Matt Lee blames a 14-year old for Will Smith’s first box office failure in two decades.
“Matt, are you blaming a child for After Earth’s box office disappointment?” Yes, mildly concerned film fan, I am. “But, Matt, couldn’t that be Will Smith’s fault? Or that After Earth’s a bad movie?” Well, same mildly concerned film fan, let’s look at the evidence as to why both of those queries can be refuted.
Bemoaning Will Smith for no longer being a mega star can be debunked by last year’s Men in Black 3
Firstly, a bad movie does not equate to poor box office revenue (just look at Epic Movie for God’s sakes). The responsibilities of financial success often lies with the advertising. And bemoaning Will Smith (the only actor to have eight consecutive films gross $100 million domestically) for no longer being the mega star he once was can be easily debunked by last year’s high-grossing Men in Black 3. Therefore, it could be argued Jaden Smith is potentially at fault here.
Jaden Smith’s first on-screen role was a minor part in Men in Black 2, which marked the beginning of Will Smith’s impressive streak (Daddy wanted to break Jaden into the industry gently). But Jaden’s first major role was the Oscar-baiting The Pursuit of Happyness, which was marketed as a Will Smith film, with only true Will Smith fans and film buffs knowing prior to going in that the actor playing his son was his actual son. Will Smith acting opposite his son for Oscar gold amplified the sentimentality coursing through this movie. Audiences thought this was cute.
Following a role in The Day the Earth Stood Still (marketed as a Keanu Reeves film, this remake was always bound to be big), Jaden Smith was given a much bigger part in another remake: The Karate Kid. This was a box office smash and Jaden’s name was on the poster, but he wasn’t the reason for the movie’s success. The reasons were twofold: firstly, this was, again, a remake and, regardless of its quality, curiosity brought audiences in. And, with it being an iconic 80s remake, this was even more tempting.
Secondly, The Karate Kid was more about Jackie Chan than Jaden Smith. Jackie Chan was to portray a revamped version of Mr Miyagi, a character that has become synonymous with 80s pop culture and, arguably, one of the most memorable characters in cinematic history. In contrast, Daniel LaRusso, the character Jaden Smith played, wasn’t the reason we all held our breath when going into that cinema; he could have been any kid.
Studios are trying to make Jaden Smith a star, but audiences aren’t responding
Under the pretence that Jaden Smith’s name helped box office revenue for The Karate Kid, both his dad and advertisers believed Jaden would spread the magic to After Earth, and gave him top billing. The plot centres on Jaden Smith’s character, with Will on the sidelines – the marketing makes that clear. It is obvious that studios are desperately trying to make Jaden Smith a star, but audiences aren’t responding.
Since its release in the USA almost two weeks ago, After Earth has only grossed $46 million domestically and it doesn’t seem likely it will recoup its $130 million budget at the box office. It was released here in the UK on Friday, but things aren’t looking good in the international market. Poor Jaden Smith – it looks as though he will be in Dad’s shadow for some time.
Feature image: Columbia Pictures
Picture: Columbia Pictures