Don’t get your hopes up. Wait, no one has their hopes up.
Here’s the thing about After Earth. It would have been a perfect movie if it starred someone like Jason Statham or his ilk in a simple story of a human stranded on a planet with a ruthless monsters. Gary Whitta’s concept is strong as a proudly B movie, but with Will Smith pulling all of his charm out of his body as an injured father watching his son brave a hostile planet it’s simply too slight for this time of year with this much riding on it.
After Earth plays as a Teen Lit story shot under the auspices of an event film.
Earth was attacked. By aliens. Not aliens that got their ass kicked by water but aliens with an agenda and fear-sniffing marauder beasts. As a result humanity took to the stars and built a handsome future for themselves. The Rangers are the best and brightest soldiers the race has to offer and Will Smith’s the best and brightest of the bunch. After losing his hot daughter [the progeny of repetitious wannabe Lenny Kravitz and the delightful Lisa Bonet] to one of the murderous creatures he brings his son on a mission to transport one of the creatures. The intent is to rekindle their fractured relationship but things go bad and their ship experiences an asteroid field and somehow they are the only two survivors. Convenient. The setup reeks of a high concept wrung free of all subtlety and matters are made worse when the young disgraced son is forced to go find the rescue beacon all by himself as his father tends to two broken legs.
The tech of After Earth is often pretty interesting with its swords that change shape and drones and wrist communicators. The breezy designs of humanity’s adopted homeworld are beautiful. It’s not a bad looking film. The lack of projectile weapons is surprising regardless of the reasoning because it forces an intimacy to all of the combat in the film. It’s indicative of M. Night Shyamalan’s films because they all exist in a very tight vacuum. It’s the only way his concepts work and while this isn’t Shyamalan’s concept his fingerprints are quite present.
What initially seemed like a rather epic concept is quite simply a story of a father and his son. Except there’s no emotional payoff. Will Smith exists in a bizarre monotone headspace throughout and his son simply doesn’t have the dramatic ability to carry the film in his presence. Worse yet, in lieu of one of the director’s famed twists there’s a rushed cop-out ending that robs the film of any possible goodwill it may have accrued. Once the adventure element kicks in the younger Smith encounters a host of local flora and fauna before confronting the escaped monster, a creature that evokes the villains of Relic and The Host.
It’s not a bad movie but it’s a slight one that owes a lot more to Predator than it does 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not that it’s a bad thing but with some very dated and never wholly believable CGI and the Teen Lit approach to the science fiction the resulting film just doesn’t have the wattage to compete.
There are lot of people sniping this film and adopting seriously negative preconception about After Earth but the end result isn’t really worthy of praise or scorn. It’s just a minor film.
Is this the end of M. Night Shayamalan?
No. He actually benefits from not being front and center in the marketing for the film. He doesn’t do a horrible job but the real key to his future depends on his ability to let someone else write and to find good partners in terms of blocking and the execution of action. He’s a good shooter, so it becomes an ego issue. Ooops. Ego isn’t exactly something Mr. Shyamalan has been able to keep in check.
Is this the end of Jaden Smith?
No. He’s going to grow into a good looking, physically adept actor with huge power and nepotism behind him. He’s not going anywhere. He’s not a horrible actor but those two facial expressions aren’t going to do much for him.
Is this the end of Will Smith?
No, but take away his charm and he’s just another puppet. He has to ride his considerable personality and wattage like Kelly Slater or it’s curtains for him.
Is this the end of Sophie Okenado?
I hope not because she’s awesome. She has like five minutes of screen time here, which is dogshit.
Tell me about the twist, Nick!
I wish there was a goddamn twist. I will there was a goddamn SOMETHING.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Nick On… Is my new ongoing movie review column. The goal is to distill things a little and make it a little more playful and easier to digest rather than the long form. Hope you like. Please let me know what you think as there will be many of these coming and the goal always is to improve. Please share and whatnot.
After Earth (2013)
After a crash landing, a father and son explore a planet that was evacuated by humans 1,000 years earlier.
- 06.07.2013 (USA)
- M. Night Shyamalan
- Stephen Gaghan
- M. Night Shyamalan
- Will Smith
- Isabelle Fuhrman
- Jaden Smith
- Zoë Kravitz
- Sophie Okonedo
- Watch or buy now