For those of us who have seen the trailer for Will Smith’s latest creation, we would have expected it to be a survivor epic, where Jaden Smith is forced to fight against the horror’s of a futuristic Earth. We saw him being chased by monkeys, fighting tigers, flying away from giant birds. Who knows what other exciting events are in store for us when we actually go to see this film? Unfortunately, I am here to say that there are no other bits. After Earth has been criticised for the acting, for the plot, and for the lack of backstory. But the problem with After Earth is much simpler than that: it’s just the fact that it is boring, uneventful, and totally predictable.
This abomination is set 1,000 years in the future (a time when humans have apparently forgotten how to make guns), when humanity has abandoned Earth and gone to live on another planet called Nova Prime. General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) decides to take his overshadowed son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), with him on a space voyage, during which they are caught in a meteor shower and crash land on Earth, the spaceship ripping apart in the process. Both of Cypher’s legs are broken, so it is up to Kitai to go out and find the other half of the ship in order to retrieve the emergency rescue beacon. However, Earth is now full of dangerous creatures, and experiences drastic thermal shifts. One moment it will be hot, and then it will drop to freezing depths. A bit like M. Night Shyamalan’s career.
The main problem is the lack of excitement. It is paced like a video-game, with Will Smith even mapping out all the different areas that things would happen in before Jaden had even set off. Because of this, the entire audience knew what was going to happen, when it was going to happen, and where it was going to happen.
The movie lacks any element of suspense of surprise. In fact, the most shocking thing in the entire film was the fact that Kitai was not instantly killed, especially considering he throws himself into dangerous situations for no reason and completely disregards all advice given to him. It’s hard for the audience to get behind a character like that.
The special effects are a thing of hilarity. I can almost imagine Will Smith and M. Night Shyamalan sitting down and saying: ‘Right, this thing is set in the future. We need to have pointless holograms everywhere!’ Characters will be touching and moving holograms, and waving flashing instruments around, and the audience will never know why. Surely it would have been a better use of technology if the future-people made guns, or even a jetpack? Or perhaps a spaceship with a meteor-resistant forcefield? And a more convenient way of sending out a distress signal would have been useful too. All these things would have been a quick and easy solution to the film’s main dilemma.
However, there are some salvageable parts. The father-son chemistry between Will and Jaden is truly moving at times. The climax of the film is also enjoyable, even if it is predictable. But a lot more thought was definitely needed for the plot of this film. Surely Will Smith is aware by now that people would much rather see a boy in a flight-suit outflying a giant bird, instead of watching a crippled man replacing an artery with a pipe and giving long, serious speeches about fear, which have no moral significance in real life? At least this is not the worst movie M. Night Shyamalan has directed. But, then again, looking at how The Last Airbender turned out, I suppose that isn’t much of a compliment.
After Earth (2013), directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is released in the UK by Columbia Pictures, Certificate 12A.