THE OBENSON REPORT

Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Will Smith - A Washed-Up Super Hero With A Crush In "Hancock"

Thanks to CINE21 who nabbed some early shots of Will Smith in his super-hero suit for his upcoming 2008 release, Hancock, about a "hard-living superhero (Smith) who has fallen out of favor with the public and enters into a questionable relationship with the wife (Charlize Theron) of the public relations professional (Jason Bateman) who's trying to repair his image."

You can see the rest of the images HERE. Nothing terribly special, but I thought some of you movie geeks might appreciate the early showcase.

Can't say that I'm looking forward to seeing this film. I was rather underwhelmed with what I saw in the only teaser trailer that's been circulating online thus far. It's scheduled to be released on the July 4th holiday weekend, a usually important weekend for studios and their summer blockbusters, so, obviously, Sony, the distributor of the film, has extremely high hopes for it. Will I see it? Probably. It's what I do... I see movies... it's in my job description.

Will Smith has certainly taken his whacks over the years, especially from black critics (myself included, although I've certainly taken my foot of the gas pedal, and recognized Mr Smith for the Hollywood star that he is. In doing so, he's become an easier pill for me to swallow, and I pretty much know what to expect from him, and will stop hoping for more. Although, I'm still waiting for that glorious day when he'll surprise me). But he's held up quite well, and has managed to silence much of the critical noise.

That said, I've already begun to hear chants from voices within the black community (specifically black women) chiding Mr Smith for his apparent lack of interest in playing opposite black actresses in leading roles - most recently citing Hancock as an example, in which Charlize Theron plays his love interest. So, it'll be interesting to see how the film is received when it's released later this year. I'm sure it will make tons of money, which is what really counts to those behind the film... but, given what I've already heard (most recently a brief discussion on NPR's News & Notes program), what could the ramifications be for Mr. Smith and his fan base, if there are any at all?

And also, in connection to my ongoing poll on the right, should we expect more from black stars like Will Smith? Should they be held to some higher standard and looked upon as potential leaders in this ongoing fight for equality and diversity in cinema?

6 comments:

  1. theblackactor.com said...
     

    I have to do an open-minded and fair examination of Will Smith and his work. My present opinion about him is half-baked and half-formed. I don't watch his films cuz they don't interest me. I've only seen Pursuit, Six Degrees and Ali. When I think Will Smith, I think mogul; not necessarily actor.

    But anyway -- I'm hesitant about saying what people should do. Yeah, I'd love for the moguls to get together spend their millions and help black cinema.

    All I can say I would hope that they would want to.

    You say...

    should we expect more from black stars like Will Smith? Should they be held to some higher standard and looked upon as potential leaders in this ongoing fight for equality and diversity in cinema?

    This is a good question.

    I don't expect Will Smith to save black cinema. We wouldn't need to ask this of him if black artists in the business and black audiences had the required level of consciousness which would transform and benefit black cinema. It's time to stop looking to leaders and saviors. We must act individually, so that we can make a difference collectively.

    I was going to say more. I know Don Cheadle is an actor and sees himself as such. I know John Doe is an actor and sees himself as such.

    I don't know what Will Smith's view of himself really is. Does he consider himself an actor? Does he consider himself a product known as box office gold. I'd be curious to know how he feels about the craft.

  2. The Obenson Report said...
     

    @ TBA - I've pretty much come to the realization that it's practically pointless to concern ourselves with the choices that others have made and continue to make. Piggy-backing what you said, it would be wonderful if we all willingly got together, held hands and sang "We Are The World," and everyone suddenly adopted altruism as their primary M.O., but, that's certainly not going to happen anytime soon, if ever. But I continue to hear others calling for the heads of some of these celebrities (like Will Smith and others), demanding that they act in the interest of an entire race of people - or as Hattie McDaniel said, be a "credit to their race." So, I'm hoping to find out if that kind of thinking is prevalent.

  3. Wendy said...
     

    I've never been much of a Will Smith fan. He, along with people like Robin Williams and Jim Carey, used to put me off seeing movies he/they starrred in. I only recently saw 'The Truman Show' (Carey) and was surprised that I actually liked it. And I just love, love, love 'Eternal Sunshine...'

    But I think that Will probably did, at some stage, see himself as an actor. One of his earliest film roles 'Six Degrees of Separation' was certainly an actor's role. But I think somewhere along the line he also decided that those kinds of roles (particularly as a black male actor?) wouldn't get him too far, too fast. Superstardom was on his mind and, to his credit, he set his sights high - and he accomplished!

    So now what? I think this is an interesting watershed period in his career. I mean, just how many planet saving heroes can one man play? And for how long? Sylvester Stallone, anybody...? And let's not forget that Will Smith is a canny operator.

    Now being a bonifide, opening weekend, box office draw (and, somehow, I don't actually think that black women make up his main fanbase - a bit like Oprah... and Obama), what will he do with all that power?

    This January, 'Pursuit of Happyness' was the first western film released in China for decades (I think...) in a bid by Chinese authorities to refute that there was a ban on Hollywood films. 'Pursuit' is the only Hollywood movie scheduled for release in China for the first two years of this month. Apparently, Smith has also been lobbying for Legend to be shown there too.
    Source: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117978078.html?categoryid=1043&cs=1

    It'll be interesting to see if he uses his clout to further the cause of the black image (or just his own) in Hollywood and the world at large. Personally, I think 'Happyness' was a step in that direction and Legend has just strengthened his hand.

    Indeed, one might argue that 'Happyness' is Mr Smith's first bid to address the issue of black representation in Hollywood. If he can continue in this vein (say, two for Hollywood, one for 'my people'), then we could be seeing some interesting choices from Mr Smith.

    Personally, I think he's dying to do a remake of Wendell B Harris' 'Chameleon Street.' He has wanted to in the past but Harris refused. Hey, he actually already used the rubix cube scene from 'Chameleon' in 'Happyness.'

    Maybe he can use his clout to get it remade without too much change (while enhancing it aesthetically/technically) and keep Harris sweet by having him direct it...? Or maybe he'll just watch what independent black filmmakers are doing and rip them off...?

    Whichever way he takes, the truth is that, whether we like him or not, whether we think he represents blacks in general or just himself, he is increasing the profile of black images on screen, worldwide.

    Since leaving TV, he has pretty much avoided stereotypical 'black' roles and has been accepted as an actor/star rather than just a 'black' actor/star - both by Hollywood and the worldwide film veiwing audience.

    So where next? Well, I'll certainly be paying much more attention to Mr Smith. Let's watch and see...

  4. UK Black Chick aka Wendy said...
     

    @ theblackactor.com, and anyone else who's interested:

    The following is a YouTube link to something I watched on TV just before Christmas. It's Will on a popular TV show over here (UK) in which 'Six Degrees,' acting, saving the world and money, among other topics, are covered.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQqA5aFJ6lo

  5. UK Black Chick aka Wendy said...
     

    And Mr Smith on his career strategy: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1689234,00.html?imw=Y

  6. The Obenson Report said...
     

    During his interview with Charlie Rose several years ago, he made it clear what his plans were, once he stepped foot in Hollywood. In short, his production partner and himself took inventory of all the highest grossing films ever produced, and decided that he would involve himself mostly in those kinds of movies, and that's just what he did. Certainly a shrewd business move that's paid off tremendously – along with his aggressive global campaigning every time a film of his reaches the marketplace. But I think the road actually gets a little slippery from hereon for him. He's spent the previous 15 years, creating and building the brand that is “Will Smith.” Now that he is a brand, his decisions will be subject to even more intense scrutiny than ever before, and how he chooses to respond to all of that will partly determine his future reception. With his appeal, he might actually be a good candidate for political office in another 10 years or so. When I look at his Hollywood resume, I see a likeness to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. Even their personalities seem somewhat similar; they’re both these super-masculine, larger-than-life, widely loved, fiercely optimistic and unapologetic people. Most of Schwarzenegger’s films were action-driven, special effects-laden films with humor, until he peaked in the mid-90s after the 2nd Terminator flick, when he was one of the highest paid actors around, enjoying back-end deal inclusions in his contracts. I think he recognized the limited lifespan of the Hollywood actor, especially as one ages and the roles don’t come as briskly as they once did, and jumped into politics, using his stardom to win the governorship of California. Might Will Smith take the same path? Who knows! He can’t get much larger than he is currently, so I would expect that he’s fully aware of the nature of the business he is in, and may already be planning his next move. But he’s still young and he’s got a couple of interesting, demanding roles coming up over the next 2 years that could finally silence all his critics, and maybe even win him that elusive Academy Award – first, he’s re-teaming with the director of “Pursuit Of Happyness” to make another dramatic tear-jerker called 7 Pounds; and right after that, he’ll be working with one of the most revered directors of our time, Steven Spielberg, for a period piece on the trial of the infamous Chicago Seven. It’s rumored that he’ll play Black Panther leader, Bobby Seale. If you’ve seen/heard Bobby Seale give one of his many resounding speeches, you have to wonder if this is something Mr Smith can pull off convincingly, unlike his weak Will-Smith-trying-to-be-Ali impersonation from a few years ago… I certainly hope he can, for his sake.

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