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#252. Will Smith

Much like Jamie Foxx, Will Smith is both a successful musician and actor. While he started out with a career in rap, his most famous role spanned the gap between his music and acting. In the eponymous role of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith made the jump to the small screen that quickly expanded to feature film roles. With a four-year gap from 2008 to 20012, Smith has been acting in films for almost every year since 1992. Even though he’s had a few Oscar nominations, he’s also made a few flops. Of course, Will Smith is not the only one in his family to be a musician and actor. His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith and children, Jaden Smith and Willow Smith, all have careers of their own, oftentimes appearing in films alongside Will. This week’s two films highlight some entries in Will Smith’s acting career.

I, RobotI, Robot
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

Before his brief hiatus from acting, Will Smith delved into producing, going so far as to produce six of the films he starred in before 2008. While I, Robot (2004) was his first foray into this realm, Hitch (2005), The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), I Am Legend (2007), Hancock (2008), and Seven Pounds (2008) also bore his mark as producer. Of note is that his portrayal of down-on-his-luck father Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness garnered him his second Oscar nomination, his first having been earned five years earlier for the bio-pic Ali (2001). Unfortunately, not every film he produced was a hit. He won two Golden Raspberries for his acting (both alone and in combination with his son, Jaden) for After Earth (2014), the latest of his films to also be produced by him. This was not due to any inexperience in the science fiction genre, as I, Robot has shown us that he can excel in it.

Chicago police detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) is highly suspect of the robots that have permeated every aspect of the modern world. When a robot saved him from a car crash instead of a teenage girl, he developed a grudge against them, distrusting their ability to determine which life to save. While the Three Laws of Robotics are designed to keep humans safe from robots, the mysterious death of Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) spurs Spooner on to investigate the robots surrounding the doctor. In the process, he finds that one of the new NS-5 robots named Sonny (Alan Tudyk) has been modified by Dr. Lanning to ignore the Three Laws. This in turn leads Spooner to discover the artificial intelligence known as VIKI, the mastermind behind a robot uprising being developed near Lake Michigan. It’s now up to Spooner to stop VIKI before she eliminates all humans in an execution of the “zeroth law”.

Independence DayIndependence Day
Year: 1996
Rating: PG-13
Length: 145 minutes / 2.42 hours

Right out of the gate, Will Smith was attached to two franchises that helped to cement his name as an actor in Hollywood. In 1995, he starred opposite Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys. Two years later, he would star opposite Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black (1997). With a Men in Black sequel in 2002 and a Bad Boys sequel in 2003, Will Smith was once again a on top of his game. Since then, the third Men in Black installment in 2012 has been his only return to either franchise. Of course, with two Bad Boys sequels set for 2017 and 2019, respectively, Will Smith is ready to continue the franchise. For me, the first film of Will Smith’s that stuck with me was Independence Day (1996), which is unfortunate, because this year’s sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence (2016), was notably missing his highly-quotable character.

Marine Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend. One morning he’s called to report to duty as a F/A-18 Hornet pilot to take care of an odd threat that’s appeared all over the world. In battling this alien invasion, Hiller was able to shoot down one of the alien spacecraft. With both him and his foe crash-landed in the desert, Hiller accidentally finds his way to Area 51, where they accept him and the alien specimen. After a nuclear attack fails to damage any of the alien ships, a friend of the President (Bill Pullman), David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) arrives with the solution: upload a virus to the main ship in orbit around the Earth. Despite being turned down by NASA, Hiller’s dream has always been to be an astronaut. When the opportunity arises, he volunteers to take David to the alien mothership to enact Earth’s last plan of survival.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 wonderful Will Smith roles

Bacon #: 2 (Hancock / Mark Simich -> Frost/Nixon / Kevin Bacon)

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One response to “#252. Will Smith

  1. Pingback: End of Act Five | Cinema Connections

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