Hollywood has been remaking movies from all over the globe, especially if they are considered classics, because the general expectation is that fans of the original are going to love the remake automatically, and the producers are going to make tons of money. Sometimes that theory works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But the question always remains: What is the point of a remake if you aren’t improving upon the original? That’s why every time a remake is announced, and it ends up being worse than the original, a small number of people advocate for remaking bad films because if the original is bad, then the only direction for the remake to go is up. For a second, it did seem like Prime Video’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith was setting itself up for a slam dunk because Doug Liman’s 2005 film, starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, had plenty of room to improve. However, like clockwork, the showrunners have messed it up.
Created by Francesca Sloane and Donald Glover, Mr. & Mrs. Smith opens with a version of John and Jane Smith, played by Alexander Skarsgård and Eiza González, enjoying a peaceful morning in their hut, which is located in the middle of nowhere. But it’s disrupted by the sound of motion sensors, which prompts them to go into action mode and engage in a full-blown shootout. They don’t make it out alive, and the focus ominously shifts to two new people who take up the moniker of John and Jane Smith, played by Glover and Maya Erskine. They are given “high-risk” missions, which range from various kinds of assassinations to rescuing high-value assets. As expected, over the course of these tasks, John and Jane begin to fall in love with each other and imagine a life beyond this volatile profession. However, personal and professional speed bumps cause both of them to reconsider their decisions and search for the nearest exit, both in terms of their job and their romantic relationship.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith writers Adamma Ebo, Adanne Ebo, Glover, Sloane, Yvonne Hana Yi, Carla Ching, Stephen Glover, and Schuyler Pappas follow a pretty simple storytelling method. In each episode, John and Jane Smith are given a singular, self-contained, high-profile mission by a nameless, faceless, CIA-adjacent entity referred to as “HiHi.” If they complete it, they get more perks. If they fail, HiHi makes a note of it, and as soon as that number hits 3, they risk the danger of being booted from the program. Much like every rom-com in existence, since John and Jane have to pretend to be a heterosexual married couple, the exercise brings them together, tears them apart, and makes them realize that they actually do need each other to survive. The issue arises when the writers make a concerted effort to make them relatable. They are so desperate to drill the notion into my head that these two characters are just like the rest of us that it gets insanely annoying. And I am sure that a huge part of the annoyance is because of the “inspired by Simon Kinberg’s original characters” aspect of the series.
Regardless of its flaws, Mr. & Mrs. Smith (the movie) understood that spies or secret agents shouldn’t be relatable, even if they live in the suburbs. They should be so good at their jobs that even if they run out of plans, they’ll come up with a plan. We shouldn’t empathize with them because they are killers with really violent pasts. When they get injured, their bruises should be aesthetically pleasing. When they take part in an action sequence, they should defy the laws of physics and logic. In addition to all that, it’s obvious that Kinberg and Liman heavily played into the real-life charisma and romance between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. What is happening in Prime Video’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith though? Well, basically, it’s your average, run-of-the-mill soap opera with some mild action. The characters endlessly talk about their insecurities and traumas, with the dialogues either sounding like they’ve been improvised on the spot or like one of those unnecessarily dark and serious SNL parodies. They bicker until you start feeling like you have been invited to a family dinner, and you are being forced to endure their toxic drama. And, most importantly, they never feel cool.
In my honest opinion, there are way too many shows and movies about “realistic” spies or assassins. Do Mr. & Mrs. Smith have anything new to offer? No, absolutely not. How does it justify its existence? I don’t know. It seems like the creators of the show saw all the criticism leveled against the 2005 film and came to the conclusion that it had too much action and not enough drama and focused way too much on the drama and didn’t give a damn about the action. Hiro Murai, Amy Seimetz, Karena Evans, Glover, and Christian Sprenger have proven in the past that they’re more than capable when it comes to balancing high-octane visuals with gut-wrenching storytelling. But, for some inexplicable reason, their deft artistic touch is completely missing here. Neither the car chases nor the hand-to-hand fights have any flair or ambition. The editing has sucked the tension and comprehensibility out of it. Each episode overstays its welcome. The 50-minute-per-episode running time is criminal. Didn’t anyone on the team know that they are remaking or reenvisioning a mid-budget, schlocky action flick, and hence, they don’t need to lodge themselves in the oversaturated prestige television slot? Where’s the fun? Where’s the whimsy? Where’s the romance? Where are the stakes? Why should I care about these characters? Why is this so goddamn boring?!
Apologies for the minor outburst, but my frustration actually comes from a place of genuine anticipation. I mean, just look at the cast. Donald Glover is one of the most talented artists in existence. Maya Erskine recently took the world by storm by becoming the voice of Mizu in Blue Eye Samurai. Parker Posey is fantastic. Wagner Moura is amazing. Michaela Coel is a star. John Torturro and Ron Perlman are legends. Everyone is in love with Paul Dano. Sarah Paulson is an icon in the horror genre. Úrsula Corberó is known worldwide for her star-making performance in Money Heist. The way Sharon Horgan keeps getting better and better with each role she takes on is astounding. In addition to all that, there’s Billy “The Rocketeer” Campbell. But in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, they are either forgettable or insufferable. From the presentation to the abrupt nature of their character arcs, it seems like the creators of the show want me to have no recollection of watching it in the first place. Or maybe this is a very long-winded way of making the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt movie look cooler than it has any right to be. Well, either way, they have succeeded.
I think it’s clear by now that Hollywood, or any entertainment industry for that matter, should put a stop to remakes if the creator in question doesn’t intend to improve upon the original. Now, we must start a campaign to end the barrage of web series based on wafer-thin plots. If a story doesn’t have way too much meat on its bones, it doesn’t need to be an eight-hour-long ordeal. I understand the business model of streaming and how producers are tasked with keeping people on an OTT platform for the longest amount of time. But that’s clearly leading to the creation of subpar products. And once the ratio of bad shows to good shows becomes skewed and the brand name becomes rotten, nobody is going to gravitate toward that streamer. Mr. & Mrs. Smith isn’t the first symptom of this disease, and it won’t be the last. There will be more (some of which are already in the pipeline), and by the time producers and marketing experts realize the extent of the damage, while they are scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel, it’ll be too late. Anyway, we’ll always have the originals to give us a good time.