Film Review: After Earth
Watching After Earth, the first thing I realised is that I still have A Thing for Will Smith. No matter the role (and how terrible the film), he is fantastic. Or maybe just really hot. I kind of love him.
After Earth tells the story of humans far in to the future. They destroyed Earth so much that they left for a new planet. But this new planet had super-killer aliens that were totally blind but could smell fear. Cypher Raige (Will Smith) feels no fear, and therefore becomes a legendary hero in fighting them. His son, Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith, Will Smith’s actual son), is desperate to follow in his footsteps as a super-alien-killing-machine, but is rather prone to fear – which isn’t so good when fighting aliens that hunt based on that emotion.
In an attempt to repair father-son relations, Cypher decides to take his son on a last mission before he retires. This is a bad decision to make, because the ship is forced to crash land on the hostile Earth. Cypher is badly hurt, and the beacon they need for rescue is in the other half of the crash site, with a recently loosed fear-smelling alien, so he sends Kitai to go and collect it.
This film reaches for complexity – moral stories of fear, and how to treat the planet properly – and yet doesn’t quite get there. This is an M. Night Shyamalan film, which means visually, it’s beautiful, but plot-wise it’s shaky.
I never really have much against Shyamalan films – they are always enthusiastically performed and give you good entertainment for 100-or-so minutes (think Signs). But they are never particularly amazing – they won’t win Oscars, and they won’t blow you away. However, Will Smith is a co-writer/producer for the film, and the better aspects of it are largely credited to him.
Jaden Smith is hotting up to be a pretty good actor if I’m honest. In a sort of unbearably smug kind of way. He takes the centre stage in this sci-fi flick with gusto, with as much facial acting as his father (eyebrows are apparently very expressive). He travels a wild, aggressive future Earth on the hunt to get the beacon, all the while battling his own inners demons… fear, the death of his sister, his desperation to be like his dad.
But ultimately, I was more impressed by the landscape. There is a certain amount of show-don’t-tell here (for example, I’m not sure why it freezes every night), but it is an astoundingly beautiful setting (a blend of the US, Costa Rica, Switzerland and the green screen), and I could have watched it for hours. If nothing else, this is a demonstration of good backdrop.
This is a mindless, fun for all film. The humour falls a little flat, the action is a little trite, and the whole thing feels mightily heavy-handed, but there is nothing offensive about it. If you like action, sci-fi and Will Smith, it’s worth a watch, but don’t get your hopes up.