Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo
One thousand years ago mankind’s destructive nature left planet earth uninhabitable, and mankind was forced to move to a new planet, Nova Prime. The fearless general Cypher Raige (Smith senior) is travelling across space with his young son Kitai (Smith junior) who is desperate to emulate his father but failed the necessary tests. Then so we can have a cliched character arc and an actual story their ship crash lands on an unfamiliar planet. With all other crew dead and Cyphor seriously injured, Kitai must trek a good 60 miles alone to the other end of the ship which (conveniently) separated during the crash to retrieve a homing beacon that is their only chance of being saved. The planet they have landed on is in fact earth (shock horror) and it is now an uncivilised and treacherous terrain where animals that have apparently evolved to kill humans (as wild and hungry animals never used to do that) lurk at every turn. Kitai must now become the ranger he has always so badly wanted to be to save both his and his father’s lives. Also, lurking somewhere is an alien creature that is designed to kill humans but only if that human is scared of them, otherwise that human is invisible and it was inexplicably on the craft that the Smith family were travelling on! So Smith junior has the character arc of conquering his fears blah blah blah…
Every year there is a film that has big stars and a big budget that loses money and everyone hates. This year it seems to be the turn of the usual mega stars whose blockbusters always turn huge profits; Johnny Depp and Will Smith. Everyone is quick to jump on the bandwagon and slate these films to the high heavens and though for me The Lone Ranger was hardly a masterpiece, it was good fun and just about passable (though way too long). However, though certainly not for me one of the worst films ever as some have stated; the hatred, anger and slating of After Earth is warranted in my opinion.
A film written by, produced by and starring a Hollywood megastar where his son is the main star is easy to slate by those angry at the seemingly insular world of the film industry to criticise. Unfortunately in the case of After Earth it is justified as this is such a poor film. Admittedly it is easy to heavily criticise Jaden Smith’s performance, but it is an unavoidable fact that he is absolutely terrible.
Even the greatest actor would potentially struggle with such a terrible and laughable script. Though the story is credited as written by Will Smith, the script is written by director M. Night Shyamalan (oh dear) and Gary Whitta. The script is unbelievably clunky and clichéd beyond belief, with everything explained extremely clearly and some phrases that are just downright embarrassing. There also seems to be an element of laziness and complacency of those that wrote it in terms of technology and plot development. Fair enough, this is far in the future so that allows a certain amount of creative license in terms of the technology (the superb Star Trek Into Darkness certainly utilises this), but it just feels they are making it up as they go along. If they cannot figure out how Smith Junior will get out of a situation, then they will just invent some technology to get him out of it, or present another obstacle. What for me was unforgivable were the animals; a huge plot and vital development involving an eagle was, though very nice and very Disney, simply lazy and ridiculous. Also, the trailer led us to believe that all of Earth’s creatures have evolved to kill humans; well I am pretty sure wild animals are quite capable of killing humans now, and maybe these are just wild animals who are hungry!
Of course the main reason for the whole embarrassing “danger is real, fear is a choice” speech is that the aforementioned creature that conveniently was on their space craft and survived the crash is lurking to strike at the appropriate narrative point, but we all know what will happen and it is quite frankly hard to care (if we are still awake by then). In comparison to other films, at 100 minutes After Earth has a surprisingly lean running time, but despite this is still a boring and laborious watch.
Will Smith gives a (literally) paralysed and serious performance as he lets his son take the lead role. However, he often looks extremely annoyed; it is hard to tell if that is him acting or just him being annoyed at both his over privileged son’s inability to act, of the fact he has certainly blotted his copybook by being in this terrible excuse for a film.
The pitiful and embarrassing story is a shame, as M. Night Shyamalan and his creative team have created some beautiful scenery that has by far more character than our protagonist. The $130million budget is also well spent with all the special effects and CGI extremely well made, unfortunately this only serves as a depressing reminder that a good story may have made this a solid futurist blockbuster.
Boring, predictable and laughably embarrassing; After Earth is a shameless Smith family vanity project that admittedly looks great but will depress, frustrate and bore in equal measure.