On the surface, Bad Boys For Life (which earned $6.4 million on Tuesday down just 39% from Monday, to get a $79 million five-day domestic cume) is not any different from the”aging activity heroes come to terms with their twilight years” sequels that have been the rage because (at least) Live Free or Die Hard at 2007.
What sets Bad Boys For Life apart is its focus on the morality of those actions. Paired with Gemini Man (now available to rent or buy as of yesterday) from past October and Spies in Disguise from last month, Bad Boys For Life makes for a fascinating textual examination of Will Smith coming to terms at the end of his period as a top-tier film star and his heritage in terms of how that stardom was achieved and what he put out into the world.
Will Smith was among the beneficiaries of the drive toward big-budget fantasy and escapism of Hollywood from the mid-2000s. Recognizing early the path to box office domination and worldwide stardom was through sci-fi action films, Smith broke through with Bad Boys and then with the one-two jolt of Freedom Day ($817 million globally )in July of 1996 and Men in Black ($589 million global)in July of 1997.
He would follow up that with Tony Scott’s grounded (and politically-topical) surveillance thriller Enemy of the State. Smith correctly noted that A) going toe to toe with Gene Hackman improved his reputation as a celebrity and B) the first idea he was the second option after Tom Cruise passed was a massive deal for a black celebrity.
Enemy of the State is an ACLU-friendly technology thriller in which rightwing politicians use surveillance technology to commit and cover-up nefarious deeds, forcing our epic labor lawyer to clear his name and save our right to privacy. Another crack in creating the July 4 holiday into”Big Willie Weekend,” Wild Wild West earned only $222 million worldwide on a $170 million funding.
Manufacturing issues and miserable reviews what stood out today and then is how bluntly the fantasy declares that racism is an incentive for racist villains and admits racism. Kenneth Branagh baddie is publicly bigoted now, in a means that would not fly, and his motives for wanting to overthrow a post-Civil War America are laid out at the open.
Following the failure of Wild Wild West and the financial under performances of The Legend of Bagger Vance ($39 million on an $80 million funding in 2000) and Michael Mann’s openly political Ali (strong reviews and an Oscar nomination for Smith, but just $88 million on a $107 million budget) in 2001, the actor retreated. Men in Black II earned miserable testimonials but $441 million worldwide in the summer of 2002.
Bad Boys II ($273 million on a $130 million budget) earned allegations of both fascism and glamorizing American imperialism, which will be both arguably accurate (the climax where our heroes only level a whole impoverished Cuban village since Americans are choosing to use drugs is just one for the think piece history books) and presumably irrelevant to the majority of moviegoers who just enjoyed its action/comedy delights.
Men in Black II and Bad Boys II were the start of a stage where Will Smith was the biggest star in the world. By 2002 to 2008, he opened a string of movies about the strength of his face on the poster largely to relatively large success and large openings. He did not only open sci-fi actioners such as I, Robot ($347 million on a $120 million funding in July of 2004), or franchise flicks like Men in Black 2.
He found significant success in animated films (A Shark Tale, $364 million/$75 million/2004), romantic comedies (Hitch, $368 million/$70 million/2005), dramas about economic mobility (The Pursuit of Happyness, $307 million/$55 million/2006), horror flicks (I Am Legend, $585 million/$150 million/2007) and superhero movies (Hancock, $624 million/$150 million/2008).