The sci-fi flick “After Earth” (which opened in U.S. and Canadian theaters on May 31, 2013) is getting universally slammed by movie critics. Simply put: “After Earth” is Will Smith’s worst-reviewed movie in his entire career, according to Rotten Tomatoes, a website that compiles movie reviews. (Only 12 percent of critics on Rotten Tomatoes approve of “After Earth.”)
This widespread backlash for “After Earth” could have a negative effect on the movie’s total box office and its appeal to people who may want to watch the movie on demand. “After Earth” will premiere on demand in late 2013, on a date to be announced.
Will Smith co-stars in “After Earth” with his son Jaden (they play a father named Cypher Raige and a son named Kitai Raige, who are involved in a dangerous rescue mission after their ship crashes on post-apocalyptic Earth), but Will Smith hasn’t been getting the brunt of the criticism for the movie. Instead, critics are blaming most of “After Earth’s” failings on Jaden Smith and director M. Night Shyamalan. Will Smith is one of the movie’s producers. Shyamalan co-wrote the screenplay with Gary Whitta.
The main criticisms of “After Earth” are that it is too dull and has substandard acting from Jaden Smith. Many of the critics expressed being turned off by Jaden Smith getting the role due to nepotism.
UPDATE: It seems as if the bad reviews and negative word-of-mouth have hurt “After Earth” at the box office. According to Variety: “M. Night Shyamalan and Sony’s ‘After Earth’ is cratering at the domestic box office, with an estimated $10 million Friday [May 31, 2013] and paltry $25 million-plus weekend, according to early estimates. The $130 million film was expected to launch in the $35 million-$40 million range but those figures are long gone.”
Here is a sampling of critics’ reviews:
“[Will] Smith is charismatic enough to pull this off, but the father-son, mentor/disciple relationship is better than the rest of the film, which is like a plate of sci-fi leftovers. The knives have been out for Jaden Smith, who is routinely dismissed by blogosphere snark as a lucky-duck celebrity offspring whose dad will do anything to make him a star. I’m someone who thinks that Jaden Smith has a lot of talent; his moody melancholy held that ‘Karate Kid’ remake together. But a movie like ‘After Earth,’ in which he mostly has to act all by himself, taking orders from his father as he dodges post-apocalyptic clichés, isn’t doing him any favors.” (Grade: C+)
The Hollywood Reporter
“Jaden Smith’s performance, all furrowed brow and worried eyes, gives us no reason to believe Kitai is made of the same tough stuff as his father … Shyamalan would have to try hard to make another film as bad as ‘Airbender’; ‘After Earth’s’ missteps in conception and execution are more akin to the head-scratching choices that kept ‘The Happening’ from fulfilling its doomsday-flick potential. Who let that herd of fake-looking bison roam Earth’s grasslands, and who lit the critical scene, set on a tree stump amid roaring waterfalls, that was obviously shot on a soundstage? On a planet that now freezes every night, how do the flora of tropical rainforests survive? What seasoned soldier would send his son on a deadly four-day mission with a backpack the size of a bicycle seat? The film’s resolution, predictable to any viewer, feels oddly impersonal for a father/son bonding tale both dreamed up and enacted by a father for the son following in his footsteps.”
Los Angeles Times
“There is no small irony that this sci-fi action adventure is about surviving a serious crash. The scorched earth left behind by ‘After Earth’ is sure to leave a scar on everyone involved. Although the Smith franchise will no doubt recover, the toxic ozone hanging over Shyamalan won’t lift any time soon … Let’s take a moment to talk about the sci-fi effects. In this age of incredible ones, most of “After Earth’s” seem inspired by the 1950s, one generation beyond tinfoil. The spacecraft looks exactly like a giant flying stingray sans the tail … As Gen. Cypher Raige, Smith has never seemed stiffer, like Patton without the personality. Meanwhile, Jaden struggles with the same issues as his character. He is trying so hard that the teenager’s engaging on-screen presence, the one that made ‘The Karate Kid’ such a kick, mostly disappears … Both dad and lad have a tough time with the deadly dialogue. If you’re still wondering whether ‘After Earth’ is a disaster, the question is not if, but how big?”
New York Daily News
“The pairing of Smith & Smith may have a media-pleasing, passing-the-torch symmetry — Will is 44, Jaden is 14, and they earlier starred together in the terrific 2006 drama ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ — but director M. Night Shyamalan drains the spark from both their performances. Will’s natural charm is lost in space; in its place is a stern, distant-father manner that makes him as warm as an android (that’s not a spoiler, sadly). Jaden, meanwhile, has been directed to convey fear, an emotion that is the movie’s true ‘villain,’ by jerking his head to and fro and crinkling his brow. It’s not Jaden’s fault his voice is still a few octaves too high for an action star, but it doesn’t do him any favors when his character is lifted to the nest of a giant eagle that decides to mother him.” (Rating: 0 out of 4 stars)
New York Times
“Once upon a time, Hollywood parents gave their children sports cars as gifts. These days, apparently nothing less than a big-screen vanity project will do for Junior … For the most part it is an uninteresting slog alleviated only by the occasional unintended laugh and moments of visual beauty. Mr. Shyamalan generally torpedoes his movies with overweening self-seriousness. But here and there he also offers up an image — as with a close-up of Kitai’s face dusted with glistening snowflakes — that rises out of the torpor. Those images are few and far between in a movie that loses its way long before Kitai reaches the belching volcano that leads to his inevitable destiny.”
New York magazine/Vulture
“Most of the movie is Jaden running and jumping and looking scared while a gravely injured Will sits and watches him on a monitor in the wreckage of a ship that has just happened to crash-land on a Class D planet that’s ‘unfit for human habitation.’ To breathe on Earth, Kitai needs a daily inhaler, and when two of the vials become smashed, Cypher writhes at the prospect of his son’s inability to breathe. Were Shyamalan and Smith deliberately invoking the terror — now omnipresent in urban African-American communities — of lethal asthma attacks in children? I’m not sure how I feel about something so real and so wrenching in the context of a Grade D (unfit for human habitation) sci-fi picture like ‘After Earth.’ But unlike those killer trees (‘Let’s just stay ahead of the wind!’) you can’t laugh it off.”
“‘After Earth’ merits comparison with 2000’s ‘Battlefield Earth,’ John Travolta’s godawful film tribute to the sci-fi novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Yes, it’s that bad. This time poor, ravaged Earth, uninhabitable by humans, is occupied by predatory birds, monkeys and tacky computer-generated aliens. So what are Will Smith, 44, and his son Jaden Smith, 14, doing there? Ask Big Willie, he dreamed up the story. What we see on screen, with a sodden script co-written by Gary Whitta and director M. Night Shyamalan (a galaxy away from the glory days of ‘The Sixth Sense,’ ”Unbreakable’ and ‘Signs’), is an unholy mess of platitudes and posturing that makes 90 minutes drag on like a life sentence.” (Rating: 1 out of 4 stars)
Toronto Globe and Mail
“When it came to casting the right director, Smith apparently turned to the gifted but surprise-ending-prone Shyamalan (‘The Sixth Sense,’ ‘Signs,’ ‘Lady in the Water’), which makes this movie the first the director has made from someone else’s script. That there are no surprises (jumps, yes, surprises, no) should surprise no one – Will Smith movies must uplift the human spirit and reaffirm our best instincts while reassuring us that our ticket money has been well invested. Ergo, the Earth may have come to a savage and unhappy end, but that doesn’t mean the movie has to follow suit.” (Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars)
“Though it’s meant to be pulse-pounding, ‘After Earth’ is a lethargic slog. This is not particularly the fault of its stars, Will Smith and his son, Jaden, though the latter could benefit from some acting lessons. Rather, director M. Night Shyamalan seemingly puts more effort into production design and overbearing music than into dialogue or interplanetary action scenes. What remains is a floundering, futuristic coming-of-age saga.” (Rating: 2 out of 4 stars)
“In the decided non-happening that is Shyamalan’s latest, ‘After Earth,’ the threats lurking on a post-apocalyptic blue planet include baboons, predatory birds and a giant alien beastie that looks like a rejected prototype from H.R. Giger’s workshop. (At least there are no Tom Cruise clones.) But it’s Shyamalan’s career, and that of producer-director Will Smith, that seem to be struggling for survival in this listless sci-fi wilderness adventure — a grim hodgepodge of ‘Avatar,’ ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Life of Pi’ that won’t come anywhere near equaling those juggernauts with the ticketbuying public. Opening in a very crowded summer frame, the pic will prove an even greater litmus test of Smith’s continued drawing power than 2008’s ill-conceived Christ allegory ‘Seven Pounds.'”
“‘After Earth’ tells the story of an inexperienced boy trying desperately to please his father while making one mistake after another, and as such, it becomes an uncomfortable metaphor for itself … Performances aside, ‘After Earth’ is a fairly dreary affair, weighted down with grimness it never really earns and afflicted with sub-par special effects that keep us from being completely lost inside this world … You know you’re in trouble when you find yourself feeling sorry for one of the world’s wealthiest teenagers. And you’re definitely in trouble when you wish the mess of a movie he stars in could be as entertainingly rotten as ‘Battlefield Earth.'”