Salvaging Will Smith’s “After Earth” as a good source for spare parts

will smith

I know the movie was a huge flop, and Will Smith and son no doubt are running as far and as hard away from “After Earth” as they possibly can. If you asked either one of them about the time spent on “After Earth” I wouldn’t be surprised if they just fell back into a blank stare, trying to pretend they have absolutely no idea what in the world you’re talking about. Because can’t we just talk about the next movie? The one where I, Will Smith, once again rule the box office? Can’t we pretend that I never did this to my son’s career?

Sure thing, Will. But not right now. Because after I finally decided nearly a year later to defy all those reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes and pretty much everywhere else to check this one out for myself, I wasn’t near as disappointed as I thought I would be. All right, maybe it’s because the reviews were so uniformly horrible that I would have been thrilled just to see a drama developed by Etch A Sketch, but still. So no, “After Earth” wasn’t “Star Wars”, but I can safely say I have seen far worse dreck on the screen that somehow managed to get better reviews. While I’ll admit the movie had serious flaws, I also think there was some serious Will Smith-hating going on here. From the Feb. 10 2015 edition of  The Daily Beast:

After Earth was not just a major money-loser for the man Forbes once dubbed the most bankable star in the galaxy. Tanking stateside, panned by critics, and packed with alienating subliminal Scientology teachings, the $130 million-budgeted sci-fier directed by M. Night Shyamalan grossed only $60 million domestically and failed to make son and co-star Jaden the heir apparent to the family blockbuster business, much as Papa Smith tried.

This was gentle compared to most, but moving on…

Here’s the thing; I think we can all agree that”After Earth” could have been better. But there’s an important  concept here that I  hope doesn’t get abandoned or overlooked just because of one bad misfire. It’s obvious Smith has a thing for scifi flicks, and he has been good (for the most part) in that genre ever since the blockbuster “Independence Day”, but what could have set “After Earth” apart from all those others if it had been done right was an engaging scifi drama centered around an African American family. Black scifi. I’m pretty sure this is something that has never been done as a major motion picture release. Ever. It hasn’t been done on TV either.  “The Matrix” was a notable exception as a major scifi blockbuster that employed large numbers of African Americans as central cast members, and I think a whole bunch us black scifi nerds were hoping the success of the Matrix franchise would spawn similar efforts with more diverse casting, but that other shoe never dropped. Still, the Matrix proved that you can have more than one black actor in a scifi flick and that flick can still do big numbers at the box office.

There are worthwhile parts to be salvaged from this fiasco.

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