After Earth Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 31, 2013
PLOT: After their spaceship crashes on the uninhabitable planet of Earth, a son (Jaden Smith) must venture across the quarantined land while using his father (Will Smith) only as a guide.
WHO'S IT FOR? This dinky thing is for fans of Will Smith who will see anything that he stars in. And to quote Katherine Hahn in Anchorman, I mean, "A-ny-thing."
EXPECTATIONS: Even with a movie from M. Night Shyamalan, there is always a potential for a pleasant surprise. Would this movie, also from a Scientologist about the decay of Earth, be able to top the sampling screenplay of Tom Cruise's Oblivion?
Will Smith as Cypher Raige: After Earth is engineered so that W. Smith himself has to do the least amount of acting possible, while still maintaining godlike importance. While his eyes seem to be permanently ready to overflow despite his calm brassy voice, Smith's interpretation of showing a soldier without fear is that of a blank face. Chewing on this expression throughout the movie, he provides no intrigue for his audience to dive deeper and see what complicated emotions may be underneath. Score: 3
Jaden Smith as Kitai Raige: W. Smith's son's presence is of no help to After Earth, with J. Smith's presence a type of finisher on whatever shred of charisma this entire film had left. Failing to plant a likable character from his beginning as a young whippersnapper wanting to be a great soldier, J. Smith has to drag his bored audience through territory he is not fit for, with atmosphere he is not able to color. The young actor takes his own dive into emotional daring, with a tear-filled scene that becomes a weird balance of poignantly bratty, but also over-the-top desperation. Score: 4
TALKING: For a film is set in the future, the film's introduction to its science fiction elements becomes a bunch of tech mush, with goofy names of characters, creatures, and technology falling on bored ears. After Earth fails to plant a mythology that audiences can at least try to get into. The one spark of creativity that After Earth has can be found in a speech in which Cypher tells his son about fear, noting that such a feeling is only a thought about the future, and not the present. Sarcasm aside, I've never thought about fear in this regard. Score: 3
SIGHTS: Director Shyamalan's enviro-guilt is expressed only in the beginning of the movie, with random stock footage of menacing factories piping smoke into the skies, etc. While they may not prevent the movie from being incredibly boring, the spare amount of creatures featured in the film are notably well-animated. The same believability can't be shared for the film's sci-fi sets, which are shown too flatly to even trick an audience into thinking they could be real. And if you have any interest in seeing this in IMAX, don't. Watching J. Smith scurry from CG baboons is not worth it. Score: 3
SOUNDS: Moments of tension receive a noticeable boost of any sense of thrill from James Newton Howard's score for the film, which proves to be the only type of aesthetic that can cause anticipation in this movie. And while After Earth features a pivotal aircraft crash sequence, such a scene can hardly compare to the audibly involving experience that we felt in last year's The Grey, or Flight. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: Cypher's speech about the science of fear was the one moment in which After Earth gained my interest.
ENDING: Apparently this film wants to lead into a franchise? I have no idea what the sequel would be about.
QUESTIONS: If the vials are so important, why are the all put together in such janky compartment? Seems like damaging these jelly things is easily avoidable if some engineer wasn't a lazy asshole. And did I read IMDb trivia correctly in their posit that this movie was literally about a modern day camping trip? Would that set-up have been any better than this one? What's with the After Earth trailer featuring two action scenes that are missing from the final product?
REWATCHABILITY: No thanks.
The only profundity that the egotistical trio of Smiths & Shyamalan have achieved with this futuristic father and son camping trip gone wrong is that of profound boredom. Sure there have been some bad movies recently in theaters, but none have achieved the level of staggering emptiness like After Earth. With desires to be deep while simultaneously hardly lifting a finger, this is a franchise wannabe that feels committed to sucking out even the pandering joys it could have had, opting to show Will Smith Jr. scurrying from baboons as top notch thrilling entertainment.
What makes this movie even worse is that its boredom is such a strong force in this movie - After Earth can't even be laughed at. At least Shyamalan's earlier disaster The Happening made for a gay old time giggling at a dumb script, but here, the nuttiness of this bad film is entirely sobering. As he often does, Shyamalan takes himself too seriously, and the Smiths turn out to be an even uglier ingredient to a filmmaker already in need of help. Together, they create this toxic piece of nepotism, a pursuit of crappyness that solely breathes on the element of pretentiousness.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10