Sometimes I feel like I’m a big part of the problem when I pay to see movies like this, but then again, I’m only giving them $8… Suffice it to say, if there was ever a movie I’m happy ended up being a total flop, I’m glad it’s a movie like this one.
After Earth is the story of failed space ranger Kitai (Jaden Smith), who has a cold, distant father Cypher (Will Smith) who he simply wants to impress. They live on a new planet (I think the year is in the 3000’s), because Earth became uninhabitable, due to climate change or wars or something kind of nondescript that they gloss over in the opening montage. Anyway, the new planet had a host species of giant insect-like things that mankind tried to wipe out on arrival (they don’t sympathize with the insect species and the pillaging of their native land at any point in the movie, though, PROBABLY BECAUSE THEY’RE BIG UGLY BUGS, EWWWW). Oh and these bug things are blind, but they can detect human fear for some reason, and that’s how they see the humans. By detecting FEAR… Luckily, Cypher can “ghost”, which is to walk around with a complete lack of fear, a rare phenomenon that creates a perfect answer to the dumb creation of the fear-seeking bugs.
So Cypher also holds some resentment towards Kitai because at some point during Kitai’s childhood, a bug broke into their space apartment and killed Cypher’s daughter, and Kitai just hid in a bubble that apparently hides the smell of fear (yeah, the fear stuff is all really stupid). So now Cypher is angry that 6-year-old Kitai didn’t try to fight the 30 foot carnivorous super spider that was attacking his sister? Sounds like Kitai did the right thing in that situation. They both should have climbed in the fear masking bubble. Why doesn’t every home have a whole room full of these bubbles, for emergency purposes? Why don’t humans just LIVE in the bubbles? Also, who left the door open? That’s who should be held responsible for the bug killing the sister.
Man, there’s a lot of irritating summary going on in this review. To move it forward; Cypher comes home again, only to immediately go out on another mission. But this time he’s taking his son with him, I assume because the mom wants some alone time to read books or take bubble baths without her wiener kid Kitai whining about not being a space ranger 24/7. Hey, future planets need janitors too, Kitai, get over it. So, they both go onto a space ship to somewhere, for something. Honestly, I have no idea where they were going, or why they were going there. I either missed it because they said it in passing, or they never said it at all. But like dumb dumbs, the pilots fly into an asteroid field (HOW ORIGINAL), and have to land their ship on a planet everyone is surprised to see is Earth. This brings up the interesting question: why were they flying so close to Earth, yet were completely surprised by its existence? It’s only the planet where, ya know, their species originated from. I think Will Smith literally says “It can’t be…”
Anyway, they crash-land and the ship breaks in half, leaving only the Smith boys as survivors. But with the working help beacon device in the other half of the ship, and Cypher’s legs both broken, he sends his son to go get it. This is also a planet that Cypher describes as a place “where every species has evolved to kill humans.” Which is a completely ridiculous statement to make considering three things… 1) Why would the animals evolve to kill humans if humans haven’t been on the planet for 1000 years? 2) They clearly haven’t evolved to kill humans because nothing on this planet is successful at killing Jaden Smith, who plays a total puss in this movie. And 3) They haven’t really evolved at all; there’s regular baboons and eagles and tigers. That’s about it. Maybe they’re 1.5x bigger? I hardly call that a drastic evolution.
Every conflict in this movie is set up in the first half and bluntly executed in the second. Hey, did you know M. Night Shyamalan directed this movie? The advertising certainly didn’t let you know. That’s probably smart. But you know what ISN’T smart? Giving M. Night $130 million dollars to shoot a sci-fi movie that he wrote. I thought it was 2013? If there was ever a debate that movie studio executives are just high on cocaine all the time, this should settle it. This movie cost as much as Captain America did.
Wait, where was I going with that…? Oh yeah, where once M. Night was a “master” of the twist (remember when we used to call him “the next Hitchcock”, hahaha), he now gives every secret away in the most obvious of ways. Things in the first half are so bluntly pointed out, that it becomes laughable when they call back to it later in the movie. For example: Cyhper says, out of nowhere, “Remember Kitai, this wristband communicator is our only means of communication.” I WONDER IF IT BREAKS LATER? “You’ll need six of these magic oxygen tablets that let you breathe on Earth.” HE BREAKS TWO OF THEM. They were bringing a space bug with them on the spaceship because “convenient bad guy?”. I WONDER IF IT GETS LOOSE ON EARTH. Kitai tries to save an eagle’s nest from a pack of tigers (what a dumb sentence), but certainly this movie wouldn’t be so shitty as to have the eagle save Kitai’s life late- -OH GOD. OH NO. WOW. That just happened. The fucking eagle just saved his life, and in the most unfathomably stupid way possible. Whoa, now they want me to feel EMOTIONS about the eagle…? Isn’t this the same eagle that tried to EAT Kitai like 20 minutes earlier? God damn, fuck this movie.
Perhaps the worst example of the foreshadowing was when Cypher tells the story of how he learned to ghost, and then in the second-to-last scene of the movie, it happens to Kitai in basically the exact same way. He spends the entire movie in nearly piss-his-pants amounts of crybaby fear, only to overcome it instantly and conveniently at the exact right time to kill the space bug on top of a mountain, in what I’m sure will sweep the 2013 Predictable Awards Festival later this year. I mean, there’s a lack of character development, and then there’s THIS. And it makes you wonder why Will Smith read this screenplay, and CHOSE to make it, even though he read Tarantino’s Oscar-winning screenplay for Django Unchained, and turned that down. Especially for a role where he plays a guy with two broken legs who stays in one room for 90% of his screen time and isn’t required to show any emotion.
And I think the simple answer is that Smith wanted to show off the talents of his aspiring actor son. After Earth is clearly just an expensive ego boost for the Smith family. The problem is, Jaden can’t act for shit. I know he’s a fairly easy target, and it’s almost cliché to rip on him at this point. But that kid sucks at acting. He has an almost indecipherable accent, or something, that makes hearing his lines pretty hit-or-miss. And he hasn’t quite nailed how to do certain emotions yet, like crying. When the Smith gentlemen have to act emotionless and blank, they do alright. But besides that, this was an acting train wreck of a movie.
For a normal person / football comparison of what happened here (USA! USA! USA!), it’s like when a father is talking up his quarterback son before the high school game, as this great prodigy, in the parking lot to the other dads. The dad was legendary at football, so the son has all the potential in the world. So everyone gets excited to see the new Smith take over the reigns as the town’s next superstar quarterback. Then the first game of the season starts and he fumbles his first snap. Then he throws four interceptions. Then he throws a temper tantrum on the sideline because the other players “aren’t as good as him.” Then he throws three more interceptions. Not to mention, Coach Shyamalan has a long history of designing poor gameplans. The school should really fire that guy. Long story short, the Hollywood Prep Entitled Shits (their mascot looks like Joffrey) lost the game 130 to 27. Better luck next season.
3.5 out of 10