The Apple TV + original film filled with controversy starring the reigning Best Actor Oscar winner arrived last week to the streaming service.

Controversy because this is the first film starring Will Smith since his slap of Chris Rock at the Oscar ceremony earlier this year. Add that to the fact that this is a runaway slave story based on a true story and there is a lot here to question.

There had been a push by several black actors to not be involved in more slavery films. While it is a vital story to tell, constantly placing black actors in this situation was painting them into a corner. So when, of all people, Will Smith set up another slave film, there were some people talking.

But the most important part is whether or not the film is any good. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, Emancipation was a beautifully shot film, in a wonderful black and white, with a strong performance from Will Smith. Unfortunately, the film drags a lot and the characterization was lacking.

Our main character, Peter, has little to him. He was very religious and was clearly full of grit and determination. Outside of those traits, we learn very little about him. Everyone pursuing him was the stereotypical slave owners that you see in these types of films. The lead one was played by Ben Foster in a waste of such a talented actor. His character Jim Fassel had one scene where it seemed as if they were trying to give him more layers, but it was not successful.

There was an alligator fight. Where did that come from? Peter showed himself to be one of the most determined and uncommon men, battling to get back to his family. He had all kinds of damage to himself and, as a classic action hero, he fought his way through the pain and wounds that would kill any normal man. That makes this fairly difficult to relate with.

Emancipation was a mixed bag of a film. It had moments that were okay, but for a 2+ hour film, you would think that they could have developed characters more than they did. The three acts each seemed to have their own arc and they did not really fit together well.

2.6 stars

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