As we all saw with Tarantino a few years ago, the idea of Will Smith in a Western isn’t a bad one. Smith has a modern look that’s not accessible for every film, but with the right director Smith could shine. It’s just too bad he straddled himself to Barry Sonnenfeld who casts Will in one of the most poorly conceived TV to movie adaptations of all time. “Wild Wild West” is worse than “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Charlie’s Angels” combined. What’s worse is that director Sonnenfeld has absolutely no idea how to utilize Smith in a Western setting. So by the time the movie has started, rather than rely on the pulpy martial arts theme from the original series, the movie just becomes a showcase for Will Smith to be Will Smith. Even in the old West, Smith is the wise cracking, shade wearing, cowboy who is a hit with the ladies.
You have to give it to Will Smith. For a man prone to taking the spotlight and eating it up like a gluttonous child, he really is comfortable playing second fiddle in “After Earth.” Clearly just nothing but a vanity project for Smith and his son, he literally passes the torch on to his son Jaden to take up the role of the action hero. Smith meanwhile stays in a space ship for the duration of the film as the Maguffin leading his son to the film’s second Maguffin. It’s all for naught though since Jaden Smith has no screen presence, zero charisma, and can’t act to save his life.
Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day” is one quarter of a very decent albeit cliche alien invasion film, and three quarters an unwatchable adventure film. What opens with looming shadows and hovering space ships devolves in to a buddy comedy with catchy one-liners and plot twists much too convenient to buy. Even for a science fiction film about huge alien space ships. Apparently the government can see asteroids coming from miles away and predict when one will pass, but they can’t see space ships the size of two continents enter the atmosphere.
I can criticize his movies all I want, but Will Smith makes money out the ass, and most times without even trying at all. He can star in a bastardized remake of a classic Western show, a bastardized adaptation of a science fiction novel, or a bastardized adaptation of a classic horror novel, and the man will still bank about a billion dollars easy. Take “Hancock.” Wow. But one thing that I’ve alwys found ridiculous was that Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin expected us to believe that these aliens have every capability to defend themselves against our forces from electromagnetic waves, lasers, bombs, and missiles, but they couldn’t protect themselves against a super virus? And it takes one virus to bring down their defense systems? Doesn’t that contradict their whole advanced technology strategy? And if they could communicate telepathically, wouldn’t it stand to reason they would operate their machines telepathically? And since when do jets travel as fast as alien technology?
Whether it makes money or not, “Hancock” will not be the next superhero franchise to break the bank, nor will it be as anticipated as the action figures from Marvel. “Hancock” has so much potential in the first half to focus on a superhero who is far from the people we get in theaters who happen to be upscale and of the Caucasian persuasion, but the turn in the second half is probably some of the most nonsensical pro-feminist propaganda I’ve ever seen, with the writers anxiously working toward taking an insignificant and uninteresting character and turning them in to someone who could contribute.
Francis Lawrence has an incredible eye for details and visuals in all the movies I’ve seen from him. Even his worst movies have some of the best surreal stark visuals I’ve ever seen, and the man knows how to implement CGI to enhance his films instead of rely on them to provide entertainment. I just wish the man made better movies. What’s it going to take for this man to bring us something spectacular? As for “I Am Legend” it’s wholly unspectacular, but without a doubt one of my favorite guilty pleasures of 2007.
Let me just put this on you right now. I have never read “I Am Legend,” I love the previous incarnations, I’m not a fan of Richard Matheson because I’ve never read his work, I had no bias’ going into this movie, and I looked forward to this loose adaptation of Matheson’s beloved novel. Is that all a plus or a negative? I’m not sure, really. The first hour of “I Am Legend” is fantastic, and I say this as someone who was comfortably middle ground when it came to the film and expectations.
So, why was this such an easy film to review, and like? Because hell, I’ve been through situations very similar to this. Trying to get by, almost being thrown into the streets, being forced to watch parents suffer to ease their children’s. I’ve seen it all. And in the end of the film, it’s still a situation that’s happening to thousands all over the world. “The Pursuit of Happyness” is an admirable every man tale about the working man’s attempts not to make it big in the world, but in his attempts to just get by. Smith plays Chris Gardner with a lot of gusto offering up a truly solid performance.