After Earth Review
Solid performances, terrific effects, boring movie
Remember when M. Night Shyamalan was a distinguished, Academy Award-nominated director? Well, he still is that, but there’s just no proof in his work anymore as my favorite part of the film was the Pacific Rim trailer. There was a point where Shyamalan was hailed as the second coming of Alfred Hitchcock, who could cast any actor or actress he desired for a role. Those days are long gone. Shyamalan was desperately due for a hit and he didn’t come through with After Earth. Will Smith’s bankable name along with the gimmick of co-starring alongside his son, Jaden, still isn’t enough to get this film going. Although Will Smith is credited for coming up with the story, the responsibility for a film ultimately falls upon the director’s shoulders. To Shyamalan’s credit, however, the direction of this film is its biggest strength, giving the film a solid three-act structure.
Although the film has a one-dimensional, cliché plot, there are brief moments of excitement throughout the film. Our protagonist, Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith), must find a beacon to alert civilization that he and his alpha warrior/ dying father, Cypher Raige, have crash-landed their space ship on a quarantined Earth 1,000 years into the future. Needless to say, the boys of house Raige have a rough week on Earth. Even more unfortunately, it’s a mess in the sense that Kitai has to face all of his fears and overcome them, but also in the narrative sense. Throughout the film, flashbacks to Kitai’s childhood seriously interrupt the rhythm of the plot. The biggest plot drop is in the middle of the film when the pace breaks altogether for an extended scene to allow Will Smith to attempt an epic, inspirational plot. However, the length of this pseudo-soliloquy becomes all-too-obvious rather quickly. Perhaps the most troublesome issue with the plot is that Cypher and Kitai have a convenient ability to read each other’s thoughts at the most opportune moment in a lazy attempt to resolve the conflict of the plot.
Despite Will Smith’s epic speech going on too long, that doesn’t mean it’s flawlessly delivered. WS’s performance is one of the better parts of the film. Although his role is that of the supporting variety, the mythos of Cypher Raige begs a prequel. A fearless warrior of the future is far more engaging than a boy who has something to prove to his father… in the future. And that’s what we’re offered in After Earth: a boy who has something to prove to his father in the future. Jaden Smith’s performance could have been much improved. I couldn’t tell you what was going on with his voice throughout the film as it never stays consistent. For the most part, he sounds like he’s almost from somewhere close to England.
The film begins in the heart of the action, but abruptly takes you out to show you what happened to get to that point. Unfortunately, this epic, thrilling opening has the wind swiftly sucked out of its sails as poor green screen effects show up early on in the film. Although the film offers a great soundtrack, a solid performance from Will Smith, admirable directing from Shyamalan and cool effects, the lack of story and caring for the protagonist just make this film a forgettable, boring sci-fi movie about fathers and sons. If you crave sci-fi this weekend, check out Star Trek Into Darkness instead again.