In the past decade or so, film audiences have drifted away from seeing movies just because of a particular actor or actress, embracing movies with intriguing concepts and styles instead. For example, did people flock to 300 because Gerard Butler was the lead? Nope. And the film failed to even make him a star. The truth is, there is only one real movie star left on the face of the planet, the only person who still draws audiences based on his presence alone. That person, for better or for worse, is Will Smith.
I bet Sony and Fox are both nervously biting their nails right now, because Smith has narrowed down his list of potential next projects to two: another Men in Black adventure or a fantasy called The City That Sailed. This may be a big choice for Smith, since his last two films, Hancock and Seven Pounds, while not out-and-out disasters, were not too fondly embraced. Smith's a smart guy, I'm sure he knows this one counts. I'm fond of Smith and think he's a fun screen presence with charisma to spare and enough raw talent to really back it up.
Let's take a look at his options. There are no real details out there about Men in Black III, but the first two made more money than God, so this was kind of inevitable. I loved the first Men in Black upon its initial release and I still find myself watching it on occasion. Excellent chemistry between Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, awesome Rick Baker aliens, a strong mixture of comedy and action and so forth. However, the second was an insulting bore and one of the worst big budget movies I've ever seen, so I'm torn about seeing another entry in this series. Thoughts?
The City That Sailed is an original script by Andrew Niccol (the man behind the excellent Gattaca, the good Lord of War and the horrible mess S1m0ne). The official synopsis:
"City that Sailed revolves around a New York street magician who is unhappily separated from his young daughter. The girl, who moves to London, finds magic candles that make her wishes comes true, with unintended consequences: The island of Manhattan separates from the continent and floats toward England, bringing her dad ever closer."
Sounds...interesting, I suppose. Certainly a change of pace for the action-oriented Smith. Smith has always embraced genre filmmaking (usually stupid genre filmmaking, but still) and this shows that he' still interested in aliens and fantastic situations. That's oddly comforting to me. If Smith wants to make movies featuring him shooting aliens and cracking wise until he's 70, I actually think I'd be cool with that.