A crash landing leaves Kitai Raige and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, a millennium after events forced humanity's escape. With Cypher injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help.
One thousand years after cataclysmic events forced humanity's escape from Earth, Nova Prime has become mankind's new home. Legendary General Cypher Raige returns from an extended tour of duty to his estranged family, ready to be a father to his 13-year-old son, Kitai. When an asteroid storm damages Cypher and Kitai's craft, they crash-land on a now unfamiliar and dangerous Earth. As his father lies dying in the cockpit, Kitai must trek across the hostile terrain to recover their rescue beacon. His whole life, Kitai has wanted nothing more than to be a soldier like his father. Today, he gets his chance. Written by
A low point in both M Night Shyamalan and Will Smith's careers, with one of the worst child performances I've seen for any film
It is not as if I immediately hate on M Night Shyamalan. The Sixth Sense was a masterpiece and Unbreakable was great. Of the movies that get a lot of hate The Village was the least bad, not great but pretty decent(while Shyamalan didn't direct but produced and wrote Devil, that also applies here). Signs was pretty good until it went off the boil in the second half, which really brought things down to a significant degree. The others were as bad as I'd heard. Lady in the Water was well-made generally and I liked Bryce Dallas Howard in it as well as the score but the rest was a muddled mess. The Happening and The Last Airbender suffered mainly from having such potential but falling hard big time, Happening did have some unintentional comic value(mainly because Mark Walhberg's acting was so laughably bad) and Airbender had great visuals and score.
After Earth didn't have as much potential as those two but didn't have any of the things that raised the other two up a slight notch. That of which in my mind makes After Earth worse. It is not the worst film I've seen or one of the worst and but it is the worst film that I've seen so far this year. I wouldn't say that James Newton Howard's score is bad actually here. It does have some beautiful sounds, it's just sparingly used and while well-composed and fitting it is also one of those scores that I came out of the cinema not remembering most of. The visuals didn't do anything for me either, the sets were surprisingly drab and unimaginative and the special effects were very repetitively used. The photography and editing had moments where they were decent but others where they were amateurish, too many times steering towards the latter, the jump cut shots were just annoying and took away from any shocks, tension or suspense. With Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, up until after The Village Shyamalan showed potential but after that point saw him getting lazy. And that was the case with After Earth, I saw little if any heart or character in the directing.
Same with the story and scripting too. The dialogue was so awkward-sounding and clichéd, often I found myself not being able to take what I was hearing seriously. Instead of making me get engrossed in the characters, their situation and feelings, I found that the dialogue and delivery was just distracting. Shyamalan showed with Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and the first half of Signs that he did have potential to tell a good story. Since though, his storytelling has consisted of some good ideas that are executed badly, all too clear here. The already admittedly by-the-numbers story here was incredibly plodding and confused, very little made sense and there was nothing gripping. I found it very difficult to get emotionally invested in the characters either or the father-son relationship(a bad thing considering that this is the driving force really of the film). The acting was very poor, even from pretty and quite talented Sophie Okonedo, who was under-utilised. Will Smith is a likable actor and guy, but has never been this one-note or disengaged before, maybe his character was meant to be like that but it didn't mean that Smith had to take it to extremes.
Jaden Smith, Will Smith's own son, was even worse, and along with the story his performance was probably the worst thing about the film. He had nowhere near enough experience for this type of film and probably in general(though he was not too bad in The Karate Kid), and clearly looked uncomfortable. Along with a very uncharismatic presence and painful dialogue delivery his performance was stilted and (in the voice) very shrill, it is one of the worst child performances on film I've seen personally- that's saying a fair bit too- and I sensed no chemistry at all between him and his dad which for obvious reasons is quite ironic. All in all, a really terrible film and the only film of Shyamalan's that, apart from perhaps the nicely composed if spare and at the end of the day forgettable score, was close to having no redeeming values.
Critics have increasingly gotten an undeservedly bad rap, true there have been a fair number of times where I have disagreed with them but After Earth is one of those times where they got it exactly right. And before anybody who likes it flames me, I did watch After Earth with an open mind and no prejudices, though admittedly with knowledge of its reputation. If you liked it, good for you, I and a lot of other people didn't and for perfectly valid reasons and should be allowed to think what we want. If you can't see that, that's your problem, not ours, and this is in general on IMDb. Sorry for the irrelevant rant there but I have seen a lot of critic-bashing going on lately and lots of accusations like "being pretentious", "pretending to like it", "having the inability to make up our own mind" and "not having a sense of humour" and I'm getting sick and tired of it. And please stop using the racism argument, it is very shallow and it is not fair for people who did genuinely see it, rated it fairly as we thought and for whom racism and bigotry is a pet peeve of theirs.
1/10 Bethany Cox
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