This film is not recommended.
Father doesn't always know best, the latest result being After Earth, a
vanity project that Will Smith has concocted for his son, Jaden. This
wobbly sci-fi tale of survival will certainly test both Mr. and Mr.
Smith's star power. Director M. Night Shyamalan, the man who
continually keeps falling from grace, one film after the next, is still
tumbling further from his talented beginnings, although here the
director crashes and burns.
This is not to say that After Earth is hopelessly cliched, it's just
hopeless. Shymalan's well- made film has some striking imagery, mostly
of panoramic vistas, but his ill-conceived screenplay (co-written with
Gary Whitta) keeps this exercise in filmmaking rather earthbound.
Adding to that, his main star and one of the film's producers, Papa
Smith, pushes nepotism to its limits with this unoriginal dreck. (He is
also given story credit for this silliness.) It's not just that this
film has no Will power, it just has too much of it, both on screen and
Will Smith plays the fearless Cypher Raige, a no-nonsense military
commando sent on a mission with his newt of a son, Kitai, played by
Jaden Smith. Cypher is disappointed with his son's lack of achievement
as a cadet and their relationship is a bit strained, just like the
acting. The Smiths obviously look the part and act the part with the
same stilted delivery. Like father, like son. Unfortunately (for us),
they crash land on the apocalyptic Planet Earth. Cypher is injured with
two broken legs, but pain is not an option. However a better script
would have helped matters. Kitai must now go into rescue mode, wearing
his amazing technicolor space suit, fighting beasts and creatures along
the way to becoming a man.
On his journey of self-awareness, Kitai contends with imminent peril:
giant baboons, poisonous leeches, carnivorous tigers, and such. He
needs to deal with the fluctuating below-freezing temperatures and an
active volcano too. Life is hard. Kitai even battles a monster called
the Ursa, a predator that hunts by sensing fear. (If the creature could
instead sense the smorgasbord of bad acting on its plate, the Ursa
would never go hungry again.) The elder Smith underacts and speaks in
annoying solemn platitudes while the younger Smith overacts in a
squeaky nasal voice that only a teenager can tolerate.
The art direction is mind-numbing. The futuristic sets are bargain
basement knockoffs of Disney World's Tomorrowland, circa 1960...very
unimaginative with an overabundance of Rubbermaid-influenced interiors
and enough flowing linen sheets to make one think that Bed, Bath, and
Beyond had given the filmmakers a cut-rate deal for some product
endorsements. All of the special effects are barely adequate and not
the least bit compelling. After Earth has a strange lethargic
listlessness throughout its short length. The film never builds any
real tension or suspense. It's just so dull and unrelenting in its
After Earth is the type of film that gives the sci-fi genre a bad name.
Shyamalan and the Smiths might want to use other aliases after creating
this debacle. Let's hope they refine their own survival skills when
making another film. After Earth is strictly Ursa Minor.
So dear moviegoers, heed the film's tag-line: "Danger is real, Fear is
a choice". You have been sufficiently warned about the real dangers in
viewing After Earth...Fear not, it's still in your control. GRADE: C-