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After Earth - Movie Review

1 star

No matter how much effort the marketing team puts into covering M. Night Shyamalan’s involvement with the Smith-family vanity project After Earth, there is simply no wiping the fading filmmaker’s fingerprints from this disaster. The Sixth Sense director has been on a steady career slide that should have ended with 2010’s The Last Airbender - or, perhaps even before that. But alas, Columbia Pictures gives the guy one more chance, this time with the Shyamalan name virtually absent from all marketing.

Columbia’s plan didn’t work. A bad movie is a bad movie, no matter whose name is or isn’t attached. And After Earth is bad. Really bad. Though Shyamalan will undoubtedly take most of the heat for this stinker, others involved aren’t totally blameless, namely Will Smith who created the thin story and turned it over to Shyamalan and co-writer Gary Whitta. It feels exactly like what it is: a half-baked, tiny germ of an idea with the grand intention of making an action star out of Will’s young son, Jaden.

1000 years in the future, Jaden is Kitai, a green recruit in the United Ranger Corps hoping to one day become a Ranger like his legendary father, Cypher Raige (Will Smith). With Earth long ago abandoned and humans now living on a distant planet called Nova Prime, young men are trained in warfare to fight the planet’s fiercest alien threats: The Skrel and their vicious creations, the Ursa.

We learn through a series of flashbacks that an adolescent Kitai watched his beloved older sister (Zoe Isabella Kravitz) get savagely killed by an Ursa while he stayed safely hidden. Kitai’s overwhelming feeling of cowardice, coupled with an intense desire to step into his father’s shoes, have led to a recklessness and ultimately a failure in his first attempt to become a Ranger.

Hoping to bridge the rift between demanding father and protege son, Cypher and Kitai pack up the spaceship, command a crew, and head out into space for a little trip. You know, one of those bonding deals so they can get some quality father/son time while visiting a distant planet. However, instead of fishing, hunting, or playing a little catch, these mighty warriors plan to release the Ursa they’ve brought along and sharpen Kitai’s battle skills. Having uncovered the Ursa’s one deadly weakness some time ago, Cypher hopes to teach his son about ghosting, the unprecedented show of self-control and discipline that makes the warrior invisible to the fierce creature. Blind, only capable of seeing by the smell of human fear, Ursa were once thought unstoppable, but have since become vulnerable to “Ghosts,” the small number of humans that have mastered the technique of showing absolutely no fear.

Problems arise when the excursion unexpectedly runs into an asteroid field and is forced to crash-land on the nearest planet which they discover is the forbidden planet Earth, and that has since become overrun by creatures that have somehow evolved to kill humans - even though humans haven’t lived there for more than 1,000 years.

Granted, it’s an interesting set-up to this point, except that we’re only 15 minutes into the movie. The remaining hour-plus consists of Kitai - under the holographic direction of his wounded father - trekking some 200 kilometers through wild and dangerous wilderness to get to help. Should the young Kitai fail, they will both die.

Those expecting a Will Smith action flick will likely be disappointed when they discover him trapped inside the spacecraft occasionally transmitting directions to his son with all the affectation of an aged Clint Eastwood character. No Will Smith charm or humor. Just robotic, monosyllabic commands with some kind of futuristic Southern accent. Strange.

It’s not fair to heap too much criticism on the kid, but Jaden has been thrust into the leading role here, so fair is fair. Though he’s shown flashes in his young career, no one could carry what is being asked of this poor kid. The plot completely stops when he takes over and we spend the film’s final hour or so watching him run through the forest, dodging angry baboons (that aren’t scary) and avoiding gigantic vultures (that aren’t scary). And with no support from the horridly bad CGI, clunky dialogue, and nothing to do but run, we’re left longing for the days, earlier this spring, of Tom Cruise’s mildly entertaining version of the same story in Oblivion.[/tab]

[tab title="Film Details"]

After Earth - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some disturbing images.
: M. Night Shyamalan
: Gary Whitta, M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Jaden Smith, Will Smith;Sophie Okonedo; Zoe Isabella Kravitz
Genre: Sci-fi | Action |Adventure
Danger is real. Fear is a choice.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Now do not misunderstand me, danger is very real. But fear is a choice"
Columbia Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date: May 31, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available

Synopsis: A crash landing leaves teenager Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) and his legendary father Cypher (Will Smith) stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after cataclysmic events forced humanity's escape. With Cypher critically injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help, facing uncharted terrain, evolved animal species that now rule the planet, and an unstoppable alien creature that escaped during the crash. Father and son must learn to work together and trust one another if they want any chance of returning home.[/tab]

[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

No details available.[/tab]

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