Critics and audiences alike have been looking for an excuse to throw verbal tomatoes at M. Night Shyamalan‘s latest. While After Earth isn’t the train wreck many were anticipating, it has a predictable story that fails to hold your attention.
- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- Writers: M. Night Shyamalan and Gary Whitta
- Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoë Kravitz
- Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky
- Original Music By: James Newton Howard
A thousand years have passed since humans evacuated Earth and found a new home in Nova Prime. Cypher (Will Smith) is one of the most powerful warriors to ever fight the aliens that threatened humanity. He’s about to embark on his last trip before retirement when he decides to bring his son Kitai (Jaden Smith) along. During Cypher’s mission, the spaceship crashes on the greatly evolved and very dangerous Earth. It’s up to Kitai to alert others about their location on the planet or else they’ll die.
- The Environment: The story might not be much, but at least audiences have a gorgeous landscape to get lost in. It’s a cool combination of real locations and practical effects used for the new version of Earth. What’s even better is the sci-fi landscape they have in Nova Prime. It’s kind of creepy, as the pillars are in the shapes of bones and the textures look like skin. It’s all mixed in with the futuristic technology its inhabitants use. Production design is usually one of the strongest points of a science-fiction film, and it was beautifully done.
- Twists, Be Gone: If you’ve seen one M. Night Shyamalan film, you’re aware of his infamous twists. But this time around, he did away with them and told a conventional story devoid of the screenwriting 101 device he so relies on.
- Our Score: When the audience is being bogged down with lackluster effects, there’s James Newton Howard’s poignant score to keep them engaged. Maybe in the back of his mind, he knew the story would need rescuing. His music helped build it up making scenes a lot more magnificent than they really were.
- Shyamalan: While Shyamalan doesn’t give us bold, inspirational filmmaking, he still delivers a fairly well-shot movie with his small but noticeable stamp on it. His style is simple and slightly effective. At times you’re wondering where he’s going with the camera or what he wants us to focus on. It gets a little confusing but for the most part you know where the movie’s headed.
- The Predictable Story: There’s nothing more touching than a family story, unless it lacks any sort of originality. Emotional son is stuck talking to stoic father and fighting for survival while they rebuild their relationship. You know the son, in some way, shape or form, is going to prove his worth to his father. We understand that, we get it, but it’s been done so many times. It’s not really interesting, especially when you’re stuck with the son for most of the movie who isn’t the greatest actor. For a film that’s just over an hour and a half long, it feels much longer.
- Jaden Smith: Apologies to Jaden Smith, but he’s a couple years shy of greatness. Right now he’s still learning how to broaden his acting scope onscreen. In some ways you could draw the comparison of his character’s struggles to his own abilities. Kitai almost has what it takes to become a ranger, but is forced to train another year before he’s deemed worthy. In this case, Jaden was pushed up the ranks and wasn’t fully prepared. We’re curious to see how he’ll improve over time, because at the moment, he’s a little rough around the edges.
- CG Effects: The bad thing about CG is that even within a year you can see a big difference between effects done in 2012 compared to 2013. With After Earth, it felt like a step back to the days of the Star Wars prequels. It was uncomfortable, stiff and a little sloppy. Whoever gave the thumbs up to this CG made a big mistake. Thank goodness the film wasn’t shown in 3D. It would have been even more painful to watch.
After Earth is a sci-fi survival movie that fails to be anything other than mediocre. While in the theater, you’ll definitely feel the time passing.
After Earth opens in theaters May 31.