After Earth, 2013.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Isabelle Fuhrmann, Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Kravitz, David Denman, and Kristofer Hivju.
A crash landing leaves Kitai Raige and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after events forced humanity’s escape. With Cypher injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help.
Not too long ago director M. Night Shyamalan was considered one of the best up and coming directors. He made a very chilling film with The Sixth Sense, managed to keep up the quality with his second film Unbreakable, then did a nice job exploring sci-fi genre with Signs. Ever since then his films have consistently gotten worse and worse. With the exception of Devil, which he wrote and I thought was decent, everything from The Village to The Last Airbender has been completely awful. Now he’s teaming up with Will Smith, one of the most charismatic actors around, and hoping to get back on the right track.
A thousand years into the future after Earth was attacked by creatures from a different planet, humans now settle on a different planet called Nova Prime. General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) has returned home from a long tour of duty to hopefully bond with his estranged family including his son Kitai (Jaden Smith). Cypher takes his son with him on a mission to get in some quality time and try to bond with him. Their ship runs into an asteroid storm and crash lands on Earth leaving only Cypher and Kitai as survivors. With Cypher injured Kitai must find the tail end of the ship, which broke off during the crash, to retrieve a rescue beacon that will help them get home or else they will die.
The first twenty minutes of this film are pretty awful. I’m just going to go ahead and put that out there. Shyamalan tries to set up all these details about the future but ultimately it’s useless because the film doesn’t use any of that once the story becomes about a father and son trying to survive. Once they crash land on Earth, the film does start to pick up and actually get better, but the only problem here is that Jaden takes over for ninety percent of the film, leaving Will on the sidelines to narrate. This would have been fine if Jaden were a competent actor, but he still hasn’t reached that level of skill quite yet.
Will on the other hand gives one of his more restrained performances, almost devoid of any emotion whatsoever. His performance is fine but it would have helped somewhat had he put a little more into it. This only further proves that Shyamalan just doesn’t know how to direct his actors very well. Aside from Will and Jaden there aren’t too many other characters here. A few pop up every now and again but this is truly Will and Jaden’s film, and especially Jaden.
For a science fiction film, After Earth is pretty straight forward which is both good and bad. It’s good that the story doesn’t get overly complicated or convoluted but it also could have used a little more to it. In the end the story feels too hollow and seems like it’s missing something. There is a subplot that involves flashbacks to when Kitai is younger, but it always feels awkward when a flashback comes in and even though they do tie in with the end of the film it really felt like that part of the story could have been taken out.
All of the set pieces here are quite nice and most of the special effects work, although there are times where they look a little too cartoony. The pace works to the film’s advantage though; running only about an hour and forty minutes, the films moves along smoothly but it does drag a couple of times here and there. This is being advertised as a big summer action movie but there really isn’t a whole lot of action throughout. There are a few entertaining action sequences but there’s just not enough of them to sustain the excitement for the entire film.
After Earth does provide a few good scenes and another solid performance from Will Smith. It would have helped if Jaden’s performance was better and Shyamalan was able to put together a stronger story and get some better performances out of his actors. Overall, it’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not good either.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★