After Earth (2013)
It's safe to say that young Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) is not having a good week. He's enlisted in type of futuristic military school, following in the footsteps of his father, Cypher Raige (Will Smith), who is a legend among the alien fighters of the planet known as Nova Prime. As Kitai trains to obtain the rank of ranger, the unfortunate news is broken to him that he will not be promoted. This leads to a very awkward family dinner, where Kitai and Cypher are put at odds with one another. After a pep talk from his wife, Cypher agrees to allow Kitai to come on a space expedition with him and his crew. The ill-fated voyage leads the Raiges through an asteroid storm and ends up crash landing on Earth, the formerly-inhabited home to humanity, turned Class-One quarantined planet. What, you ask, is a "Class-One quarantined planet"? Well, that basically just means that every life form on the Earth is trained to kill humans. It's like the Fathers and Sons outing from Hell! Kitai and Cypher, the two lone survivors of their expedition, must then overcome their fear - and their relationship issues - in M. Night Shyamalan's latest project, "After Earth."
The Story: It seems like the futuristic, post-apocalyptic, no-longer-inhabited-by-humans storyline has been tried over and over and over again without much success in the past decade (most recently, FOX's flop, "Terra Nova"). Why is this? We may never know. Another question might be why directors and producers continue to make movies about something that generally doesn't pan out in the first place! "After Earth" is not really any different than any of these other failures, in the sense that it's just not that intriguing for some reason. On another note, the movie starts abruptly and ends abruptly and doesn't really give a whole lot of insight about why the humans had to leave Earth nor what these alien things are. It's a pretty short movie, clocking in at a brief 110 minutes. Maybe they could have stretched the show out by another 15 minutes for the sake of explanation.
The Acting: Perhaps the lack of character development is to blame. Some flashbacks are used to explain Kitai's childhood and Cypher's struggles with being a military father, but neither of these characters really form any kind of emotional bond with audiences. Speaking of emotions, Will Smith seems absolutely miserable throughout the entire movie. He looks old, he looks tired, and it appears that there is no place he'd rather be in the entire galaxy than on the set of "After Earth." One might say that the phrase "break a leg," in this particular case, is not necessarily connotative of having a great time. The other problem is that, though he does show some glimpses of greatness, physically, Jaden Smith is not a great actor. Not yet, anyway. He is whiny and annoying from the get-go, proving why some parents have such a hard time dealing with their pre-pubescent teens, and it really gets irritating during several stretches. He is incredibly disrespectful to his father in the film, often only acknowledging him because of his military superiority, and there are points where his voice noticeably cracks (bless his heart), further solidifying his immaturity in the film. Plus, what the heck is up with those weird, inconsistent accents they speak in? Flat out bad. So strange.
The Genre: The cinematography is one of the movie's few bright spots, showcasing some great scenery filmed on-location in Utah and Costa Rica. Nova Prime is a specimen of architecture, almost Star Wars-like in nature (think Moab + technology x 1,000 years), and the wild jungles of Earth are breathtaking. So props to them for that. There are also a few cool action sequences, most notably a scene many will remember from commercials and trailers involving one of those nifty flight suits.
Sure, it's cute that Will and Jaden get to play a father/son due on-screen - plus, Will Smith apparently wrote the story (who knew?) and Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband helped co-produce it. Good for them. That will undoubtedly make a fun late-night activity at the next Smith family reunion. They can have a big group hug afterward. But "After Earth" is a movie that all you non-Smiths out there don't need to see. It's not gripping, it's not really entertaining, and the acting is awkward, boring, and straight-up disappointing. It's Will Smith's worst performance in years and it's a million-dollar reminder that Jaden Smith is not ready for the big time quite yet.
DVD bonus features:
- Audio in: English, French, Spanish, English Descriptive Audio
- Subtitles in: English, French, Spanish
- Several previews for upcoming DVD releases
- No other bonus features available on rental version
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Running time: 100 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13 for "sci-fi action violence and some disturbing images," including contemplated use of pain killers and one scene featuring a hallucination/nightmare.
Costars Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Kravitz
DVD release date: October 8, 2013
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