No, seriously. In a large majority of his films, Will Smith emerges as the hero whose actions help save Earth and all humanity from mutated vampires, destructive aliens, or sentient robots. And he usually has a trusty sidekick, whether it’s a grouchy old man, a kid, a dog or a super intelligent scientist. Sometimes all of the above.
Look, he’s not winning an Academy Award anytime soon, at least not for his action packed sci-fi flicks. The former (current?) rapper has more Grammys and AMAs than movie awards, but I don’t see him crying over that empty Oscar spot on his trophy shelf (lookin’ at you DiCaprio). He’s found a formula that works and generates mostly family-friendly big-budget summer blockbusters (all but I Am Legend were released May through July). And I’m not proud to admit that I just realized his kids are named after him and his wife (Will = Willow, Jada = Jaden). *cries*
This thing’s not gonna explode too, is it Michael Bay?
Who he is: Army Captain
Who he fights: Aliens
Who he saves: The world but MOST IMPORTANTLY ‘MURRCA!
Sidekick?: Ian Malcolm without the black leather.
It doesn’t get much fresher than this. Released less than 2 months after the series finale of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air aired, ID4 propelled a burgeoning dramatic actor to international superstardom. With an arguably ensemble cast, Smith was given the best lines next to counterpart Jeff Goldblum and cameo Brent Spiner. Oh, god, and Randy Quaid, how can you forget that? I groan a bit watching it now, especially the “advanced technology”, but you have to agree that at its core, it was a flag-waving good time.
In addition to giving TNT something to marathon on July 4th, Independence Day brought large-scale and in-your-face obvious alien invasion to the mainstream. It’s still in the top 40 highest grossing films of all time, beating out other alien-related films like E.T. and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Which kicked me right in the childhood, incidentally. And, following his turn in Bad Boys, this debut showcased his ability to bring in the big bucks – I like to imagine the 20th Century Fox execs drooling over their piles of cash at their July 4th barbeques, wiping their sweet-n-smoky rib sauce stained mouths with crisp Benjamins and washing it all down with a tall, cool Budweiser. It’s almost TOO American for words.
Men In Black | Men In Black II | Men In Black III
This is the pensive face I handed down to my son.
Who he is: Government/Secret
Who he fights: Aliens
Who he saves: The ‘verse. Multiple times.
Sidekick?: Arguably, he’s the sidekick to Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K. Also the worm guys.
Don’t lie – who didn’t try to do the MIB/Jiggy dance at some point? I love this franchise – good cheesy/campy alien fun amidst mid-century modern décor and pop-culture references. And some really wicked alien technology and weapons. I love these films because they don’t take themselves seriously, and just let Will Smith be Will Smith and use his quirky expressions and catch phrases. And sweet, sweet style – I think this film was largely responsible for bringing back the skinny tie look long before Don Draper graced the scene. And I know RayBan got all giddy when people suddenly thought nothing of spending upwards of $300 on a pair of shades, hoping to emulate Agent J and “make this look good.”
Agent J is based on pure luck – he’s always in the right place at the right time, usually equipped with the wrong weapon (or no weapon) that he somehow makes work. A trained cop, J relies on his instinct in apprehending our out-of-galaxy visitors masquerading as humans, and plays the slapstick fall guy to K’s straight man. An unlikely combination that resulted in one of the better comedy pairings I’d seen in quite a while. The banter was great and believable in a world that asked you to accept a six-armed alien as commonplace. No matter how stale or outdated the jokes may get, I’ll still chuckle a bit. And not to brag, but I maintain the high score in MIB laser tag at Universal Studios – if you’re ever in Orlando, come at me bro, I’ll even dig out my old MIB standard issue suit and neuralyzer. Speaking of which, I wish I had one to forget the next film…
Wild Wild West
The original Django Unchained?
Who he is: Army Captain. Cause that’s believable immediately following the Civil War.**
Who he fights: Steampunk spiders, vivacious vixens, and a torso on wheels.
Who he saves: The nation and the presidency.
Sidekick?: Kevin Kline in a dress. Because why not.
Sigh. Okay, let’s rip off the band-aid and do this. Captain James West teams up with U.S. Marshall Artemus Gordon in one of the worst bastardizations of classic Western television shows this side of the Mississip’. The believability factor was pushed to the limit with steam-powered, flawlessly operating gadgets and gizmos and a storyline so simultaneously predictable and far from left field, it left critics with a headache despite the big box office numbers.
**Before you histrophiles get your collective panties in a proverbial wad, I did some research: the first African-American captain indeed was commissioned in 1865. Here’s the hitch – he was half-white and his children later rejected all ties to the black community he fought so valiantly for – sad turn of events. So yes, entirely possible, but highly unlikely Captain West would have been allowed access directly to the Oval Office, whether occupied by the real President Grant or a fat-suit wearing Gordon. Then again = giant mechanical spider, so I’m gonna drop the whole “realistic” aspect and just go with it.
Smith’s character is a gun-slingin’ street-wise soldier who knows how to throw a punch, if not entirely up to date on his social etiquette (drummin’ on the white lady’s boobies is a no-no). Type-cast, perhaps, but nowhere near as bad as Kenneth Branagh’s botched and way overdone Southern accent. Having lived in the South for a majority of my 30+ years, I cringe every time an actor butchers a Southern drawl.
And then I cry a little more, because this exists:
Yep. That’s WWW cosplay. Ingenious, intricate and certainly well-done, but… why?
This is the third picture in a row I’m pointing a gun…
Who he is: Cop/Cyborg
Who he fights: Robots.
Who he saves: The future, the nation. And a bunch of shipping containers full of decommissioned battle droids.
Sidekick?: Wash. I mean, Alan Tudyk.
I just saw this entire film for the first time a few weeks ago, and only because my son was bored and wanted to watch something new. So, mentally, I kept comparing it to Surrogates, both stylistically and in regards to content matter. And then I kinda lump it in with A.I. and have nightmares about Haley Joel Osmet running from a Bruce Willis cyborg that doesn’t know he’s dead. But I digress.
Here’s my issue with this film – as deep as it was for a summer sci-fi blockbuster, it could have been so much more. I enjoyed Smith’s character, even with the overly predictable back story and related events. At times it was a yawner – I probably could have taken a cat nap through half of it and still been up to speed on what was happening. But I don’t feel he really added anything particularly special to the role – it could have been filled by almost anyone and would still have been received the same. It’s interesting that the major non-robot role ended up being so stagnant, but I can’t imagine hearing anyone other than Steve the Pirate as Sonny – Tudyk gave more in a voice-over performance than Smith managed to as a live actor – and it’s not that he isn’t capable, I blame bad writing/direction on that part.
I Am Legend
It’s not a murse, it’s a mandbag.
Who he is: Doctor
Who he fights: Virus-created vampires
Who he saves: The world and future generations.
Liked the book, liked the movie, both on their own accord. Actually the book confused the hell out of me because 15-year-old me read all the stories in it as if they were supposed to be chapters in a novel, not a collection of short stories, so I was like “why is there a demon doll all of a sudden?” Thoroughly bewildered.
Anyway. Will Smith = doctor, family man, survivalist who doesn’t drink his own pee. I actually enjoyed the story on its own merit, if you disconnect from the source material a bit. It’s a great, unique character, put into a situation unlike any other and still trying to remain optimistic despite every other human having abandoned the city core. I thought it was a very honest, realistic portrayal of the average (although super-intelligent/resourceful) person if placed in this situation. There’s the purists that lament the lack of relation to the book’s character, but Smith did an excellent job teetering on the edge of brilliance and insanity while striving for his goal of restoring humanity to the hairless residents of an abandoned New York City. And I’m glad they didn’t go with the happy “lets all get in the car and drive away” ending that was originally planned – it was much darker on a small level, but appreciated on the larger, sacrificing one to save many scale.
Ain’t nobody got time for any of this.
Who he is: Superhero, aka one bad mother – shut your mouth.
Who he fights: Gangs. Bad guys. Charlize Theron.
Who he saves: Himself? Possibly the world by proxy?
Sidekick?: Nathan Fillion. I mean, Jason Bateman.
Okay, maybe he didn’t actually save the world in this one. But it was implied that he has or will, being essentially god-like. I enjoyed this “anti-hero” persona, the reluctant savior with internal demons. It brought a humanizing demeanor to an obviously supernatural character, and it’s always great to see Mr. Smith outside his element of polished business suits. And surprisingly believable as a general asshole.
I think so many people had a problem with this because it wasn’t what you were expecting. There was no clearly defined “good guy/bad guy”, so it left you guessing as to who you were supposed to side with. The alcoholic bum? The devoted father and ad agent or his son? His overly suspicious blonde wife? There was no mega-villian, which knocked some points off for those expecting an epic battle, but I think there was definitely a greater struggle considering Smith and Theron were on the same side, but diametrically opposed to each other due to their their identical origins. Interesting conundrum – they served as each others kryptonite essentially.
But it helps to have friends like Hancock, they throw the best parties (if you can wrestle a bottle away from him).
I am your father. But you already knew that.
Who he is: Cypher Raige (yes, Cypher Raige) – stone cold military commander.
Who he fights: Aliens and fear.
Who he saves: The future of the human race, just not on Earth.
Sidekick?: Son Jaden as Kitai Raige, a name that will soon be creeping into maternity wards everywhere.
Poor Jaden Smith – he’s got some big, Carlton-dancing shoes to fill, and I just don’t think this was the flick to do the trick. Even the remade Karate Kid seemed a better suited role for the young actor – he seemed more natural, and the acting flowed. But we’re not here to talk about Will Jr.
He might be able to save the world, but I’m not so sure if even Big Willie can save this film from being maligned with other box office flops – it’s already being compared to John Carter and Battleship. Ouch. This could be one of those films that makes its way onto Remy’s Six Movies That Were Clearly Marketed Wrong list – in the words of one reviewer, it is “a moral tale disguised as a sci-fi blockbuster.” And when you’re reminded at the end that it’s an M. Night creation, you breathe a sigh of relief and say “at least it wasn’t (insert Shyamalan film here).”