R.I.P. A Legend
We lost a lot of great people in 2016. It’s a shame that acclaimed actor Will Smith’s career had to be one of them. In all honesty Smith’s career has been on life support for a long time so its recent passing should have come as no shock, but like the loss of all loved ones it was a tragedy nonetheless. I’m sure like I myself was, many of you reading this are in denial. Possibly you believe that Smith’s career can still come back from this, that in the end it’s a fighter and that like Samuel Jackson or Robert De Niro’s its damn near bulletproof. Maybe you are beyond delusional; possibly you’ve lost your fucking mind and you are of the impression that Will Smith’s career is still alive and kicking. If you choose to ignore the signs, if you’ve put your headphones in so you don’t have to hear the monotonous hum of the flatline don’t let me dissuade you of that. Stop reading here. If you’re the kind of person to shoot the messenger then please do us both a favor, take your angry internet comments back to whatever Facebook comment section you’ve come from. But if like myself you are ready to reach the fifth stage of grief and finally accept the loss that we’ve all suffered than this is the group therapy for you.
There was a point in Willard Carroll Smith Jr.’s career that he was more than a star, he was batting damn near 100. He could even take an otherwise bad movie and turn it into a hit, financially, but even sometimes critically. There are a few pretty bad movies that Smith dragged from mediocrity to excellence. No film better exemplifies Smith’s power at its height than Independence Day. To call the 1996 Roland Emmerich film universally beloved is probably a stretch but it feels like that sometimes; I’ve never personally met anyone who doesn’t absolutely love that movie—I’m sure you have but I didn’t ask you, did I? Exactly. The writing is cheesy, it has not age fantastically, and the performances are all over the spectrum. There are some real classics among the bunch, Smith obviously, and Jeff Goldblum that goddamn Jewish treasure; it seemed like between the two of them they could do no wrong. But I implore anyone to tell me what the fuck Judd Hirsch and Mary McDonnell are doing. They have both proved in the past that they are competent actors, even at times good, but in Independence Day to say they mailed it in would be generous. The film has a lot of faults that is for sure, but it turned out great on the back of game seven Lebron-esque performance from Willard himself. And if you’re saying, “no Che, that’s not true,” obviously some other people are to credit for Independence Day’s success, I point you to Independence Day: Resurgence the whole gang is back except for our hero, even Vivica A. Fox for some absurd reason. And my god is that movie unwatchable. It didn’t help their case that they replaced Smith with Jessie T. Usher the single worst working actor in Hollywood at the moment but still. Whatever you may think of the original Independence Day whether you love it or really really love it there is no denying its success. It raked in $817.4 million in the box office internationally and thus Will Smith the box office boss was born.
God damn I miss those days.
Basically from 1990 to 2002 the boy from West Philadelphia could do no wrong. There was Six Degrees of Separation a movie that gets weirder and weirder with time but I still believe Will Smith’s performance was nomination worthy; I mean there was no chance he was going to win that year, ‘94 had a stacked best actor slate but I still think he could’ve swung a nomination. And of course there was Bad Boys back when Will Smith and Michael Bay were worth the price of admission. Bad Boys is the action movie of my generation, it’s to us what Die Hard is to everyone else—which just makes me want to write a “What Were We Thinking With This Martin Lawrence Thing” piece but that’s for another day. As far as buddy cop movies go it doesn’t get much better than Will Smith and Martin Lawrence saving strippers/hookers/women who just don’t ever bother to wear clothes in the Miami heat from vaguely ethic guys with ambiguous accents. I am foolish enough to say that I am absolutely going to see Bad Boys 3 if it ever happens as long as its staring Will Smith
These are the growth years; when Smith goes from being a charismatic star to a Hollywood superstar. Just how like how The Quarrymen became the Beatles after hours and hours of practice over years on their Hamburg residency Will Smith went from
over the course of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Putting out 148 episodes over the course of 6 years is bound to have a pretty marked improvement after all. The final episode of The Fresh Prince wrapped in 1996 and from there Smith was off. He followed Independence Day with Men in Black then Enemy of the State and The Matrix it was an incredible run of form really. Wait, not The Matrix you say? You mean Will Smith chose to play a cowboy alongside Kevin Kline and Salma Hayek’s ass flap in a movie where the villain is spider legs Kenneth Branaugh instead of playing Black Jesus in a fucking computer? We don’t talk about that here. But even still, Will Smith followed up that possible career suicide with The Legend of Bagger Vance and Ali two of, not only his best performances to date but two of his best performances of his entire career.
This is peak Will Smith. Not just a box office draw, capable of Sci-Fi blockbusters, and Oscar-worthy performances alike, these are the good times. Over the next couple of years Will Smith puts out some of my favorite movies. He managed to both bring the Isaac Asimov masterpiece, I, Robot, to the screen as well as make Kevin James look good within seven months of each other. And 12 years later we know how damn near impossible the latter really is.
Every generation has a defining actor the 20s and 30s had Charlie Chaplin, the every man. The 1940s of course had notorious racist John Wayne—fittingly so—and surprisingly not-so-racist star of Gone with the Wind Clark Gable. James Dean owned the 1950s with 3 movies. And the 1960s were Cary Grant because fuck you North by Northwest. The 1970s are just a dark time for culture and movies in general mostly directors immerge from that decade and not so much stars; I would argue Robert De Niro even though De Niro isn’t king until Raging Bull in the 80s. The 90s belonged to hammer pants and regret but also Will Smith. I know Leo made Titanic and look I’ll be the first to admit even I would’ve fucked 1990s Leo but some things are just undeniable and that is that Will Smith is the first black king of Hollywood. The 2000s is of course belong to Denzel just by the way who was America’s actual first black president; sorry Barry I love you but we all saw Man on Fire. But really over the course of the 90s and 00s it \didn’t seem like Will Smith could be stopped. He made two consecutive movies about punching aliens in the face not too long before he was kicking Eva Mendez in the face. By the end of it all he was just flexing, talkin bout “fuck it just put me in a movie with one single dog and some fucking deer and I’ll make it great.”
But all good things must come to an end, as 2016 taught us never place your hopes of a brother with a dope shape up because they will leave you in the end in Donald Trump’s America watching Will Smith talk to Keira Knightely who is playing love or some shit! I’m heated! It started to go dark basically immediately after I Am Legend. You can actually watch the exact moment when Will Smith’s career caught whatever disease ended up killing it.
Hancock takes one of the hardest left turns in movie history it goes from being a perfectly adequate superhero movie to, whatever this is. And from literally the second Charlize Theron through him through a fridge through a wall Will Smith never was in or produced a single other thing worth watching. And it’s a real shame too. Will Smith began to spend some of his considerable wealth on such gems as This Means War a movie starring Chris Pine and Tom Hardy and is still somehow not just terrible but incredibly offensive to men and women alike—although I guess it’s better to just blanketly offend everyone than to pick someone to insult. Of course there were just entirely forgettable messes like Winter’s Tale and Seven Pounds but it doesn’t get truly bad until his son gets involed.
Me too Jadeezy…. Me too. The Karate Kid wasn’t offensively bad maybe but were it not for a career performance from Jackie Chan it could have easily been. No the true nadir of Will Smith’s storied career is After Earth. A movie so profoundly terrible and dull that it actually physically slows time. Smith and Shymalan found the secret to eternal life here. I started watching this movie at 3:00 and after its 100 minute runtime is was 7:00pm the next day. After Earth is truly horrendous in the worst possible ways it’s just dull for an hour and 40 minutes straight. While at least Wild Wild West was creative in it’s complete failure of a movie
could’ve been Black fucking Jesus. What even though fuck is this scene? WHY DO THE FUCKING BLADES EXPLODE? Yes, After Earth is still the worst movie Will Smith has ever made but he fell to a new low recently by following up Suicide Squad with Collateral Beauty.
The only thing more unintentionally funny than this movie is Will Smith’s career in 2017, it’s cloying over produced shit that is too hacky to even make it as a Lifetime original movie. The premise is that Howard Inlet (played by Will Smith, named by a four year old) has just lost his daughter and is suffering from depression. So his business partners decide this is a great time to come for his fucking neck! Will Smith is at his absolute worst in this movie his struggle with grief is both uninteresting to watch and not at all convincing. The supporting cast is squandered pointless characters stuffed into a ridiculous plot. The film reaches a particularly low point at the end where we find out that Howard’s friend from his support groups is actually his wife. Smith snot cries while reciting the scientific name for the cancer his daughter had. Then they go on a walk and either see three actors or the real world manifestation of love, time, and death as Howard believed. The movie substitutes tears for emotion and dead kids for actual plot and character development. On top of the fact that you really are just watching a sad guy get bullied by six people for an hour and a half. What an excellent cast that produced such a pointless fucking movie. And as the credits rolled on Collateral Beauty Smith’s career breathed its final raspy breath.
And for those of you who are still out there thinking there is hope. You’ve made it through all 2000 words of this article and you’re still in denial. Next up is Bad Boys 3 because how could that possibly go wrong, a live-action Aladdin movie where Will Smith plays…. The Genie? Although most egregious of course if Bright his next, straight to Netflix film.
This will without an absolute miracle finally cement this run that he’s been on lately: Concussion, Suicide Squad, Collateral Beauty, my god. I wish people would keep giving me millions of dollars after I literally… literally shit the bed four times in a row. I want to be wrong, I want Will Smith to go back to releasing must watch films year after year and cleaning it in at the box office. I write this from a place of love, I loved Will Smith, that guy made so many movies that defined my childhood. I do not write this from a place of any optimism at all, but still I would love nothing more than to be pleasantly surprised.