If there’s any celebrity on planet earth who has more personality wattage and self-contained energy, it’s Will Smith. And he’s conveyed that exuberant (or some might say hyperactive) personality into dozens of movies going back 20 years. That’s why it was such a surprise to see Smith turning his personality switch down a few notches in the new trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s “After Earth.”
Perhaps Smith going subtler is because he’s acting alongside his son, Jaden, who will supposedly be the real star of the above film. Then again, it’s hard to imagine that he and his kids aren’t still competing with one another without telling one another outright. But after years of seeing Smith so buoyant in nearly every role, the sight of him looking so low key in the “After Earth” trailer is slightly startling.
In the mind of others, it may merely reflect maturity and wisdom as his character is supposed to possess. If it’s something Smith plans to stick to, then it’s time to put him into the emerging new group of populist (sometimes comedian) actors suddenly going very, very serious. We’re already seeing this with Bradley Cooper, Dwayne Johnson, and even (upcoming at least) Steve Carell.
Of course, Smith has already crossed that path somewhat. However, his boisterous personality was never completely tucked away, right up through “The Pursuit of Happyness.” You could say his Cypher character in “After Earth” is a dialed back version of his portrayal of Chris Gardner. The only difference is that this patriarch is already a legend, is physically wounded, stays behind in a space ship, and astutely watches his son do all the dirty work.
It’s through those scenes seen in the trailer where Will Smith talks in a deeply calm, sonorous voice while maintaining a fixed, serious expression. If we weren’t told it was Will Smith, some people might think it was his introverted twin brother. This could be an acting style Smith adheres to in the future to offset all those claims that he’s always playing the same type of hyperactive, sarcastic character.
We may never know, but it could also stem from M. Night Shyamalan himself who frequently creates calmer character traits. Although if it’s strictly from Will Smith’s own mind, it could be a subtle lesson to transform both his and his son’s future acting career. In my earlier assumption that father and son may be competing for world domination in the future, mastering a wider acting range may be part of the secret weapon.
The only problem is Smith dialing his acting down too soon to the point where people will accuse him of being tranquilized. This might continue when he plays a 19th century judge in upcoming “Winter’s Tale”, directed by Akiva Goldsman. Or it may not when Smith stars in delayed “Bad Boys III” by 2015.
By then, the old Smith acting method may be considered an anachronism that could make another “Bad Boys” sequel look even more unnecessary than it already is.