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).