As expectations can really affect how you feel about a film after seeing it, knowing M. Night was in the directors chair was a significant discovery. I had to control how I felt about that to make sure I looked at this film objectively. Turns out, I didn’t have to worry too much about that, because After Earth is kind lame regardless of who directed it.
At first I thought After Earth looked like it might be kind of interesting. Then I found out the M. Night Shaymalan was directing it. wow, the studio sure did a good job of keeping that a secret until the last minute. As expectations can really affect how you feel about a film after seeing it, knowing M. Night was in the directors chair was a significant discovery. I had to control how I felt about that to make sure I looked at this film objectively. Turns out, I didn’t have to worry too much about that, because After Earth is kind lame regardless of who directed it.
When a ship containing soul survivors Cypher Raige and his son Kitai crash lands on a dangerous planet, injured Cypher must send his son miles away to activate a homing beacon for help. Kitai must travel across many miles of dangerous future Earth where the fauna – and even the air itself – may kill him.
The good news is that After Earth was co-written with M. Night by Gary Whitta, who wrote The Book of Eli. The bad news is, this was co-written by Gary Witta, who worte The Book of Eli. What does this mean? It means it’s a film that is not the usual twist-ending Shymalan movie. You have hope that it will not be as stupid as his previous few films. But in the end, it’s so predictable that you almost wish it DID have some kind of twist somewhere just to make it more interesting. It plays out so plainly that there are really no surprises at all.
Will Smith is pretty strong here as Cypher Raige (what kind of name is that?), a General in what is called the Rangers, the elite force that comprises what is the military 1000 years in our future where humans have had to leave Earth because we ruined it. Aliens attacked and they created these creatures called the Ursas. They are big, nasty, and quite blind. But they are engineered to sense human pheramones released from a state of fear. They can smell your fear. Isn’t that a tag line from some other movie from the 80’s? Whatever. Cypher was able to squelch his fear, and therefore become invisible to the Ursas which made them pretty easy to kill. This ability is called Ghosting. But only a very few Rangers can do this.
Will Smith plays it cool here. He handles his role well – not showing emotion outwardly but you see it’s there underneath the surface. His son Jaden, however, being asked to almost carry this film, doesn’t fare quite so well. He’s not awful, mind you, he’s just not ready to carry a film like this yet. But all that aside, there are other weird things afoot in After Earth.
The way someone releases their fear is by confronting past fear-inducing events in their mind and working past them with some guidance. Funny, that’s what Scientologists do in their auditing sessions. All those tormented alien souls need to be purged, and that’s how they do it. Kitai needs to travel to the top of a volcano to send the rescue signal. A volcano is on the cover of the Dianetics book by L. Ron Hubbard. Just coincidences? Maybe, but unlikely. It is known that the Smith’s have given money to Scientology organizations and been hanging around Tom Cruise a lot lately. Despite that fact that I find that disconcerting, the movie just isn’t all that good anyway. But then, it’s certainly better than the last movie associated with Scientology; Battlefield Earth, which is possibly the worst film ever made. But being put in that kind of company is not going to do After Earth any favors.
Nor is it going to help M. Night Shaymalan. Hey, the Smith clan will bounce back, no problem, but even here when M. Night directs outside his own material a second time, he can’ t get it right. Even the CG effects are only barely passable; average at best. There is some interesting production design, and a potentially interesting story if they delved deeper, but as it stands, there just isn’t enough to make this film stand out or make us want to give a damn about anyone in it.
I’m sorry I paid for this. If I had exhausted everything else on my Netflix queue, and I was bored on a rainy day with no books left to read, I might say you should check this out. But you might doze off in the middle or be kinda pissed if you were waiting to the end to see if anything interesting might develop. After Earth is lucky to see two kittenhands. And they will be wrapped around the neck of Shaymalanga-ding-dong.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, thinking this film should have been released in February.