0388 | After Earth

imageI’ll try and think of something positive to say about M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth while I write this short review, and hopefully by the end I’ll have come up with something, but I’m certainly not willing to make any promises at this early stage. In the meantime it will be easier to give you several reasons why I hold this joyless sci-fi blockbuster, set 1,000 years in the future, in contempt; and yes, given that I’m reviewing a film that was savaged by critics upon its release a couple of years ago, I freely admit that I will have little to say that hasn’t already been said.

First and foremost is the low standard of the acting: both Will Smith and son Jaden who previously appeared together in The Pursuit Of Happyness – are dismal in this film, playing a dreary father-son team with unresolved issues and a penchant for grimacing. In fairness to the pair both of their characters are poorly written by Shyamalan and Gary Whitta, and they have to plough through a lot of bad, cliché-ridden dialogue, much of which is apparently laden with Scientology-related subtext. Legendary military warrior dad Cypher Raige (yes!) is as serious as they come and spends the entire film lying prostrate with a scowl across his fizzog, while son Kitai is a sullen, walking disappointment who shows few signs of following in Cypher’s footsteps. This is problematic enough in itself, but complicating their relationship further is the fact that both characters blame themselves and each other for the death of another family member at the hands of the Ursa, giant bug-like monsters who have attacked humanity on the newly-colonized planet Nova Prime. Cypher and Kitai tediously carry on like this until a traumatic incident predictably and conveniently irons out their long-standing problems. The dreadful screenplay also includes more dimwit-friendly plot exposition and supremely naff ‘Fire up the Aldi Beam and plot the jump to the Lidl Sector’ tripe than you can shake an angry stick at.

Um, what else? The CGI is disappointing at times. There are a couple of half-hearted scenes in deep space at the beginning of the story, but much of the action takes place on an Earth that has become inhospitable to humans, and though we don’t see much of the animal life we do get a few unintentional laughs when a troupe of giant, fake-looking baboons appears for five minutes. The Ursa creatures we see also fail to convince, which is a shame considering the film’s hefty budget of (at least) $130 million. The story is dull, the pace is plodding, the same flashback is repeated over and over and over again, and throughout Will Smith seems determined to destroy his reputation as a charismatic, fun-to-watch blockbuster actor. In short it’s a disaster, though naturally it went on to make a considerable profit at the box office, so let’s just ponder how awful the world is for a minute before weeping at the fact this has allowed Shyamalan to continue making utter dreck. I really don’t want to waste any more time or energy writing about After Earth, but at least in doing so I have thought of something positive to say: a number of matte paintings are used for the giant vistas of futuristic Earth, which kind of resembles prehistoric Earth, and whoever made them is clearly very talented. But that is all.

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan.
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan, Gary Whitta.
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo.
Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky.
Editing: Steven Rosenblum.
Music: James Newton Howard.
Certificate:
12A.
Running Time:
100 minutes.
Year:
2013.

Comments 23

  1. Cindy Bruchman October 25, 2015

    I passed this one up because of all the dismal reviews. Can’t say a couple years later I’m rushing after your review to rent it.
    By the way, you are such a fine reviewer, and I’d LOVE to feature you as a guest conversational opener for November’s “Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club” topic. Maybe a favorite femme fetale actress or a movie that embodies that decade’s definition of the femme fatale? If not November, my December topic is the filmography of Ang Lee. Not a full review, but just studying an aspect of a film or the director in general? If this sounds appealing to you, I’d love to spotlight your site. You are one of my favorite reviewers on the blogosphere. Busy? No worries, maybe some other time in 2016.

    • Stu October 26, 2015

      Hi Cindy – thanks very much for the kind words and thanks for asking. December looks tempting for me; I’ve never actually seen Brokeback Mountain, so I’d have the impetus to watch it! What would I need to do?

      • Cindy Bruchman October 26, 2015

        YAY!! Just commit to watching it and all you have to do is focus on an aspect of the film, as Lee, the director. A paragraph with some scene examples is all you need do. I right the synopsis and you are just my featured guest with links to your site. Send me the paragraph or two by the 10th of November so I can upload it by the 13th. Then, stop by frequently during the day so you can answer talk with all the people who will want to talk with you! cbruchman@yahoo.com
        I’m so very happy!

        • Stu October 27, 2015

          Thanks Cindy; I’ll keep an eye out and try and watch the film in the next week or so.

    • Stu October 26, 2015

      Yeah I’m regretting that now! 100 minutes of life we will never get back, my friend. I’m never watching a Shyamalan film again (apart from the first two he made).

        • Stu October 27, 2015

          Yeah, a bad run, although his recent one (name escapes me…maybe The Visit?) seemed to get a few half-decent reviews. I haven’t seen a couple of his stinkers but his films seems to make a lot of money so he won’t be disappearing!

        • Keith October 27, 2015

          Yes The Visit. I actually did want to see that one. It would be nice to see the guy rediscover his form.

    • Stu October 27, 2015

      He is pretty bad here, but I think it’s telling that someone like his dad, who usually looks as if he is breezing his way through this kind of film, also struggles. It looks like neither of us want to write the kid off!

  2. Tom October 28, 2015

    This was a far more fun experience reading this review than watching this piece of shit movie. M Night can disappear any time and you won’t hear me complaining. 😉

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