I’m bringing nothing original to the table from Switzerland but let’s review the basics. After Earth‘s Rotten Tomatoes verdict is the pits — it’s the new Battlefield Earth. And so far the public appears underwhelmed with the M. Night Shyamalan-directed sci-fi adventure expected to reach the mid $20s by Sunday night, which Deadline‘s Nikki Finke is calling a shortfall given expectations of a mid 30s-to-low 40s haul. So basically it’s a tank and a major embarassment and very possibly the end of (or certainly a roadblock to) Jaden Smith‘s big-screen career.
I don’t think ticket-buyers are hip or curious enough to smell the Scientology metaphor, which Vulture‘s Matt Patches has recently pointed out (“After Earth Is Will Smith’s Love Letter to Scientology” — URL: http://www.vulture.com/2013/05/after-earth-will-smith-love-letter-to-scientology.html). I think the rejection of After Earth is more fundamental than that. Audiences resented the idea of shelling out to see an unproven and not-all-that-charismatic or even talented teenage kid just because he’s Will Smith‘s sire.
The under-message of After Earth was basically Will Smith saying “this may look like another sci-fi CG-bullshit movie, but it’s the kind of thing you guys pay to see all the time so don’t tell me. Except this time there’s a difference. After Earth is a line-of-succession film. This is about me sitting on my ass during most of After Earth and passing the torch to my kid…he’s my boy and therefore royalty of a kind, and I want all you guys to pay tribute to Jaden the way you’ve been celebrating my box-office panache for the last 16 or 17 years since Bad Boys and Independence Day. I’m Papa Doc and Jaden is Baby Doc, and you I want you to drop to your knees and kiss his ass.”
And the public, bless ’em, thought this deal over and collectively said, “No offense, Will, but eff you and and your arrogance and your suspected Scientology bullshit and your idea that you can just feed us your son as the Next Big Thing and think we’re going to just lap it up. Doesn’t work that way, chief. We decide, not you. Your son wants to be a star? Fine — let him prove it on his own.”
Finke quotes a rival marketing exec claiming that the box-office performance of After Earth is “2.5 times worse that Jaden Smith’s Karate Kid reboot and half of Oblivion‘s opening.”
From over here it seems as if this Death of the Smiths scenario (which is only temporary, of course — Will Smith can and probably will bounce back) is one of those rare instances in which the public says no to a major brand and in so doing de-values the rep of a royal family. It’s almost (but not quite) analagous to French revolutionaries calling for the head of Marie Antoinette. It also vaguely reminds me of the fall of Saddam Hussein, although that analogy doesn’t hold up if you think about it for five seconds. I’m just saying that I can sense the willingness to pull over Will Smith’s statue. I can feel is all the way over here.
Note: Apologies again for WordPress’s pathetic failure to allow for simple enbed-coding of URLs.