There's a little bit intention in my mind, before I watched M. Night Shyamalan's "After Earth", that all I was about to do in the theater is sitting down and proving if this movie is as terrible as what the critiques said. Actually, most sci-fi movies never excite me (except in some cases), and just by the trailer, I knew that "After Earth" is not gonna be my choice. But then, as I eventually had a chance to watch it in the cinema (together with my students :D), I tried to clear my mind up from any negative reviews it received before entering the theater.
SYNOPSIS > “After Earth” is set a thousand years after an apocalyptic events that forced human to escape from Earth. Nova Prime now becomes human’s new home. General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) is a soldier who combats Ursa, a kind of monstrous creature that smell human’s existence by feromone we release when we’re in fear, while Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith), his son, is a cadet who aspires to be like his father but fails from school. On a space-trip the father-and-son takes, an asteroid storm damages their aircraft. They are stranded on the now dangerous and unfamiliar Earth, and they have to make contact to Nova Prime to survive.
|Will Smith as General Cypher Raige. I don't know if thousands of years from now "Cypher Raige" will be a common name for a man.|
REVIEW > One thing is sure: "After Earth" is not a smoothly told story. Staged, cliché, and predictable. Very jumpy from one point of premise to another. Incoherent, as well. "After Earth" has a positive value so big that it enthusiastically and ambitiously tries to show up no matter what the scene is supposedly used for. This is obviously not a creative way to, say, inspire viewers (if it wants to). I know, from the premise, "After Earth" talks about the day when earth is no longer habitable (even it becomes dangerous for human), and about how we are supposedly manage our fear to anticipate danger in front of us. Not a bad premise, actually. But these are two big ideas that "After Earth" can't handle. Finally, the scenes where these ideas are gonna be transferred to the viewers turn to be ridiculous, laughable, and irrational. No heart-melting moments, not even any mind-opening parts; only guilty-pleasure laughs.
I think the problem is not on how Shyamalan executed the screenplay, but on how it was written. It has a powerful set description, even it borrows some real physicist terms—I remembered how they mentioned “graviton” and “wormhole”—which is surprising. But, finally it feels empty and dull. “After Earth” barely offers something newer than an old zero-to-hero story formula. There is a good value of father-son relationship, but again it's dull and unenhanced. This is the kind of sci-fi movie Hollywood has to stop producing, I think. Plain. Not the kind of movie I expect with Will Smith in it. It's on the very bottom line of any survival, futuristic stories and it stays on there. However nice the idea of the story is, it is not well executed and deeply dug. The dialogue was nice, actually, but is it still relevant nowadays to use monologues and narrations to describe the situation of the story? I don’t think so. As a viewer, I myself refuse to be “dictated” like that.
|The "smart-skin" costume that Kitai wears. It changes colors when it detects motions from the surrounding.|
Credits are given to the set designers and visual effect creators. For this case, “After Earth” does a great job. It successfully maximizes the futuristic aspect of the story from a nice visualization. I was so intrigued by the “smart-skin” costume that Kitai wears. Nice suit, it is. The blade, it’s nice too. The CGI effect that made up the lions, falcons, and Ursas is nice, although from my bare eyes I could tell that they are unnatural (I mean, the animals here and—say—Richard Parker in “Life of Pi” were easily distinguished; moreover, I couldn’t clearly see the posture of the Ursas). There are parts where I think will be great if seen in 3D, but overall it’s an amusing earth--space journey. The scoring is nice, too. I won’t talk much about the cinematography because, well, however well it is used, it doesn’t blend perfectly with the plot. Oh, the slow-motion scene in the latest minutes (the ending scene) is soooo lame. Horrible!
There are just two main characters in this movie: Cypher and Kitai. And, well, I’m not sure if this real-life-father-and-son-playing-father-and-son thingy works. Don’t expect too much character development whatsoever from them. Cypher Raige mostly sat due to his injure, instructing what Kitai had to do from the monitor, while Kitai was the one who experienced the adventure. Will Smith got the nuance of an honored general, but he might also be too rigid playing such character. Jaden Smith didn’t get his qualifying, breakthrough performance in this movie. He’s nice, there are parts where he’s emotionally involved with the story, but... I don’t know. It’s rude to say that he’s there because of his luck having his dad the producer and the story creator of this movie, I know, but that might be the truth.
|"Son, could you act well?" asks Will. "Of course, Dad *smirk*" answers Jaden.|
CONCLUSION > “After Earth” has a potential premise, however it is not enhanced and executed well. It’s nicely visualized, but the story stays on the ground. Will and Jaden Smith’s best performances, for me, is still in “The Pursuit of Happyness”, not in here. I won’t say anything about M. Night Shyamalan because I haven’t watched many movies of his, but in “After Earth”, I know that he did a mistake.
▲ Nice set design and futuristic properties, potential premise
▼ Not smoothly told, undeveloped premise, not a great performance by Will and Jaden
AFTER EARTH | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2013 RATING Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some disturbing images RUNTIME 100 min GENRE Action, Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi CAST Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Isabella Kravitz, Glenn Morshower WRITER Will Smith (story), Gary Whitta & M. Night Shyamalan (screenplay) DIRECTOR M. Night Shyamalan MORE INFO