‘After Earth’: Hollywood, we have a problem
Rating: 1 star out of 5
The year is 2025. Humanity has abandoned Earth after the planet has gone to sh*ts, no thanks to us. We will relocate to a planet far, far away called Nova Prime. Meanwhile, Earth's creatures continue to evolve without the presence humans. Yep, we pretty much got evicted from our own planet.
In the year 3000, a wise general of a peacekeeping force known as the Ranger Corps, Cypher Raige (Will Smith) goes on a routine training mission to relocate a dangerous species known as the Ursa. In a bid to appease his wife Faia, he brings along his son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), a young and reckless cadet with whom he shares a frosty relationship with.
Unfortunately, the ship gets damaged in an asteroid field and lands on what is now Earth, killing everyone except for father and son. Cypher, now seriously injured, has to depend on Kitai to retrieve an emergency beacon to signal for help, all while watching his son evade the dangerous evolved life-forms of the planet and the escaped Ursa.
Sounds good, right? Unfortunately for ‘After Earth’, nothing in it is executed in the right way to bring forth the treatment it truly deserves. ‘After Earth’ is a muddled, plodding mess of a project and is now looking like a colossal mistake that will surely end Will Smith's epic run of box office records in the summer blockbuster season.
The film, produced from the ground up by Smith himself and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, has a wide array of problems that are not just limited to the fact that the movie seems like a desperate attempt by Smith to give his son's career a larger push.
Before we start coming off like a pessimist, let's count the number of good things in the movie; the cinematography looks great, shot and projected in cutting edge 4K technology (ultra HD for non-movie geeks). The landscapes and environments really stand out with amazing detail and in turn, the action sequences pop off the screen with the appropriate amount of kinetic energy, giving the film a few much needed moments of excitement.
However, things take a turn for the worse at this point. As for the rest of the movie, nothing can redeem it: the pace is glacial, the dialogue inane and worst of all, preachy and not entertaining at all. The film goes for the jugular, aiming for an ‘Avatar’ like sci-fi epic feel but fails miserably in various aspects. The designs of the futuristic elements and creatures are forgettable and generic. Even the effects look cheap at some parts, especially a particular asteroid field that looks like something a first-year animation student would have made. The result feels like a super clichéd 100 million dollar B movie laden with effects that don't exactly work.
A big problem with the movie is the inherent nature of its narrative. Because Cypher is separated from Kitai for most of the movie, there is hardly any interaction between the father/son acting duo... which kind of goes against the entire strained father/son pathos the filmmakers were trying so hard to instil. The action gets a little predictable, at one point, we figured that all Jaden Smith does in the movie is either run or lie down in pain.
To compound matters, Jaden Smith isn't exactly a commanding presence on screen either. The kid is multi-talented but acting isn't his strongest suit. He lacks the charisma that many lead actors, like his father; possess to effectively command the screen on his own. He's not entirely terrible... limited would be a better word for now.
Burdened with his lack of skills and a cheesy script, it's not surprising that his performance is overwhelmingly mediocre. All this, coupled with themes that eerily echoes Scientology, turn the movie into more of a sermon than a movie -- the film’s tagline is “Danger is very real. But fear is a choice”. And let's not forget to mention that Jaden's old man did not turn on the his trademark charms in this movie. Instead of his distinctive charisma and comedy, Will Smith barely emotes in this movie and does a bad impression of Tommy Lee Jones in military general-mode.
Even director M. Night Shyamalan doesn't seem to be able to give the movie much of a lift. There's nothing here that even remotely resembles any of his signature cinematic traits, though that could have been a good thing, given his reliance of twists-and-gimmicks-filled storytelling in the past.
Basically, what the producers of the movie (we’re looking at you, Will Smith) have done is to put talent in places and roles where they aren't able to excel at all, wasting what they could have contributed to the project by doing the exact opposite of what these people are the very best at.
The terrible lack of depth in the script doesn't help either; audiences were constantly guffawing at the laughable dialogue and its goofy attempts at sentimentality.
To sum it all up, ‘After Earth’ is a dull, slow and painful sci-fi flick and could very well be the final stake in the heart for what was not so long ago a sky rocketing career for director M. Night Shyamalan.