I don’t what it is that gravitates me to go to the latest M. Night Shyamalan but I always end up in the dimly lit room watching what unfolds on that gigantic white screen. I loved Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and even saw promise with Lady in the Water. Since then it has just been a downward spiral. With his latest incarnation, After Earth, could this be his comeback. One word will describe that…NO.
The story behind After Earth is that from disasters, to wars, Earth has become uninhabitable and people now live on Nova Prime. This is not a story of the destruction of Earth, but the bonding between a father and his son after they crash land on the planet and must work together to light the beacon which will bring in the rescue party to save them.
This should be a touching sci-fi, which is something we haven’t seen in some time and don’t get me wrong the story as promise but what brings it down is the execution of the sum of all parts.
Will Smith stars as Cypher Raige, the hero of the war, he has the ability to ghost in battle meaning that by controlling his fear, he almost becomes invisible to the enemy giving him the upper hand in battle. Cypher is as stern as they come and definitely is a military man first and a father second. It’s a different role for Will Smith. Smith plays it very close to the chest and turns off his natural charisma which he is know for in his roles. This, along with the direction makes him come off very wooden in this approach and almost seems robotic at times with his dialogue delivery. I normally like Smith in his various roles, even dating back to Fresh Prince and we seen him in very dramatic roles before, Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds, and was tremendous in those. But in After Earth his performance just wasn’t compelling enough to make you care for his character. Yes you can see he loves his son and his family but there was just no emotion to be seen and almost makes the character Cypher Raige seem heartless and cold.
Smith’s real life son Jaden Smith plays his son Kitai Raige, an up and coming military boy who did not make the rank of Rangers this season. He wants to feel like he fits in with his father and was hoping to make him proud that he be a Ranger like his dad, but has the hardship of letting him know he didn’t make it. Jaden really is the one who needs to carry this movie through out almost the entire running time. This is can be a difficult task for someone with little experience and is one of the downfalls of the picture.
Was he good? There were points in the film that showed Jaden may have the talent if he works on it. Most of the time he just falls flat and again comes off wooden and stiff during deliveries that should be echoing a sense of emotion and power behind them. Don’t get me wrong, a lot also falls on the directing and terrible screenplay, and at times it felt as if George Lucas himself wrote and directed this.
Kitai is a character that is battling emotion of a boy who really doesn’t want to be military but wants to do well and succeed to get the approval he is looking for from his father. Kitai is somewhat of a lost soul and Jaden just doesn’t have the chops yet to fully convey this to the audience.
M. Night Shyamalan directed After Earth and was one of the writers of the screenplay. Shyamalan does try to do right in the movie business but just can’t seem to make it work. Some call him a flash in the pan director and film maker and maybe he is, but some think one day he will come back to form. After Earth isn’t it. He was brought on to direct the movie through and idea Will Smith came up with about the story. Will had a big scope of what this story could be, and don’t get me wrong it is a good story, a very good story, but poor directing and writing crumble what could have been something big.
One of the problems with his directing in After Earth is holding onto shots. There are many strings of shots that are just held onto for seconds too long and it makes you want the pacing to quicken a little. This ends up hurting the high end action sequences which should be pulse racing, heart thumping big scenes, but instead these fall flat because of the very slow pacing that leads up to them.
By the time these action sequences hit you are so tired out from the pacing that these scenes just don’t have the bang needed to carry you through to the next long, dragged out sequence. Also to note that some of these action scenes are short and seem to be over before they start, another hitch to the pacing of the movie. It seems that Shyamalan fault with his films isn’t necessarily with his ability to tell a story but his ability to properly pace one out on screen and put emotion and heart into what we are watching. Maybe his next movie should be a smaller budget film with smaller scope to get his creative juices flowing again.
The effects in the movie are a mixed bag. Some things look brilliant, like the giant bird creature and the monkies. Other things like the dead pilots in the trees looked terrible and very CG. It’s too bad because the cinematography was well done for the most part giving us a very different looking Earth but most scenes end up falling flat because of poor CG that takes you out of the moment. One of the tricks of CG is to add to the experience of being transported to a place that doesn’t exist or to add to the environment you are witnessing. When it pulls you out of that moment it’s not utilized properly and there are many cases where the CG looked deliberate and fake.
Can I wholeheartedly recommend this movie? No. This is a movie best not to waste money to see. Should you wait until it’s out to rent? If you have Netflix and really want to see this movie, wait until then, no need to throw away money on another Shyamalan failure.
I think this may be a first in my reviews but I am giving this movie 0 stars out of 5. After running it over and over in my mind I couldn’t find anything at all redeeming about it and giving it at least 1 start would have meant I liked something about it. Maybe I did, but not enough to warrant that. ‘Till next time my friends.