Stunt Granny Movie Review: After Earth

after-earth-poster

Will Smith +a post-apocalyptic Earth + Father & son mending old wounds while overcoming new challenges should equal an entertaining  film.  Unfortunately, when the primary ingredient is Jaden Smith, and the chef is M. Night Shyamalan, your end product is the dull, dry plate of lasagna known as After Earth.
A quick synopsis – Earth is abandoned due to cataclysms and global warming, with Humans settling on a planet outside the solar system called Nova Prime.  Years later, the planet comes under attack by an invading alien species via biological weapons known as Ursas – blind monsters who sense humans via fear pheromones. A special military force known as Rangers are trained to hide their fear (called ghosting) in order to successfully attack these creatures.  Fast –forward to the present time where Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) bristles under the shadow of his famous father, General Cypher Raige, while also dealing with the guilt of a previous family tragedy.  As a form of healing & bonding, the Raige clan travels together on a routine training expedition.  Of course they run into an impossibly-formed asteroid field and are forced to crash land on a now quarantined Earth.  Being the only survivors, they must find a way to reach an emergency beacon while avoiding an erratic weather climate, as well as an animal kingdom which has evolved to hunt humans.

While typing that synopsis, I realized that there is an engrossing story that could’ve been told.  Unfortunately, it was presented in a ham-handed, half-assed way.  There were warning signs beforehand that this wouldn’t be an enjoyable movie – the fact that Jaden Smith’s name came before Will on a poster was one.  The fact that the director of the movie was downplayed as much as humanly possible was another. But hey, it’s a Will Smith sci-fi movie – even with a flimsy story, I’d thought at the very least I’d get to see Will Smith do Will Smith events in a charismatic, slightly corny, yet entertaining manner.  Even the director of the Village, Lady in The Water and that goddamn travesty The Last Airbender couldn’t ruin a simple layup.  Well, that’s what I get for assuming, for M. Night did the seemingly impossible – he made a dull, middling, boring Will Smith science fiction movie.

When it comes to creating an effective science fiction movie, there are three factors to consider – setting, story and stars.  After Earth presents a gorgeous setting, being the first major release to take advantage of 4K resolution.  The movie is crisp, clean and realistic, with proper sense of scale and movement.  Unfortunately, it’s an empty world, bereft of depth.  One thing not absent are blatant plot contrivances.   I’m not the one to nitpick science fiction movies, due to the fact of a certain suspension of disbelief required for enjoyment.  But there’s no goddamn way I can believe with a straight face that a civilization which developed  interstellar space travel and wormhole technology are hunting scent monsters with magic Swiss army knives.  Seriously, there are no guns in the future?  A bigger issue however, is the setting of earth itself.  We are told countless times how dangerous Earth has become, and how lethal the predators have evolved.  What’s actually presented area bunch of baboons, a snail, a few jaguars, and an Eagle fight.  Future empty earth may look gorgeous, but it never seems as dangerous as it’s portrayed to be. Furthermore, how could these creatures evolve to kill humans, when there haven’t been humans present in a millennia?

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: