The post Memorial Day weekend window for movie offerings usually offers up a healthy mix of offerings of people looking for something to take in while at theatres. “After Earth” is a science fiction adventure that deals with a plethora of different themes as the human race no longer lives on the plane we call our own.
One thousand years after cataclysmic events forced humanity’s escape from Earth, Nova Prime has become mankind’s new home. Legendary General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) returns from an extended tour of duty to his estranged family, ready to be a father to his 13-year-old son, Kitai (Jaden Smith). 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.
If you can remove the overtones of nepotism with a father and son starring in a film together (It’s Hollywood, quite frankly nepotism happens on an hourly basis) but “After Earth” is still an unholy mess of a film that tries to deliver a variety of stories without any real precision or execution. From a story conceived by Will Smith himself and a script co-written by director M Night Shyamalan, the brief set up and exposition about why they live where they live gets burned through fairly quickly with clunky dialogue and little to no character development as the bulk of the film is essentially a chase movie on earth with the occasional flashback between father and son. The execution is just so terribly clunky, with bad dialogue and a lack of exposition in certain parts combined with some goofy looking design choices that take us out of the entire film. While Shyamalan’s film have often come under scrutiny for a variety of reasons over the years, this simply didn’t work because of a distinct lack of focus on a variety of fronts as it tried to be a science fiction film, a heartfelt father and son story and an environmental message movie all at the same time. If any one aspect of the story had got some more focus, it could have blossomed into something more, but it ultimately falls apart under the weight of its ambitions. Despite being all over the map, this film actually showed one very distinct thing about the acting future of the Smith family.
While his development as an actor is undoubtedly getting a little rushed, Jaden Smith is showing flashes of being able to carry a movie and while much of the film plays like he is reciting dialogue from a teen lit novel, he still makes for a reasonably effective on screen presence. The lack of character development or story exposition don’t help Jaden or Will in their time together on screen and Will’s grizzled veteran general works in parts. Unfortunately so much of the first act of the film was built towards getting us to earth that outside of Jaden and Will’s characters nobody really got any on screen time to shine.
With “After Earth” we have a film that wants to be a thoughtful and engaging piece of science fiction drama, however to pull that off you have to be genuinely engaging and emotionally provoking. Instead we get a poorly assembled coming of age drama wrapped up in an event movie and while Will is a bonifide movie star, this shows that Jaden while on his way isn’t quite there yet.
1 out of 5 stars.
“After Earth” is now playing at theatres all across the country, please check with your local listings for show times.
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