31 May 2013

The Road to a Blockbuster: Now You See Will Smith

The sun rises on another Summer Friday, so naturally, we have some movies clamouring to be the next big cultural iconic moment. Here at NMW we take the opportunity to dig into these potential blockbusters, to examine not only their potential for critical and commercial success, but what kind of impact they may have on our culture. So far this summer has lacked any standout features, not only because each week has given us a huge movie - from Iron Man 3 (2013) to Furious 6 (2013), so it's been sort of hard to concentrate on any one property for very long. There's also not a great amount of heterogeneity so far. Luckily, though, this weekend offers us two original features.
And James Dave Franco!

That's a good thing, right?

Let's start with the Magician Action Heist Caper (you read that right), Now You See Me (2013). This movie seems to have a crazy cast that includes Isla "Rebel" Fisher, Morgan "God" Freeman, Melanie "Shoshanna" Laurent, Mark "Hulked Out" Ruffalo, and even a mini-Zombieland (2009) reunion with Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson. Still, remember that first bit you read. The Magician Action Heist Caper. This comes at a time when the magicians most recently on anyone's mind are Gob Bluth and Tony Wonder (Isla Fisher's presence doesn't do us any favors to help forget that fact). Arrested Development made Gob a modern magician for a reason - it's inherently very campy and goofy (although they demand to be taken seriously). In the same way, it's a little hard to take this pretty doofy looknig movie seriously.

It actually doesn't really help that director Louis Leterrier seems to be readily seeking to defend it, along with other turds he's made. Yes, there's an excuse for everything, Lou. This ultimately feels like it should be a March or April release instead of a big Summer flick. It hasn't gotten a ton of support, although the cast is well-liked and it seems flashy with just enough of a bit of mystery that it may do pretty decently. Are we going to drop everything to catch it on F/X in 2016? No. It ought to make decent background fodder, but there's no reason to invest anything in this movie. And that is because magicians are stupid.

Against this stiff competition we have the real deal - After Earth (2013). Is it actually an indoctrination into scientology? Was filming it so rough that Jaden Smith wanted to be emancipated from his pop as a result? Does Willow whip her hair all over the end credits? Will Smith is one of the few remaining movie stars that is still pretty reliable, although it's not all that clear how much he's even in this damn movie. The basic synopsis is that him and his son crash land on Earth in the future after it was abandoned and he's injured while his son goes and fights Diego from Ice Age (2002). It also seems like Will is sucked out of the ship during that trailer - so...is Will even really in this thing? I feel another backlash of expectations when this becomes the Jaden Show real fast.
I wouldn't mind if Hancock was in this

Anyway, this could serve as a vehicle to propel Jaden into his own level of superstardom. And maybe he made enough fans off of The Karate Kid (2010) to hold down an audience. Still, this is a Shyamalan movie...sure it's an original Will Smith idea, but this is a director who has been burning down his goodwill and auteur status for over a decade. Apparently he's just a journeyman now, about as good as a Brett Ratner or Rob Cohen. That makes be a little sad. I mean, the cat had talent. Who knows what happened to him, but now he's apparently churning out tailor-made shit like After Earth instead of his own work. Maybe no one is letting him write his own stuff anymore. That's probably a good idea.

Still, it's a bit intriguing that the two biggest stars left on the planet have both made original movies within a few months of each other that features themselves as the only humans left on the planet. Kind of. Tom Cruise's Oblivion (2013) was a fairly surprisingly competent movie, if not fairly derivative of you know, everything from Independence Day (1996) to Spaceballs (1987). It also at least had its visuals to fall back on, along with a pretty cool twisty story, and a hell of a dedication on the part of Tom. After Earth has none of these. Can it really break out this summer? At this point it seems like Summer 2013 is really falling between Furious 6 and Man of Steel (2013), and it's really tempting to take a break this weekend (or catch Furious 6 after sorrowfully seeing The Hangover: Part III [2013] last weekend...). I don't see any film from this weekend really going anywhere. And whenever I'm about to change my mind I see those awful CGI Baboons. I mean, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) did more with less, M., you can't throw up that shit anymore.

Will you see some magic this weekend? Or at least a big deserted earth filled with the Smith family? Or do you prefer to stay in the Matrix?

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