After Earth’ (2013) Movie Review

I almost made the mistake of starting this review with all the worthless information we’re fed at the beginning of the film. Truth is, while After Earth establishes a timeline one thousand years after humans abandoned Earth for a planet called Nova Prime, the details established during the film’s opening minutes are relatively insignificant. Then again, so is the film.

Stripping away all the unnecessary details, After Earth is about Cypher and Kitai Raige (Will Smith and his real life son Jaden Smith), a father and son who crash land on Earth one thousand years after humans abandoned it. Cypher has broken both of his legs and he will help his son navigate the now-savage planet as he must get to the tail section of their spaceship and signal back to Nova Prime so they can be rescued. Kitai must survive dangers such as baboons, toxic leeches, giant eagles and a blind, alien monster called an Ursa that tracks humans by the pheromones we secrete when we’re scared.

Additionally, at night the Earth freezes over and Kitai must find a “hotspots” if he doesn’t want to freeze to death… I guess the Earth freezes over because the sun is burning out or maybe the changes in the atmosphere are causing it? I don’t really know how to explain it because everything seems fine in the day time, which is when you would think the Earth’s surface would be scorching hot… Right?

In all honesty it’s not even worth thinking too hard about, this isn’t a movie, it’s the equivalent of a cheaply made video game based on a movie. Each “level” of After Earth features a different enemy Kitai must face and he only makes it to the next level if he survives the day’s dangers and finds a hotspot at night. The end goal is to reach the mountain, find a cell phone signal, conquer his fear and face-off against the Ursa they were carrying in their ship, which has obviously broken free. The End!

If it wasn’t clear yet, I hated this film and it took no more than five minutes to realize it was going to be terrible. The first ten minutes or so are spent going over a wide swath of information that has no baring on the story as details are rushed over via a monotone voice over. For that matter, the fact the film is largely set on an abandoned Earth is meaningless. There are no larger metaphors or profound reveals, just Matrix and Lord of the Rings narrative rip-offs complete with completely irrational characters and inexplicable behavior.

Will Smith is a blank page. There is nothing to his character. He speaks as if he were an engineered robot. There’s no chance I would ever believe this guy has an ounce of feeling in his body let alone a wife and children that would put up with him. I guess if this film has managed to accomplish anything, it’s that it turned the always charismatic Will Smith into an emotionless ass. Kudos.

Then there’s Jaden, who’s put in the horrible position of playing opposite his father’s dead-behind-the-eyes performance. It’s no fault of his own his character is a brat, but it’s baffling to believe anyone would think an audience would want to watch a whiny little teenager go through puberty while searching for a rescue beacon while his father plays the human-embodiment of HAL? And could someone tell me what accent they were speaking in and why?

And this is all before we even get to the tech. Nevermind the fact we’re still having signal issues with our wireless devices one thousand years from now, I’m more curious to understand why it is we’re able to build spaceships that can travel to other galaxies, but our only weapons will be fancy spears. You know what’s going to help cure your fear of giant, blind alien monsters? Not a spear, a big effing gun!

The story, if you want to call it that, was hatched by Will Smith with a screenplay later written by Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) and director M. Night Shyamalan. For the longest time I’ve defended Shyamalan’s work, even finding things to like and appreciating the guts it took to make something like The Happening where the wind is the villain, but there is no defending this travesty. The direction is as emotionless and unfeeling as the characters.

After Earth is an embarrassment. If anything I guess it gave us another solid score from James Newton Howard, but I would prefer to just forget this film ever happened and go on with my life.


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