Release date: 13th June 2013
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okenedo
Review by Peter Gray
I’ll say from the get-go that ‘After Earth’ was not a film I responded positively to so the following words won’t be in favour of M. Night Shyamalan’s latest cinematic disaster, but to give credit where it’s due I can at least say that this isn’t as awful as ‘The Last Airbender’ and perhaps not as unintentionally hilarious as ‘The Happening’. That’s about where the praise ends though as ‘After Earth’ does little to restore our faith in the once promising director (hard to believe this guy gave us ‘The Sixth Sense’) as it bogs itself down with mind-numbing mediocrity.
It isn’t solely Shyamalan’s fault though as Will Smith has firmly laid his stamp on the production, conceiving the story with brother-in-law Caleeb Pinkett and producing the film as well as lining up starring roles for himself and son Jaden Smith, in a bid to no doubt propel the youngster to stardom, something that seemed like a possibility following the success he saw in the reboot ‘The Karate Kid’. It was only a matter of time before he got his own action film but he’s been made into a movie star through his dad’s own mega stardom as opposed to earning it, so as much promise as he may have showed in ‘The Karate Kid’ it’s a clear case of misguided praise as the little Smith isn’t a strong enough actor to carry his own film.
Having said that even if Jaden Smith was a strong actor (and I assure you he isn’t – look no further than his ‘I’m not a coward’ speech atop a mountain), ‘After Earth’ still wouldn’t be worth the watch as the story provides little cause for excitement. Set in a future where mankind has had to abandon Earth and start anew on a planet known as Nova Prime, the great warrior Cypher Raige (Will Smith) has returned from his latest line of duty, and in a bid to reconnect with his son Kitai (Jaden Smith) brings him along on a routine training mission that unfortunately maroons them on Earth following their flights interference with an asteroid shower. With Cypher’s legs both broken it’s up to Kitai to search for a beacon that will signal their presence, but naturally the perils Earth presents stand in his way. That actually sounds far more entertaining than it is as the plot feels like something lifted directly out of a video game, with the film borrowing game play mentality as Cypher navigates Kitai through a series of obstacles complete with heavily CGI-laden creatures for good measure – he even has to recharge every so often with oxygen capsules.
The films main source of “drama” is derived from whether or not Kitai will be able to ‘ghost’, meaning to appear invisible to alien life forms by stopping the secretion of fear pheromones we apparently exude when in a life or death situation. Whilst I can see it as being a valid idea in theory, on screen it doesn’t quite register, at least not in a film that’s unsure if it wants to dumb down for a young audience or appear as an intense action film for older crowds. On both levels it fails as the action is too plain to get kids invested and all the talk about fear being a choice just comes off as too dull for smarter audiences to enjoy.
With the CGI appearing terribly obvious, a downside to the film being shot in the new ultra high-def. 4K format, and both Smith’s delivering insufferable performances complete with unnecessary accent eccentricities, ‘After Earth’ is quite possibly the final nail in Shyamalan’s coffin. Joyless and void of any substance, this vapid vanity project will hopefully inspire Will Smith to start caring about his career again and Jaden Smith to stop.
My rating 1.5/5 (The fresh prince has expired)