June 2, 2013

Movie Review: After Earth

So, let me get this straight. Will Smith turned down Django Unchained, a role that was written with him in mind, in order to embark on this project dripping with nepotism, personally hiring M. Night Shyamalan along the way? Sounds like when he turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix in favor of Wild, Wild West. It seems to me that whenever his instincts guide him in one direction, he should go in the other. Much like Wild Wild West, After Earth is not a good movie.

Watching After Earth is much like watching someone else play a video game. And you know just as well as I do that watching someone play a game is not very fun. Essentially, this movie takes the idea of cinema as a passive activity to the edge of the cliff and just keeps on going onto the abyss. It is true that movies are essentially a passive activity, but they don't have to be, the good ones engage the viewer and involve the imagination, this one takes a standard survival tale and mixes it up with the side scrolling action game.

After Earth is a simple story of survival. Ship crashes in a inhospitable area and a character must travel a good distance in order to get the piece of equipment to help them survive. We follow the main character across the landscape as he is beset with danger from all directions and must push his skills to the limit, coming of age, if you will. Everything else is just window dressing used in an attempt to make the basic story feel fresh.

I doesn't work. Nothing about this movie feels fresh and when you are forced to follow someone who is not a very good actor (Jaden Smith, to be fair I thought he was decent on The Karate Kid remake, which was better than I expected) and have a cast of characters who have absolutely no personality, it is hard to really care about any of it.

We are given some information at the start about why we left Earth. It is the standard war, pollution filler. We learn what 'ghosting' is, essentially means get over your fear. We learn that we have settled another planet and are protected from aliens by the Rangers. The story is kicked off by Rangers, led by Will Smith, going on a training operation. Am asteroid storm forces them off course and they end up at the quarantined Earth.

Blah, blah, blah. It doesn't matter. All of the science fiction trappings came after the initial idea which was just a father/son camping trip. This went through a few writers, including a few passes by Shyamalan.

Seriously, it really is like a video game. The opening set up is like the initial cut scene, then the crash and now we have the game play. This comes complete with power ups, med kits and check points, along with increasingly nasty bad guys to face and obstacles to cross.

After Earth is, simply put, a bore. I will generally defend Shyamalan as a director, but he seems flat here. There is also the case of a Will Smith story and a handful of different screenwriters trying to do something with it. It does not seem anyone could find something interesting to do. Perhaps if he characters had some sort of personality this could ave been salvaged. Nope, nothing there either.

After Earth is just a waste all around.

Not Recommended.

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