Looking back at the blockbusters of this year, it's pretty much whiter than a dinner party at Mel Gibson's house. Bar the occasional token supporting role, like Derek Luke's five lines in "Captain America: The First Avenger," Idris Elba stealing the show in "Thor" or David Oyelowo's villian in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," the cast (and indeed principle crew) of the biggest movies of the year have mostly been depressingly omni-ethnic, a sad reflection that international audiences still, on the whole, don't turn out to see black actors in lead roles. And that's why, whatever misgivings we might have about a new M. Night Shyamalan film, the casting for his next effort is at least a little refreshing.
Coming off a brace of critically savaged pictures, Shyamalan is now teaming up with Will Smith, the only black actor who's managed to draw an international audience (albeit one who's been absent for a few years) for the apocalyptic sci-fi "1000 A.D," with the actor's son, Jaden Smith, star of the "Karate Kid" remake, joining the for a project about a father and son who crash land on Earth years after it's been destroyed. With Smith senior, a celebrated hero, injured in the crash, it's up to his offspring, who's failed to live up to his father's reputation, to save them.
The film's gearing up to shoot in the new year, and the star is filling out his screen family, with The Hollywood Reporter bringing news that Oscar-nominee Sophie Okonedo and Zoe Kravitz -- who knows a thing or two about famous parents as the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet -- are in early talks to join the cast, as Smith's wife and daughter, respectively.
The excellent Okonedo has been working for getting on 20 years, but had a big Hollywood breakthrough when she won a Supporting Actress nomination for "Hotel Rwanda." For the most part, she's stayed away from blockbuster fare (bar "Aeon Flux," which everyone involved with would likely rather forget about), but has worked steadily on British TV and smaller films like "The Martian Child" and "The Secret Life of Bees." Kravitz, meanwhile, is firmly on the rise, popping up as the mutant turncoat Angel in "X-Men First Class" following on from indie pictures such as "It's Kind of a Funny Story" and "Assassination of a High School President." Next year should be blockbuster heavy if she signs on here, as she's long been attached to join Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in George Miller's "Mad Max" revival "Fury Road" (though with both films slated to shoot early in 2012, she may have to choose one over the other).
Whether the film turns out to be any good, however, is anyone's guess. It's been so long since Shyamalan was on his game that it's hard to remember that we once looked forward to a new film from the director. The premise sounds extremely generic to boot, but there is some reason for optimism, as the director's collaborating with writers other than himself. "Book of Eli" scribe Gary Whitta wrote early drafts, while "Traffic" Oscar-winner Stephen Gaghan has been rewriting the script more recently. We'll find out if they're able to curb Shyamalan's worst instincts when "1000 A.E." hits on June 7, 2013.