A Job for Will Smith

Will Smith is almost certainly the most bankable actor of this generation. His films have alternated between the serious dramas (Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven pounds) comedies (Men In Black, Hitch) and high profile blockbusters (I, Robot, Independence Day, Hancock).  His new project could potentially combine all of these into one Biblical “dramedy”. The film he’s being scheduled for is called Joe and is being written by Paul Tamasy, one of the minds behind the recent success story “The Fighter”. Speaking on the Movie BS podcast, he announced his upcoming project based on a retelling of the story of Job. He had the following to say:

“He’ll be playing Joe. The movie’s called Joe. It’s about a man who is living the American dream. He’s got the nice house, white picket fence, great kids, great wife, nice cars. God and the devil get together every thousand years to bet on a man’s life, and the fate of the world is at stake. What all of us get hit with in a lifetime, this man gets hit with in one week. And it’s about whether or not he can still pick himself up from that and survive it. It’s a dramedy. At its heart, it’s a comedy — but it’s got, obviously, a real dramatic core to it.”

I’ve recently read the story of Job and it didn’t strike me as one that naturally lends itself to a film. The structure is more suitable for a play; lots of dialogue and very little action. The structure is also a bit wrong for a film, as the ending of God telling Job he’s got it all wrong is not really going to work on the big screen. It works great on the page and is a real eye opener moment, but the whole story is too wordy to make a good film. It therefore does not surprise me overly much that this film is not going to be strict about sticking to the original. Even with Will Smith in the lead, I don’t think that could be anything but a miserable failure. Modernising it is also not hard to justify, as the story is one that any human being can relate to and the ideas behind it are common to all cultures.

What I object to is the change of focus from the original. What you can see from the quote above is that the main point of the story is that Joe can cope with whatever is thrown at him and is ultimately an overcomer. The problem though is that he is overcoming God and not succeeding because of God, but in spite of Him. The original shows Job struggling to come to terms with being treated this way and moans at God throughout, before God just tells him how awesome He is. Job blames God for his problems, but it’s God’s faith in Job that meant he allowed the devil to do these things. This is completely different from the proposed plot of Joe and almost bears no resemblance.

Admittedly it’s early days yet. Will has to finish Men In Black III (yes, they are making another one) before he can even plan which project to pursue next. This isn’t the only biblical retelling he’d been aligned with though. The Legend of Cain recasts the world’s first murderer as a vampire. Make of that what you will.

Personally, I hope he takes the Job-like film and makes it into something that’s a cross between Evan Almighty, Hitch and Atonement. It has potential and in my opinion, films based on the Bible are a good thing. Sure you have to alter the source sometimes, but I would never have read Lord of The Rings if I hadn’t seen the story on the big screen first. That is why even a bad film about the Bible is good in my book.

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3 thoughts on “A Job for Will Smith

  1. steve

    Sounds like an interesting project, but they’ve changed an awful lot. Particularly changing God’s motivation – gambling every 1000 years sounds more like a Norse fairy tale than anything else, and turns God into a bored punter, a fresher with too much power and not enough self-control.

    Job’s story is one of the Bible’s most intense passages about suffering. And God’s whimsy is certainly not a reason for it. Enough of us have trouble understanding pain, suffering, sorrow and the like without big movies telling a simplified and incorrect story. /rant over

  2. chrysalisloall

    They always seem to alter it too much for my liking too. For example, Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan) has written his own version of Noah which focuses on a troubled man trying to deal with the oncoming apocalypse. He says “Noah was the first environmentalist” which to me just goes to show he’s taking things out of context.

    However, my point still stands I feel. If anyone actually comes away from this film and reads Job for the first time, then that in my opinion a good thing. If this does get the green light, then I would like to see a publisher release tie-in copies of just the book of Job, so that people can read it themselves.

    Also, something that’s possibly even more ludicrous than the Legend of Cain, is that Paramount want to do Genesis.. IN 3D!!

  3. I really can’t decide if what they are doing with all these Bible related films is good or not. They really don’t do a very good job of actually making them accurate but at the same time it does generate a little more interest in the stories themselves though.

    I do wonder how many people go away with the idea that the bible is just like the film though. That would really not be good.

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