By Mark Di Stefano
Rating: 7 out of 10
To start off, this is an M. Night Shyamalan film. Despite the failed responses to his previous directorial efforts (The Happening, The Last Airbender), I wouldn’t blame the P.R. department for hiding that fact. After seeing his latest effort, After Earth, I then realized that P.R. made a big mistake.
After Earth, while not his best work (and certainly not Will Smith’s either), it certainly is a step forward for Shyamalan and kicks off the summer movie season.
Based on a story by Mr.Smith the movie stars him and his son, Jaden Smith. Not surprisingly unexpected, they play as father and son. Set 1000 years in the future, Will Smith plays Cypher Raige, a legendary soldier who’s just returned home. His son, Kitai, didn’t make the ranger program, and always tries to outdo the other cadets. As an effort to reconnect, Cypher takes his son on a routine trip when the ship takes a crash landing on a desolate, dangerous, and abandoned Earth.
With the ship down and his legs broken, Cypher is forced to send his son out into the wilderness, with the hope of finding some hope for salvation.
The film has many things going for it, both good and bad. Visually the film is great. It’s odd that a futuristic version of Earth is deemed dangerous and scary that it looks beautiful. In a way, Earth should have seemed scarier. The creatures that Kitai comes across didn’t seem that vicious until the very end. The visuals were stunning though, and the imagery captivates the audience.
The performances weren’t lackluster but they weren’t exciting either, walking a very uneven line. Jaden seemed a little deadpan in some parts, and so did his dad. It’s a shame too cause Will Smith has established himself as a terrific actor, and Jaden, who was in The Karate Kid and The Pursuit of Happyness (the first film he did with his father), has great potential. Sure Jaden probably got the role because his dad is Will Smith, but he gives it his all, it just doesn’t show on the screen. Will Smith was called “Mr. Blockbuster” for quite some time (and rightfully so). With Will Smith not saving the day, some audiences might feel a bit cheated.
The biggest surprise here is the triumphant return of Shyamalan. The film had some pretty intense moments filled with suspense. In a way, he goes back to his roots. He managed to create interesting characters and brought you into that world. It is by no regards a movie like that of The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, but he manages to bring you into this world and be immersed by its mystery, despite its flaws. It shows the fans that he hasn’t lost his touch, and even though it’s not his best, I feel we’re in the upswing of things.
After Earth is a good way to start the summer. It has plenty of thrills and action sequences with beautiful cinematography. Despite some performances and questionable story elements, it has a good payoff, and audiences will be pleased overall. It was just a shame that Mr. Blockbuster didn’t show up to give us some extra thrills.