Lost in Translation 460: Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2024)

The different visual media have advantages and disadvantages, discussed in a number of entries over the run of Lost in Translation. Film, especially blockbusters, tends to have the bigger budgets and access to actors who will pull in an audience. The flipside is that film only has anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours to get the story told. Television has smaller budgets, but major expenses that appear through the series can be spread over the cost of the episodes. Episodes are also shorter in length compared to film, 22.5 to 45 minutes allowing for ads. TV series that do well in the ratings can charge more for advertising, which leads to larger budgets even after the network takes its cut. However, the episodic nature of TV means that viewers need to keep up with the show, but time-shifting technologies are making this easier. Networks may demand a specific number, whether 16 or 22 episodes, allowing for reruns, and the story may get stretched or filler episodes get added. Streaming can get a full story in a run that the story needs, but may have a lower budget than television series. Streaming allows for binge watching, though not all streamers dump the entire series out for viewing at once. Both television and streaming allow the audience to get closer to the characters; there’s more time for character moments than in film, but film gets to the point quicker.

To demonstrate the differences, let’s look at Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The movie, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, came out in 2005. The story focused on the titular characters, John and Jane Smith, suburbanites having marital issues due to poor communications. It turns out that John and Jane are assassins but are unaware of each other’s career. They discover the secret on the job when they interfere with each other. Their employers then tell them to kill their spouse, leading to a running battle where they finally talk to each other openly and them rediscovering their passion for each other. Their employers send assassins after them but the Smiths work together to hold them off. The film is bookended with a visit to a marriage counsellor, the first time to get help for their marriage and the second to report that their marriage is thriving.

The movie is a good action movie, but the main conflict isn’t between the Smiths and their employers but between John and Jane. There is chemistry between Pitt and Jolie, and that chemistry drives the film. Mr. & Mrs. Smith is essentially an action-romance; the key conflict being whether John and Jane can save their marriage or wind up killing each other.

Given that a generation is roughly 20-30 years, it should be no surprise that Mr. & Mrs. Smith was remade. Amazon Studios released the remake with the same title for streaming February 2024. The eight episode series stars Donald Glover as John Smith and Maya Erskine as Jane Smith. Glover also served as one of the executive producers and co-wrote the first and last episodes. The series is loosely based on the film, and acknowledges by having the credit, “Inspired by the film Mr. & Mrs. Smith by Simon Kinberg.” With that out of the way, what does the series keep?

The series does change the idea that John and Jane are unaware of each other’s career. The Agency, represented by “Hihi” who opens text messages with that phrase, recruits them both and places them together as a team, complete with wedding to make them a couple. As the series progresses, John and Jane take on a number of missions, though their success rate is not good. Hihi and the Agency warns about failing three missions. Their second mission is counted as a failure, caused by the Smith’s inability to communicate with each other.

While the Smith’s do love each other, having grown closer over their missions, they still have issues, leading to seeing a marriage counsellor. The counsellor suggests working separately, though she believes John and Jane work in computer programming, not espionage and assassination. They try, but their core issue, their inability to communicate, just keeps causing problems.

Ultimately, the Smiths get their third failed mission. Each of them get orders from Hihi to kill the other, leading to a running gun fight in their New York residence. During the fight, John tries to call a truce to talk. Jane is eventually forced into stopping and with the help of leftover truth serum from the first failed mission, the Smiths finally talk through their issues. The revelations are put on hold as another John and Jane Smith arrive to finish the Smiths’ last instructions. Working together, the Smiths hold off the other John and Jane, but with just one bullet left, their survival is uncertain.

The big change from the movie is not just that John and Jane know each other, they’re working together from the start, and they aren’t the only John and Jane Smith. The Agency has a number of Smith teams working on high risk and super high risk missions. If the series was meant to tie in with the original movie, it could be said that the set up is the Agency learning from the events of the film and creating multiple Smith teams to work together. There is no indication in the series that it is a follow up to the film, though.

The series does hit many key beats from the movie. John and Jane can’t communicate with each other. They visit a marriage counsellor. The Agency turns on them. John and Jane take “domestic violence” to extreme levels before realizing that they do need each other. The series takes advantage of the longer form to set up the core conflict, showing how the couple is having problems in their marriage and how it affects their work. The result is that the audience isn’t relying just on chemistry and theatrical shorthand; the series delves into the relationship, changing the focus from action to the characters. That’s not to say there isn’t action, but the scenes are icing on the relationship cake.

Amazon’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith takes concepts from the original movie, then heads off in its own directions. The connection beyond just the title are there; the counselling, the infighting, the Agency turning on John and Jane. The order is somewhat shuffled. Ultimately, the series, like the movie, is about the title characters, using the runtime of the series to explore ideas just touched upon in the film.

This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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