” She said “Ok.” And I walked in.
    Is food smuggling no longer illegal? I think so!

  47. amphiox

    With regards to the superhero energy question, I’m aware of at least one other example. In the manga/anime Dragonball Z, one of the personality quirks of the main character (who by the end of the series could destroy entire solar systems) right from the start was an enormous appetite. He was frequently shown downing hundreds or more bowls of noodles and rice and other japanese foodstuffs in a single sitting.

  48. Derek

    Dave Mosher > I recently went to see WALL-E (best movie I’ve seen in years)…

    Preach on, brother.

  49. Bob

    I love you site, I like reading your reviews, but…


    It’s stupid. It’s cheap. It does not make you look smart. It’s like shooting fish in the barrel and kicking puppies at the same time (shooting puppies in a barrel, then?) These movies are no documentaries. They are not supposed to be scientifically correct – in fact, they supposed to be exact opposite. When you watch cartoons, do you complain that Willie’e’Coyote should fall off that cliff immediately and not only after he realized he’s off the solid ground? Do you complain that the hole he left in ground can not have exact coyote shape? And what happened to all that blood and gore that should be all around? And how come he survived?

    Complaining about missing science in movies like this one is wasting electrons…

  50. Derek

    Bob > Complaining about missing science in movies like this one is wasting electrons…

    Well then, complaining about people complaining about it must be an extra-special super-sized waste of electrons.

  51. Bob, in fact, if you look at all my movie reviews, I use them as a way to teach the real science that goes on in the world; many teachers use cartoons as a way to teach students physics. And, in fact, my movie reviews are among the most popular things I write.

    But it’s also fun to be able to irritate people who take movie reviews too seriously. :)

  52. Pop

    Yeah, Bob. And quit stealing my material.

  53. Pop

    Here’s a Heads-Up for BA. “Hell Boy II” starts next Friday. You need to get to it for your review. That’s sure to have a variety of science that is absolutely correct. Plus, we will finally get the truth on the Hollow-Earth stories. I wonder if it hurt Hell Boy when they cut his horns off? Hmmm…

  54. chlammy

    ski hat?? SKI HAT??? Has your Canadian dialect lesson left you *that * quickly??!

  55. quasidog

    I get what you are saying Bob.

    Nothing annoys me more when people point out things that don’t work in comic book movies. It spoils all my fun. However I don’t mind the way BA points it out scientific errors, because he is a science guy after all, and this is a blog you don’t have to read, plus we all knew he was going to do it. ;p Critic. ;p

    What gets my goat is when people go into these movies and come out and say something like, “that was so far fetched” or “as if such and such could do that”, or point out all the obvious errors, as if you were not already aware of them. The worst bit is how serious they are about it. Do these people not realise it is an extremely fictional movie based on comics and drawings and other fantastic stuff? Did they walk in there thinking it was going to be a serious drama with gritty realism ? My parents do this all the time. (hehe) I often cut them off before their .. um … review. People must have some idea of what movie you are about to see right ? I mean, the guy is flying. There is your problem right there. “Huh … pfftt I mean come on … as if people can fly ……. this movie is so far fetched” :/ This is why sometimes I like to watch movies alone, with a small audience. So I can just zone out and enjoy the escapism.

    Imagine going to a magic show and walking out saying “man there was no way that guy could have done that, he must have been a fake” … and point out all the ways it can’t possibly be real. Who watches magic and thinks that it is real in the first place ? ….. oh yeah … right … some people do I forgot. ;p

  56. Tegan

    Mostly positive review here, too, (doesn’t quibble about the science, just the plotting).

  57. theinquisitor

    It’s not about the science. It’s about the internal inconsistency. If the main character was suddenly replaced by a different actor halfway through the movie, would complaints about this be so readily dismissed? Would the rebuttal, “but it’s only a fictional movie, you already know that’s an actor playing the character so why does it matter?” be considered valid in any way?

  58. Brian

    I’ll wait for the Blu-ray for Hancock, but I just want to add that I’d love to see you do a review of Wall-E Phil. Fantastic movie!

  59. Sully

    You’re all so analytical. Picking on trivial matters like inertia is like examining that Vermeer chick’s pearl earring with a microscope. Sometimes you have to put yourself in the hands of the great artist and just let his vision wash over you.

    And – someone above wrote about Superman generating an energy field which protected his clothes. Superman’s adoptive aunt made his clothes out of fabric from his home planet so the fabric has no need of protection. That did leave the question of how his aunt cut the cloth and got her needle through the weave, of course, but what is that next to the perfection of the plot and artwork.

    See Larry Niven’s “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” for the all time most hilarious take on this issue.

  60. Mark

    Saw it yesterday. It was OK for a superhero movie. Not quite the laugh-out-loud gag-a-minute comedy that the trailers seemed to advertise. My only quibble is: What’s up with the up-close-in-your-face zoom and shaky hand camera look these days? It’s made for cinema! It’s a whole wall of several dozen by several dozen meters filling the whole field of view!
    Waving the lens around was fine for Earthquake or Blair Witch. But I don’t think it’s appropriate for a effing conference room setting where people are, y’know, sitting around and talking.
    Camera Dolly. Look it up, Mr. Director. Please?

    /end rant

  61. Viewer 3

    Right. Because you’re so much more intelligent than 99% of the population that you have to show it by desperately pointing out “what should’ve really happened when he falls from x height or changes flight direction at mach 3”.

    Come on. I critique idiotic movies like Wanted when people do stupid poses and stunts that have absolutely no real-world use other than to provide high school kids with something that they’re dumb enough to find “cool”. But it’s UNDERSTOOD like movies like Hancock aren’t meant to be analyzed in those ways, and in doing so you make it painfully obvious how desperate you seem to be to try and show how “intellectual” you are.

    “But I’m just posting my review of the movie along with some random thoughts, that’s all!”

    Sure. It seems like you only ever makes posts like these when you can disguise something as “just my good ol’ casual opinions” only to throw in at the end the “big list of things that I can show off my knowledge skillz with and look smartz”.

    “But I’m just pointing out random interesting things; some people may even find this stuff cool!”

    Right, that’s what you’d love us to think. I’m not just saying “it’s only a movie, it’s supposed to be a suspension of disbelief, lighten up!”, I’m just saying that after visiting your site for a long time you really aren’t very subtle in your quest to appear more intelligent than others. And don’t get me wrong, you probably are. I don’t know half as much as you. And also don’t get me wrong when I say I respect you as a science-based person and an educator. But come on, man. “Educating” is about more than sitting back and waiting to pounce on anything that you can use to unnecessarily analyze and boost your ego.

    By the way, the movie actually didn’t look too bad in the previews as far as effects go. I like Smith, and he seemed to fit that role well. My hopes for the movie were dashed when one TV spot went something to the effect of “The only person who can unlock his mystery and save his soul is… THIS HOT BLONDE!!!”. Because in cinema, most people of importance are somehow young and attractive, like some European blonde that somehow discovers every secret before every intelligence agency in the world in Transformers. Give me a break, Hollywood.

  62. We just got back from seeing Hancock. Not too bad, we were definitely entertained. It was a bit uneven and it also seemed like it didn’t know what kind of movie it was trying to be, but even still we laughed and had fun.

  63. Karl O

    Viewer 3 is a total jerkface.

    If you want to post critiques of what YOU notice breaking your suspension of disbelief, get your own blog. The rest of us will keep reading Phil.

    ’cause you’re a jerkface… 😉

  64. Dave Hall

    Sounds like this movie had all the physical realism of Kung Fu Hustle–basically a Warner Brothers Universe performed “live action.”

    Thanks for the heads up BA. I’m gonna have to check it out.

  65. When dealing with superhero flight I like to take the opinion that the power isn’t necessarily flight but the ability to make all the molecules in their body vibrate in the same direction. Like in “Finding Nemo” when all the fish in the net all swim in the same direction and nearly sink the ship.

    But you have to admit that Hancock actually having thrust was a nice addition. I mean the way stuff got destroyed when taking off. Since he can change direction in midair he wasn’t jumping. Had to be thrust.

  66. MarkH

    What a lot of you seem to be forgetting about Phil’s reviews of these movies is that he is writing them from a scientists perspective. Not once in any of his movies reviews, that I can recall, does he say that “This is what SHOULD have happened”, mostly he points out that what would have happened in a real world setting. Mostly these reviews are done to give his opinion of a movie and maybe teach some science as well.

  67. I’m surprised you didn’t bring up several things about the lunar paint job:

    1) There had been no indication that Hancock does not need to breathe

    2) The lunar project would have involved TIME. Even for him. So it would not have been a matter of a phone call, and “look up” – it would have been seen as a work in progress by millions of people and been all over the news much before it was a completed project.


  68. wright

    Thanks, Phil. Partly on the strength of your review, a friend and I went to see it and were pleasantly surprised.

  69. Mrs. BA

    OK, I feel partly responsible for so many people being offended by the “critics are stupid” quote. Here’s the back story – I had to talk Phil into seeing this movie. The Little Astronomer and I wanted to see it and he said “but all the critics are giving it bad reviews”. Now, usually we won’t see movies that have been panned by critics, because (shocker!) Phil and I are fairly intolerant of things like plot holes and consistency errors and I am often fairly enraged after spending $9 to see a movie that sucked. I actually usually respect the critics’ opinions and I think people in general are too willing to accept mediocre effort from screenwriters and directors.

    But this time was different – it was an unpleasantly hot Saturday afternoon and I really just wanted to sit in a cool theater and not think about the 10 cubic yards of mulch I should be spreading around my yard, so we went.

    When the movie was over, I was so pleasantly surprised that I had really enjoyed it that I said something like “I really enjoyed that and I’m glad we came – critics are stupid.” It was a throw away line that out of context makes me, and the BA for quoting me, sound like movie critic bashers. For the record – we’re not. In all things, we choose to listen to the opinions and advice of experts, including movie critics (those of you who enjoyed such movies as D-Wars would probably call them elitists). If we didn’t respect the critics’ opinions, I wouldn’t have had to talk the BA into going to the movie.

    And to answer quasidog’s question – “BTW .. a critic does not always say negative things. By definition you are a critic, this review being a critique of the movie. Pointing out all of the physics problems is a critique. Does that mean Mrs. BA thinks that about you ?

    No, I don’t think Phil is stupid – except when he disagrees with me. 😉

  70. tom

    I figured Hancock was a scientologist who got his powers from becoming clear, thanks to intensive auditing.

  71. Nigel Depledge

    BA, you go right on pointing out the wrong science in movies!

    As for Hancock, I, too, enjoyed it. It was a big load of big, dumb fun. But it could have been something else.

    I agree with Karl O that it built up a big mystery and produced a rather feeble payoff. Additionally, there is something else that I noticed about it that I felt let it down : At one stage, the movie looked like it was going to explore some real emotional depth from Hancock. I particularly liked the scene where Charlize Theron’s character brought him spaghetti madness in jail. It was one of those “Whoa, I didn’t know this guy could act!” moments.

    However, after the denouement, it all got very cheesy and superficial.

  72. Irishman

    Spoilers. Duh.

    There were a few good physics moments. First off, they show that he uses thrust to fly, and there are effects from his thrust. Because he’s sloppy/careless, that means destruction when he takes off and lands. I thought that was rather cool for a superhero movie. I also noted that his clothes many times did take a beating. Like the film where he had been in a fire and his clothes were scorched to pieces, or the bullet that destroys his shades. Of course, that just makes the part where his clothes are not destroyed stand out more.

    The problem is superhero writers think strength of the character is all that matters, and forget little insignificant details like the structural strength of the items being lifted/thrown. Now I am willing to forgive them thinking a battleship (i.e. large steel framework) will remain structurally rigid while being hefted in the air, but organic bodies do not work that way. The boy, the whale, the guys in the car – rapid accelerations and decelerations would turn tissue to pulp. So even if Hancock is strong enough to lift and throw a whale, the whale may not be strong enough to be lifted and thrown that way, or slam into the ocean a kilometer off shore (with or without a sailboat).

    All you commenters whining about Phil rating the physics of a superhero movie, yeah, you’re so brilliant that you recognize “it’s just a movie” or “it’s a comic book”. Why didn’t we think of that? Come on, the point is to understand how reality works. Sure, you can enjoy the movie as escapist fun, but it is interesting, even fun, to consider how reality works and how the superhero aspects could be melded to how reality works.

    For instance, The Hulk is apparently impervious to bullets. Now normally the same structural strength concerns would apply (like falling from heights and not getting hurt), but the premise is something happens to his tissue to make is superstrong, so I give that a pass for him. It’s part of the effect. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t knock him down to get hit by a bus that weighs 5 times his weight (at least).

    So Hancock is indestructible, and a train slams into him. So it doesn’t hurt him, fine, but how do his feet stay nailed to the ground? Why doesn’t the train send him bouncing down the tracks, or knock him down and then derail going over him? Sure, it looks cool for the train to have a big slot in the front, but it doesn’t make sense.

    Here’s another. When Hancock confronts the guy with the detonator, that was fun to see the set up, see what was coming. They didn’t actually show how he got the detonator away, so we are left to speculate. Not how he got the detonator, but how the guy’s hand didn’t open when it was severed from the arm. How did the switch stay closed? Sever the arm muscles, and that severs the muscles that pull the fingers and hand closed, so there’s no tension to keep the button depressed.

    Now maybe he moved lightning quick and caught the hand just after it was severed, but then why didn’t he just move lightning quick and grab the guy’s hand before he could release the switch, and then punch him out or something? Because it wouldn’t be as exciting. Well, at least they demonstrated Hancock wasn’t the brightest when it came to solving the problems, so maybe he didn’t think of that solution. Still, how did he keep the hand in place?

    And more importantly, how did the bad guy get a prosthetic arm so quickly, and become proficient in its use?

    The stuff with the girlfriend was uneven. We could see early on there was something up, but then the confrontation and fighting was awkward, she knows he has amnesia and doesn’t know about their past or anything, but instead of explaining, like, anything to him, she just gets in a fight.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the movie, and I liked the ending, even if the stuff leading into it was awkward.

  73. AG

    “Critics are stupid” is, in fact, the correct takeaway — or, in this case, “critics decided what movie they wanted to see before they entered the theater, and wrote their reviews accordingly.” I liked it a lot, despite some third-act incoherence (do I detect the sour saccharine aftertaste of test audiences not liking an unhappy ending?), and thought that the actors did great work with the material they were given. Not a scientist within a nautical mile of thescript, of course, but…


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