John Powell dabbles in scoring for a superhero in Hancock, a personal favourite soundtrack of mine. The reason being – it is fantastic.
Hancock is about a man with superpowers who is (to quote the movie) an asshole. He has no real interest in using his powers to help the world, and the few instances that he does help normally end in massive damage to the environment around him. As a result, the general public hate him. After being rescued by him, a marketing guy then decides to help Hancock become the hero he knows he can be.
The film is essentially Hancock’s journey from asshole to true superhero, and one of the best things about John Powell’s score is how the music changes with the character. Over the course of the surprisingly short forty five minute score, Hancock’s Theme and the music overall gradually evolves from action movie to full on superhero. And what an enjoyable journey it is.
The album opens with SUV Chase, and the action begins immediately as Powell breaks out the jazzy brass and percussion in a manner not dissimilar to some of Giacchino’s action tracks for The Incredibles. The music is loud, bombastic and well representative of Hancock’s questionable character at the beginning of the film. Powell then changes it up for John, Meet Ray with the introduction of Hancock’s Theme in a soft yet hopeful style. The introduction is brief however before the score moves on to a much more upbeat setting as the film introduces Ray, the marketing guy.
The Trailer does an amazing job of illustrating how unhappy Hancock is at that point in the film. His Theme takes prominence here, and the composer utilises strings and piano very effectively, even throwing in some vocals at points to really hammer home the depression the main character is going through. Powell also introduces the use of a squeezebox (at least, I think it’s a squeezebox – sounds a lot like one) here, an idea which is used more and more as the score progresses.
A slight hint of hero is shown in Superhero Comix, with guitars and strings being used to amp up Hancock’s Theme a little. He is being shown superhero comics in the scene and what kind of hero he could be if he tried, so the music changes up slightly to reflect a small shift in his overall attitude. This track pretty much marks the beginning of the score’s shift in tone as it moves towards superhero.
Mary Brings Meatballs and Getting Therapy showcase a major change for Hancock as he decides to get help and become a better person. Powell breaks out the violins and guitars again for a soft yet hopeful rendition of Hancock’s Theme in Mary Brings Meatballs, but then changes things up majorly for the next track. Getting Therapy is a much slower and more melancholic piece, and once again Hancock’s Theme takes prominence. Strings are present heavily here, and the squeezebox makes another appearance towards the end of the cue as the music moves to a slightly more hopeful setting before ending.
The action returns in To War, with the brass kicking in immediately to mark Hancock’s first full superhero appearance to the world. This fast paced piece does a fantastic job of marking the biggest shift tonally for the score as it starts to move away from being just an action score. The music sounds a lot more heroic here in parts but at the same time not quite on the level of superhero, being more like the more upbeat sections of a Bond score. This culminates in Standing Ovation, where Hancock’s Theme starts out simply being played out by a squeezebox before strings take prominence in its first heroic rendition. It sounds amazing, and Powell is only just getting started.
Hollywood Blvd starts off slowly with some quiet percussion, before building up a faster pace with strings and then finally bringing out the heavy-hitting brass for the best action track of the album. It is loud and very edge-of-your-seat, but also leaning much more towards standard action rather than the superhero that Standing Ovation had been hinting at. However, that doesn’t stop it from being one of the more standout pieces of the score and a highly enjoyable six minutes.
The album then starts to draw to a close with Mortal, a very dark and dramatic track that makes excellent use of percussion and a small amount of vocals and guitar towards the end. This more depressing tone is continued in Upon Us All as pianos and strings take over to illustrate how bad events get as the film’s villain very nearly defeats Hancock. This tone doesn’t last for long however as things pick up slightly at the start of Death And Transfiguration, with piano and percussion taking prominence. The music then builds up rapidly to a heroic, fast-paced piece that sounds heavily inspired by Danny Elfman’s Spider-Man in part. Powell goes full superhero for the first time on the album here, and after all that build-up it sounds amazing.
The Moon And The Superhero is the standout cue of the score to Hancock, as it is quite simply one of the best pieces of superhero music that I have ever heard. Here Powell takes Hancock’s Theme and goes full superhero with it, not holding back in the slightest. As a result, we are treated to three minutes of absolutely mind-blowing music. But don’t take my word for it, the link is down below. Have a listen.
Overall John Powell’s Hancock makes for amazing listening, and by far the best thing about it is how the music transitions from standard action score at the beginning to full on superhero by the end. Hancock’s Theme executes this shift in tone perfectly, and the build-up makes the back end of the album sound even better. What we have here is a score for the ages, and hopefully one that will be remembered for a long time to come.
Standout Cue: 20. The Moon And The Superhero