Once upon a time Will Smith was the king of opening a movie on the fourth of July, which was brought on by his enormous success with the film Independence Day. Soon after, Men in Black followed. In terms of box office stability Smith was foolproof until 1999, when a little known movie hit theaters called Wild Wild West. The film was famously panned by critics, and until After Earth came around in 2013, it was known as one of Will Smith’s worst films both financially and critically.
Just as a refresher here’s a taste of what critics had to say about Smith’s Wild Wild West film.
Time magazine critic Richard Schickel wrote the following.
“Wild, Wild West poses this not very pressing question: Can a comedy costing something north of $100 million hope to succeed solely on the basis of special effects, cross-dressing and a vertically challenged villain?”
The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan wrote the following
“Unfortunately, Smith’s abundant charm is squandered by making him play second fiddle to a bunch of dumb machines that look like rejected maquettes from a Star Wars brainstorming session.”
Lastly, The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw wrote the following.
“It’s exasperating. Best to give a miss to a movie whose title should be Mild, Mild Zest, or just Failed, Failed Jest.”
Will Smith knows exactly how bad ‘Wild Wild West’ was https://t.co/kTs0iUUd1M
— TIME.com (@TIME) June 23, 2016
For argument’s sake, Smith didn’t take too many of the hits, but for a while the film did tarnish his reputation of being the golden boy at the Box Office.
For years, Smith didn’t say a thing about Wild Wild West, but recently the actor explained the reason why he went after the popcorn movie. As Smith explains it to the Hollywood Reporter, he got fame hungry, and started to look at the big bucks versus quality, but as we all know, a film can still be a commercial success and have creative merit.
“I had so much success that I started to taste global blood and my focus shifted from my artistry to winning. I wanted to win and be the biggest movie star, and what happened was there was a lag — around Wild Wild West time — I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win versus promoting something because I believed in it… Smoke and mirrors in marketing and sales is over.”
“People are going to know really quickly and globally whether a product keeps its promises… My career has been strictly being able to sell my products globally, and it’s now in the hand of fans. I have to be in tune with their needs and not trick them into going to see Wild Wild West.”
Will Smith expresses regret in chasing fame over art, citing movies like “Wild Wild West: https://t.co/G5nEk8P76K pic.twitter.com/szltokUocJ
— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 22, 2016
Of course, these days Smith doesn’t have anything to worry about, as he’s snatched up one of the largest tentpole movies in the industry. The actor will be seen in the upcoming film Suicide Squad as Deadshot, and that film, unlike Justice League, still has a ton of positive buzz and hype around it.
It sounds like Smith is also hyped about reemerging in the superhero world again. “It was really great to play this particular character with this particular group of people with this director. David Ayer, he’s created this big, gigantic world — this Batman world. But he was also only focused on the characters.”
As far as critical acclaim goes, Smith was famously snubbed this year by the Academy Awards for his role in Concussion, but was celebrated by almost every other award ceremony, for his portrayal as real life Nigerian physician Dr. Bennet Omalu.
[Photo by Warner Bros.]