Some time back when I first saw After Earth when it premiered on one of my pay channels, I had a very hard time getting past the first 20 minutes. And I bailed on it. But I had a chance to watch the movie again (there was NOTHING else on TV) and I watched it again and had an interesting epiphany.
Despite his floundering career and string of entertainment disappointments, M. Night Shyamalan, I think, approached the making of After Earth like he did The Last Airbender. If you look at the movie like it was aimed at children, at a youthful audience, it suddenly makes more sense and feels like less the painful failure than I first perceived it to be. And if he didn’t, OMG, WTH?
But if I recall, the marketing felt like it was aimed at the adults of the world and thus, it seemed to fall short of any box office survival, making $61M domestically and $245M worldwide. (Overseas tickets cost more…)
After Earth stars Will Smith as Cypher Raige and Jaden Smith as his son, Kitai Raige.
The story goes that Cypher has this ability to be completely fearless and thus, able to defeat a certain alien beast that senses and locates people only by the fear they exude. His son… not so much.
Cypher, in an attempt to bond with his son, decides to take him along on a simple transit through space, but the trip gets sidelined and ends up crashing on what was once Earth. And all kinds of things have evolved that are simply not friendly. Not to mention that the cargo of the ship also had one of those aliens. (Why we bring our kid along on a ship with one of those death-dealing alien monsters? Meh? Who knows?)
During the crash landing, Cypher is hurt and has to talk Kitai through a journey to find an emergency beacon that came down a few days travel away, in the tail section of the ship. (Everyone else is splattered and dead)
The entire set of humanity has an odd accent for whatever reason. Cypher, the hero with no fear, has no emotions. I could not tell you where the accent of the entire human race came from but if that’s our future, so be it.
The characterization of the different folks in the movie felt rather flat, though the wife/mother had a touch more emotion in the story.
And the story moves forward, first focusing on dad, then later, the son, as Kitai traverses the alien landscape.
Kitai’s flaws are base in nature… fear, ruled by attempted physical overthrow of the problem, and as we all know, that’s not always the best answer.
Through the film events happen that seem stupid, to an adult, but later, I thought, the younger audience just might like this. If they too can get past the beginning. And maybe they will, if they realize the story is truly about the young man trying to please his tough, military father.
I am glad I did not drop money to see this at the theater and I’m fairly glad I did not spend even less renting it when it first came out.
As an adult, I’d have to give After Earth, at best, a popcorn 5. (Well, the effects were nice!) But most everything else was fairly flat. For both adult and child acting. But pre-teens and such, I am guessing, might enjoy watching the show if it came on or was available to pull up on one of your pay movie channels or what not, because in the end, Kitai miraculously… well, you’ll see, if you watch it.
If you are a Will Smith fan, I’m not sure this is one you would want to add to your collection. If you are a budding Jayden Smith fan… maybe.
The next big question is, what the bloody heck happened to M. Night Shyamalan? Did he blow his creative wad on those first few movies and that’s that?
The Sixth Sense was a practical story with an incredible twist.
As a comic book fan, Unbreakable was on the leading edge comic characters played down to a more realistic level. He was way ahead of the curve with that flick.
And Signs, I loved. The experience if a small town family dealing with a world-wide crisis.
And therein lies his strength. A family or single person’s focus on everyday events or larger, global scale events. He needs to get back to that and quit doing these other, globally earth (career?) shattering films. Get back to seeing how people, on the personal scale, deal with bigger issues. Keep it personal M. (That’s his first name, right? M?)
Though in After Earth there is one timeless quote from the movie that I’m glad I heard and will now, spoil the film for you with it… This is as near as I recall the phrase,
Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination causing us to fear things that do not, at present nor may ever exist. That is near insanity.
Danger is very real, but fear is a choice.
-Yep, that was cool.