AFTER EARTH BATTLE: Will Smith’s Hits vs M. Night’s Flops

December 5, 2011 at 11:04 am

AFTER EARTH BATTLE: Will Smith's Hits vs M. Night's Flops

ONE STREAK WILL SURVIVE.  ONE WILL END.

M. Night Shyamalan burst onto the scene with The 6th Sense.  He followed it up with Unbreakable and my personal favorite Signs.  But since then, much has been written about his decline.  Films like The Village (which I still enjoyed), Lady In The Water, The Happening & The Last Airbender failed to meet expectations. (The Last Airbender was especially terrible)

There are two schools of thought here.  Are our expectations of the once golden filmmaker too high? Or has he truly lost the edge he once had?

Will Smith on the other hand, is a model of box office consistency.  Nearly all of his action films have been successful at the box office.  He’s as close as you get to a sure thing during the summer blockbuster season.

AFTER EARTH

M. Night Shyamalan was once my untouchable favorite director.  I’ve written about my love of Signs many times on this blog.  It’s a favorite of mine because of the impact it had on my desire to write movies.  However, I’m guilty of purchasing tickets to his newest films full of hope before ultimately leaving the theater disappointed.

Note: Christopher Nolan has since won the title of favorite director.

Will Smith has been one of my favorite actors for a long time.  I’m no stranger to afternoon marathons starring Will Smith.  When I was younger, they were a constant a source of inspiration for stories I wrote. Creative afternoons like that are inspiring.

With that history in mind, you can imagine how excited I am to have these two collaborating on a science fiction project.  Forget the past successes and failures for a moment.  It’s an interesting pairing I never thought I’d see.

After Earth is about a young boy (Played by Will’s son Jaden) and his father crash landing on Earth long after it was abandoned by humans.

The trailers have arrived.  The stage is set.  So which streak will end?

M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN’S STREAK OF CRITICAL MISSES

vs

WILL SMITH’S MIDAS TOUCH

WILL M. NIGHT RETURN TO FORM?

AFTER EARTH BATTLE: Will Smith's Hits vs M. Night's Flops

His box office numbers usually start out reasonably strong but fizzle quickly once word of mouth spreads.  Take a look at the decline in his numbers on Rotten Tomatoes:

  • The Sixth Sense 85%
  • Unbreakable 68%
  • Signs 74%
  • The Village 43%
  • Lady in the Water 24%
  • The Happening 18%
  • The Last Airbender 6%

Ouch.

WILL SMITH’S MIDAS TOUCH

AFTER EARTH BATTLE: Will Smith's Hits vs M. Night's Flops

Mr. Smith’s films have always done well at the box office regardless of his scores on RT.  In fact his last 3 films have been certified rotten on the site with an average score of 41%.  Yet combined (Seven Pounds, Hancock, I Am Legend) the films have grossed more than $550 million domestically.

Will Smith has starred in 16 movies since 1995 and there are staggering numbers to back up his claim as king of the box office. (Source: Box Office Mojo)

  • 12 have grossed more than $100 million dollars.
  • 4 grossed north of $200 million. (Independence Day was his highest at $306)
  • The average box office gross of the 16 films is $134 million.
  • At one point he starred in 8 straight films that grossed more than $100 million dollars. (2002-2008)

So yeah, you could say he has an audience.  Release a Will Smith movie between June and August and it’s a safe bet the film will make hundreds of millions of dollars.

WHICH STREAK WILL END?

Will After Earth be Will Smith’s first BIG critical AND box office bomb?  Or will the film be M. Night Shyamalan’s first official hit in nearly 10 years?  The film was written by Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) and Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) so critics won’t be able to blame M. Night for a bad script like they have in the past.

Personally, I think the film sounds amazing on paper.  Night is an extremely visual and gifted director and given the landscape he has been given to work with, After Earth will be a beautiful movie.  It’s also got an intriguing premise, a huge box office star and the hopes of science fiction fans everywhere behind it.

Recently, M. Night Shyamalan made a smart career decision by finally joining Twitter and hopefully engaging his fans.  I’ve been following him since day one and I’m hoping he updates us on the film regularly.  Bottom line? It’s time to see headlines like “Now That’s More Like It Night!”.  Of course some people will point at Will Smith’s appeal if it’s a success. 

I think this collaboration is the best of both worlds set in the future of ours.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?