In1997, the film Men in Black helped usher in Smith’s breakthrough as a bonafide blockbuster movie star. The film told the story of two odd-couple secret agents (Smith and Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones) protecting Earth from rogue alien attacks. It grossed over $500 million worldwide. Smith’s career rose from that point on; he became one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, and the only actor to have eight consecutive films gross over $100 million in the domestic box office.
However, 15 years after the Men in Black franchise’s debut, this third installment isn’t predicted to enjoy the same success that previous Smith films have enjoyed. This sequel finds Smith traveling back in time to save the life of his partner, Agent K, played by a surprisingly apt Josh Brolin. Production began on the film in September 2010, however issues with the script dragged the film out two years and over $200 million dollars. Apparently the production struggle shows: critics are already citing the movie mediocre. “Its opening sequences are a near marvel of confusion, mayhem and embarrassments for its actors. If it was a person, you’d worry it had dementia,” Mary Pols wrote for TIME magazine.
In today’s film industry, movie franchises are pedaled as a box office blockbuster sure thing, a trend that no doubt motivated Smith and co-star Jones to revive their 15-year-old characters once again. However the Men in Black franchise was already on a downward trend – Men in Black 2‘s domestic revenue was down $60 million from that of the original, and critically panned as a lackluster sequel.
Men in Black 3 has the odds stacked against it, and to add insult to injury, the Will Smith star isn’t shinning quite as brightly as it used to. It’s been four years since his grinning mug has graced the big screen, which in Hollywood years might as well be an eternity. The last we saw him, he was a sad guy lending out organs for redemption in Seven Pounds. That movie, though it performed decently at the box office, was also a critical dud. Not the greatest last impression to leave with your fans for four years.
Not to say that success is beyond Will Smith’s reach — he’s a talented actor with the charm and wit to keep his loyal fanbase happy. His star power still surpasses that of most Hollywood actors, and he still enjoys love from the press and fans alike. But for a man known to take very calculated risks in Hollywood, Men in Black 3 may become a surprisingly unfortunate misstep in his career.
Follow Kia Miakka Natisse on Twitter at @miakka_natisse