Tuesday 16th January 2018,

Will ‘The Karate Kid’ Push Donald Glover Into ‘Spiderman’?

UPDATE: The answer? No. So much for reckless speculation! Still, I do love Andrew Garfield.

I’m still on vacation, and I’m not supposed to be writing! But I couldn’t help but cobble together a quick note about the success of The Karate Kid, which beat out The A-Team last weekend in the box office and shows no sign of stopping (it made $6 million yesterday, a Tuesday). What a surprise!

As the LA Times notes, The Karate Kid is really the first surprise hit of the summer. Jaden Smith, Will Smith’s most visible spawn, had yet to reveal himself as a reliable leading man — okay, boy. I guess we should never bet against a Smith! (Even Jada got HawthoRNe renewed).

Despite the fact that most people know Jaden is a Smith, I actually think his genetic legacy wasn’t the box office draw. I think there’s a case to be made that reviving an old franchise with a black kid promised audiences they’d be in for something truly different. Setting it in China and casting Jackie Chan, to be sure, were not bad ideas. This contrasts with The A-Team, which despite looking flashier than the original, seemed exactly what Hollywood would do to revive such a franchise. Audiences can smell a lack of effort from a mile away, and at least half the time they will punish films for it. (The Killers is a great example, but of course, bad films make money too).

The success of The Karate Kid might add some fuel and industry cred to the campaign to recruit Donald Glover (Community) to the role of Spiderman in the expected reboot. Currently, he hasn’t made the short list of actors.

Why Glover? Because the problem for Hollywood is whether a (relatively) unknown black actor can helm a big screen picture — a black actor, of course, who isn’t Will Smith. Certainly, there’s an entire generation of young black actors who have not been able to carry the Will Smith torch — Columbus Short has been trying, Nick Cannon has been inactive, Anthony Mackie is just getting started. The current crop of bankable stars — Denzel, Jamie Foxx, Taye Diggs, Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle, Terrance Howard — are starting to gray or are already grayed.

Jaden Smith’s success proves there are younger black stars out there audiences will endorse. Yes, yes, he’s Will Smith’s son, but at $7-$13 a ticket, that doesn’t count for much.

The truth is, casting a black actor in a previously white role makes something feel fresh. Marc Webb and Spiderman’s producers have been talking about radically transforming the franchise, and what better way than with a fresh face? Smith’s success suggests Americans might be ready to embrace a new crop of star, and Glover is new, funny and relatable.

All this might depend on what direction the new film is taking. If they’re trying to go the Batman route — making it Dark Knight darker from the cartoonish original — then maybe Glover isn’t the best choice. Yet if they’re going for witty and fresh, it seems they are running out of excuses to ignore the will of the people (if by “the people” you mean 12,000 people on Facebook).

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.


  1. Chinwe Okorie June 20, 2010 at 3:22 am

    no no no!!! I want to see Black people doing something right and new and with good story lines. not something already done. okay spider man i guess that is great he is a hero. but if this becomes a trend i am going to cry and give up on Hollywood! please Producers realize you don’t know what we want to see. We don’t want to see Brad Pitt Leo Dicaprio or Jennifer Aniston look alikes anymore, just because the media call them hott doesn’t mean others wants to see that every damn month in a movie. Walking out of the movie, I don’t think anyone said, hey great movie with the black kid. no!!! ppl loved it and stayed til the credits finished too…and clapped! I love how Jadan didn’t speak Ebonics aswell. Love you Will smith for doing that! I love that there wasn’t no ignorance for asians aswell 🙂