Movies like this are why Hollywood is afraid of Science Fiction. The danger of bad science fiction is real. It is an expensive investment, when it goes wrong you never recoup your money and this generates fear in executives. Hollywood has tried this market over the years, some better than others for what you get. Many are box office flops (Waterworld, John Carter, Battlefield Earth) and unfortunately only very few succeed that don’t have the word Star in their title (Avatar, Rise of the Planet of the Apes).
M Night Shyamalan directs and writes once more with all the subtleness of an anvil and free fall. In a show of gross incompetence he has written a part for Will Smith, one of the most charismatic men on the planet, and made him stoic and dull. MNS doesn’t deserve all the blame, Smith produced it and in his ever growing production nepotism has cast his son as…surprise his son. Next I hear he has considered casting his daughter Willow as little orphan Annie in the musical remake – no. I am not joking.
SO what do we have here with After Earth? It’s a coming of Age story mixed with a Pursuit of Happiness desperation of father and son bonding through impossible odds. Jaden plays Kitai Raige (Rage..) while his erstwhile father players General Cypher Raige (seriously, these are the names. When their ship crash lands on an earth that has been untouched by humans for over 1000 years Kitai must travel to the tail section of the ship to send a signal flare with his injured father watching over him from the other half of the wreckage.
Thats it. Thats the story. Nothing more to it. There are elements that happen in the movie, dangers and threats abound but none of it seems interesting. In fact a few times its even ludicrous. There’s MNS heavy handed metaphor for environmentalism perhaps he thought since the Happening failed so spectacularly he could try again in actual sci fi? He was wrong.
Really, I cannot think of one positive thing to say about this film other than – it ends. It does have an ending. Thats it. Thats the best I can come up with. M Night needs to stop making films and go back to film school. The Sixth Sense is a beginners luck fluke in his career that has careened down hill like a runaway truck in the Rockies. I still have not forgiven him for the abomination that was The Last Airbender. With that in mind, I consider the acting and emotional range he brings out of his actors, which is to say he dulls them to the point of being boring. Every single film I think of his, every last one the characters are monotone, emotionless dolls with only the barest emotion. The only exception is Samuel L Jackson in Unbreakable and that may be because Sammy cannot be subdued – like ever.
So for the TL;DR –
AVOID THIS FILM. AFTER EARTH NEEDS TO BE AN AFTER THOUGHT!
If you want Sci Fi – Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim is coming.
If you want Sci Fi – Neill Blomkamp’s (District 9) not so subtle classism film Elysium is coming
For the love of all that is celluloid, do not see After Earth. – How the hell do you make Will Smith uncharismatic?! Really. I needed an escape pod from this film. To paraphrase an awesome critic, I watched it so you don’t have to.