Josh and Violet give their spoiler-free movie reviews of After Earth, the sci-fi film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith. See what they each thought of After Earth after the jump!
M. Night Shyamalan, how could you spiral so far from greatness with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable? How is there still room to fall further? Unfortunately, this movie review of After Earth is not going to be pleasant for either Will Smith or M. Night Shyamalan. For those unaware , the Sci-Fi futuristic movie After Earth was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (although Will Smith had his hand in writing the story as well). It is curious how no advertisements marketed Shyamalan as a part of the movie, putting an exclamation point on his lackluster career since The Sixth Sense.
After Earth is a post-apocalyptic film, where an alien race has bred animals to hunt humans, to the point where humanity has had to flee Earth, and survive on another planet. Sounds interesting up until this point. You then attach a big name like Will Smith, and it would seem to be a surefire hit. I can’t think of the last time there was a Will Smith movie I completely hated, and wish did not exist.
The movie begins by following Kitai, played by Jaden Smith, Will Smith’s son who starred in The Karate Kid remake with Jackie Chan. He is the son of Will Smith’s character Cypher, and is a teenager in a futuristic military training program that is meant to join the “Rangers”. The Rangers are the defending force against these animals bred to hunt down humanity. So how are these animals bred to hunt humanity? What special abilities do these monsters have? They were created to smell the pheromones given off by humans that are experiencing fear.
While this sounds immensely terrifying at first thought, this concept doesn’t not work for me at all. We learn that these animals are also blind. While I would understand the first people seeing these creatures would be terrified, and therefore killed, once humanity learned their “sight” is based on fear, one would simply just not be afraid anymore. In fact, a monstrous animal that CAN see and smell humans would be much more terrifying as there would be no way to hide from them! This gimmick ability for the creatures was simply set up for the “climax” of the film, but I digress.
The story progresses and we learn that Kitai is not quite living up to his father’s potential. His father is an almost mythical war hero that saved humanity from extinction. He has honed the ability to not fear, and single handedly destroyed much of the predators hunting humanity. However, he has been away from his family for extended periods of time, and therefore is more of a soldier than he is a father, and treats his son as more of a soldier. Eventually Jaden has his final exam for joining the Rangers, but he does not make the cut, disappointing his father. This leads to heartfelt discussions between Cypher’s wife, and eventually he decides to take his son with him on his next mission, in order to have a bonding experience.
Unfortunately things do not go as planned on the ship, and fearlessly, Cypher tries to save the ship, but it is too badly damaged. The pilots find the nearest land-able planet, which happens to be Earth. In the crash landing, everyone has died with the exception of Kitai and his father, but Cypher is severely injured, with two broken legs. This forces Kitai to “man up” and have to go for the rescue beacon that fell several miles away. The story proceeds with Will Smith attempting to stay alive in the remains of the ship while Jaden attempts to venture through the now overgrown jungle of Earth. While I would not recommend this movie to watch unless you would like to be sorely disappointed, I will leave the ending alone, as to not provide too many spoilers.
Now for the meat of the review. Unfortunately, perhaps due to my high expectations of this film, I was sorely disappointed in the film from the get-go. As previously explained, the “gimmick” of the movie was poorly thought up, and served very little purpose to the movie, and in my opinion, severely hurt its credibility. As for Will Smith, and his fearless gimmick, not only did this not work, but he is hardly in the movie to begin with, spending his time injured in the wreckage of the spacecraft, occasionally providing information to his son. It is a stretch to even say that he starred in the film! This movie was clearly meant to be a father-son emotional drama, but unfortunately Will Smith’s robotic emotions (clearly forced, due to the storyline) combined with the not-so-great acting of Jaden Smith provide a lackluster experience.
Unfortunately, I cannot even give the visual effects of this movie a break, as the CGI in this filmed felt like it was from the early 2000s. The animals are seem fake, and more out of a video game than that of a high budget film.
Overall I give this film a 5 out of 10. I really felt this movie was Will Smith’s attempt to put his son in the lime light, attempting to use his own fame to bolster his son’s career. Unfortunately I think this as more detrimental to Will Smith than it helped Jaden. As for M. Night Shyamalan, I have a feeling he was hoping this film would turn his career around. Ironically enough, I think a twist may have made this film better than it was. Overall, I was very displeased with how this film turned out, and hope that Will Smith can make a better decision in the next movie he is in.
When I first heard about the film After Earth, I was intrigued and kind of excited. I mean, Will Smith in another sci-fi movie, it has to be good, right? Then I found out M. Night Shyamalan was the director, which made me not so thrilled, considering that the last movie of his that I had seen, The Happening, was pretty horrible, despite the star quality involved. By the time I saw After Earth, knowing that its Rotten Tomatoes score was 12%, my expectations were significantly lowered. But, being both huge sci-fi fans and huge Will Smith fans, we decided to see the movie anyway, and find out if the critics were wrong on this one.
After Earth was actually an original story idea by Will Smith, who got the idea from an episode of I Shouldn’t Be Alive, where a father and son are in a car accident and the son has to go for help – except Smith then altered the story so that it was set 1000 years in the future after Earth has been abandoned by humans. The screenplay was then co-written by Gary Whitta, who wrote Book of Eli, and M. Night Shyamalan.
The movie starts off with some background story about how humans were forced to find a new home due to Earth becoming overrun by alien creatures called Ursas, and they now live on Nova Prime. The Ursas can sense fear by the pheromones that humans give off. Will Smith plays Cypher, a Ranger, who is able to defeat Ursas by using a technique called “ghosting” wherein he makes himself devoid of fear, thereby becoming invisible to the Ursas. Cypher’s teenage son, Kitai, played by Will Smith’s real life son Jaden Smith, is a Ranger in training, and has not seen his father in a long time. When Cypher returns, it is decided that Kitai will accompany him on his last space mission before he retires.
Unfortunately, they hit an asteroid storm and crash land on Earth, where everything has evolved to kill humans, and Cypher and Kitai are the only survivors. Both of Cypher’s legs are broken, so their only hope of rescue is for Katai to get the beacon that’s in the tail end of the ship – which is 100 kilometers away. The rest of the movie is about Kitai’s journey across dangerous territory to get that beacon, while his father guides him to it, all the while fighting off dangerous predators and dealing with the extreme temperature drops that occur randomly in certain areas.
If you thought this movie was going to be about Will Smith and Jaden Smith working together to survive and find rescue, think again. Well, technically it is, but for the majority of the movie the two are separated, and at one point Katai even loses communication with his father. For the most part, this movie is about the son. If I wanted to see a movie focusing on Jaden Smith, I would have watched The Karate Kid (which I still have yet to see). Even if the two had been together for the journey to the beacon, I’m not sure how much more enjoyable that would have been, as Will Smith’s character is devoid of emotions. Will Smith has proved that he can give great performances in dramatic roles, for example, The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds, so it is a shame that his character, Cypher, in After Earth, does not allow the Will Smith charm to shine through. If it had, then the movie might have been more bearable.
Unfortunately, as it was, the film felt awkward at many points, and suffered from slow pacing. Coupled with Cypher’s lack of emotions, this made the movie mostly boring. We are then left to focus on the only character with emotions, Katai, who early on comes off as a rebellious brat. Additionally, Jaden Smith’s acting leaves a lot to be desired, and definitely does not fill the shoes of his father. Put all that together with poor, fake looking CGI, plus unrealistic scenarios, as well as the addition of a character who had some potential to make the story more interesting but eventually serves no purpose, it’s no wonder the film underperformed at the box office and attained such a low rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Oh, and what was up with their weird accents? Did you notice that?
As I mentioned earlier, I went into this with very low expectations, and it turned out just a little better than I had hoped. But that’s not saying much. Although the story itself was fairly decent, the movie overall was just not very entertaining. What would have made it more interesting is if there had been a trademark M. Night Shyamalan twist at the end, but there was not. It was just a straightforward movie. Maybe his twist was that there was no twist? Very disappointing.
My rating: 4/10