After Earth review

Director:
M. Night Shyamalan
Cast:
Jaden Smith
Will Smith
Sophie Okonedo
Zoe Kravitz
Rated: PG-13

Well, let’s be happy Jaden is only acting and not rapping.

“After Earth” begins with a large backstory of what happened to the human race. Years into the future, because of environmental problems, humans are forced to abandon the planet. While relocating to another planet, the surviving humans come in contact with aliens and the forces have a conflict. The brave general Cypher (W. Smith) leads them to victory by fighting off monstrous creatures by ghosting, which completely suppresses one’s fear.

Cypher’s son, Kitai (J. Smith) not only tries to live up to his father’s name and become a ranger himself, he still has bad memories of his sister being killed and not being able to help. Cypher and Kitai eventually go on a mission together on a ship but unfortunately it crash lands on a planet and the rest of the crew is killed. Because Cypher’s leg is injured, Kitai has to travel to another piece of the ship that broke apart during the crash to recover a beacon that can save them, however the planet they have landed on is Earth and it has become very dangerous for humans.

“After Earth” looks like a sci-fi movie, but it really isn’t one. The story of this film is so simple that it begs the question, why was the sci-fi element added at all? There is this massive backstory at the very beginning of the movie but all it is really used for is to introduce something for a fight scene during the film’s climax. Besides that, this is nothing more than get from point A to point B.

The film could have just as easily taken place with the father and son getting lost in the woods and having to make their way across a dangerous landscape and it wouldn’t be that much different. It’s similar to what was seen in the movie “The Grey” with Liam Neeson.

Unfortunately, this film has no good lead protagonist like “The Grey” had with Neeson.

Instead, all we have through 95 percent of this flick is Jaden Smith, and he just cannot carry this thing. It’s not just that his facial expressions make him look like he’s going to cry in every scene, or that his character is written annoyingly where he goes and does something he is specifically told not to do, it’s also that his character really never grows.

Instead of having a good arc of learning what it takes to be a great warrior and survivor like his father, he just sort of learns it right at the end in a split second. The transition they make with this character just doesn’t feel believable or natural.

Another issue with the movie is that the father-son bonding that is suppose to take place is never really relayed through pure emotion because in every scene where something major is happening, Will and Jaden are never shot in the same location.

As for Will Smith, he plays the role way too stoic. He brings none of his usual charm or charisma to the screen here and it makes it hard to like his character. Plus he’s just not given that much to do through the movie except yell at Jaden.

The film isn’t even worth watching for its effects. The CGI in the film is glaringly obvious with none of the animals even looking remotely real. Everything comes off as cheap and unbelievable. Also, the space crafts and technology in the film looked odd and unlike something a human would create.

And of course, the film feels the need to pick up an environmental baseball bat and slam you straight across the face with it. Apparently Director M. Night Shyamalan has never heard of the word subtle.

“After Earth” doesn’t work on basically any level. It’s sci-fi aspect goes mainly untouched, the creatures and animals look like CGI with no effort and it really just tries to toss in an environmental message without any level of subtlety. But the worst offenders are Jaden and Will Smith. Will doesn’t bring anything to make his character interesting and Jaden just doesn’t have any level of screen presence that allows him to be a great protagonist. Plus Jaden does this weird accent in the movie where he can’t seem to put the letter “r” at the end of a word, this is done for no specific reason. It’s not worth the time. 1 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

My name is Matthew Liedke. I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, but I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I now write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead where I studied journalism and film. Outside of film, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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