There was a mixed bag of elements behind this movie making me unsure what to expect. First we have Will Smith, who I’ve loved since Fresh Prince, but there’s also his son Jaden Smith, whose not a great actor. Then there’s screenwriter Gary Whitta. While not a household name, I knew him from Book of Eli (another okay movie), and few different video games. Most notably episode 4 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Conversely we have screenwriter and director M. Night Shyamalan. I’m not going to take the easy route and jump on the hate train, but needless to say I don’t care for him.
Movie trailers have become a difficult art to master over the years. In many cases they do a disservice to the movie they’re promoting. After Earth’s trailer is one that I don’t think does the movie any favors. I can’t really hold it against the trailer in this case, considering how straight forward the plot is. What you see is what you get. A ship crashes on Earth, being the first humans there in a thousand years. Everyone dies except the Smiths. Will is badly injured while Jaden is fine. He has to make his way to the tail end of the ship, that broke off during entry, to get the only work distress beacon.
The movie opens up with a lot of exposition, explaining the current status quo. This is where I felt most of the problems laid. We left Earth because of pollution, finding home on a new world. Turns out there were already aliens there trying to take the planet. They had creatures that were “bred to kill humans.” They can’t see, but can smell fear. Will learns how to suppress his fear to fight these aliens. Teaching this ghosting technique to other rangers, they defeat the aliens. While this sounds like it could be an interesting premise, it’s mentioned too quickly before being mostly forgotten. Where did these aliens come from? How did they bred these creatures if they just met us? What do the aliens look like? Never touched on. Also, how could Earth have changed that much in 1000 years? No signs of any previous human life? How could anything grow if got that cold at night? And animals evolving that much?
My biggest problem with the film came from Will’s character. He was a strict, emotionally suppressed, military man. Why would one of the most charismatic, appealing men in Hollywood, and be cast in such a wooden role? Will Smith being Will Smith is the reason why people go out to see his movies. I’m not saying he can’t do drama type roles, I just think he should avoid hollow ones like this.
Marketing has finally learned that plastering M. Night Shyamalan’s name all over a movie is not a good idea. I’ve heard few people say they didn’t know this was his movie, and wouldn’t have gone to see it if they did. Compared against his body of work, this is one of his better outings.
The best comparison I can give this movie is that it’s like an episode of a sci-fi show like Stargate, or Battlestar Galactica. Two characters, a father and son, are removed from the on going conflict, and as a result they bond and grow stronger. This is payoff to two different character arcs that we should have seen bicker over the last season or two. The growth is hollow because it wasn’t earned, and the groundwork laid was made weak by it’s quick pacing.
Much like Oblivion, After Earth has wonderful aesthetics, but ultimately falls flat.
What did you think of After Earth? Miss seeing real Will Smith movies? Comment below!
When’s the next Will Smith album supposed to drop?