The thought of having Will Smith, Jaden Smith, and M. Night Shyamalan together for a movie sounded like a great idea and could have had a lot of potential. The end result of their work, After Earth, is a disappointing, shallow, and tacky film that does not satisfy on any level.
After Earth starts off with humanity abandoning Earth long ago to the planet of Nova Prime because of constant natural disasters, pollution, and acts of extreme violence. 1000 years later, Cypher Raige (Will Smith) is a widely respected general of the Ranger Corps, a peacekeeper organization with many similarities that resemble the military. Cypher is cold, emotionless, and shows no fear because of his many years of training. He is also the only one that can kill the legendary beasts known as the URSAS by “ghosting” (a technique where the ranger shows no fear and becomes entirely invisible to the URSA).
Cypher’s son Kitai (Jaden Smith) wishes to earn the respect of his father by becoming a full fledged ranger. However, Kitai has not been able to advance for being reckless in the field. Cypher is about to retire from the corps and his wife, Faia (Sophie Okonedo), urges him to take Kitai on his last mission to Earth in order for the two to bond together. During the trip, the ship is caught in an asteroid field and becomes heavily damaged. Forced to land on Earth, Kitai and Cypher are the only passengers to survive the crash with Cypher’s body being greatly injured. Cypher then sends his son into the harsh environment in order to find the distress beacon and hopefully return home.
There are a ton of issues within this film that are unforgivable; the most important thing to note is the acting. The thought of having Will Smith, an actor built for comedic rolls, being a cold and heartless father figure is something completely unexpected from him and turned out to be just plain wrong. To me it feels like he was not even trying to deliver anything new to the table. This could have been a great opportunity for Will Smith to break out of his comfort zone and just run with it. Unfortunately Will took many steps backwards and it cost him.
Jaden’s acting is also lacking here as well. His performance feels entirely out of place throughout the film and this is a shame considering that Jaden is the main star of After Earth.
Another thing that just bugged me is the weird reoccurring flashbacks experienced through Kitai. The story is about Kitai overcoming his fears to save himself and his father from dying on Earth. Through the flashbacks we are given a backstory as to why Cypher is so cruel towards Kitai. When Kitai was a little boy, an URSA attacked their home and killed his sister Senshi (Zoe Isabella Kravitz). Kitai survived the attack but Cypher has blamed him for Senshi’s death ever since. This side plot makes no sense here.
Throughout the flashbacks, we notice that Cypher is already a cold and emotionless father even before Senshi’s death. So why does this event make him resent his son? Also if Nova Prime is supposed to be a secure place for humans, how did an URSA get into their house in the first place? Also Kitai was around 7 or 8 when the attack happened so doesn’t that mean Cypher couldn’t blame him for Senshi’s death? This whole side plot left me with more questions than answers. If anything, it should not have been included at all.
The URSA is the other elephant in the room. From the beginning we know that the ship is carrying a URSA egg on board but it is never explained why. The egg survives the crash somehow, hatches into a full grown URSA, and kills any surviving crew in its way. Here’s what bothers me: if the URSA creatures are the reason why Cypher lost his daughter, shouldn’t the URSA not be on board? It seemed like this area of the plot needed the most work because you can tell right away from the beginning that there is going to be a final showdown with the URSA at some point.
The movie teases you because looking for the beacon for an hour of the film is not very entertaining. It’s just a way for the audience to know before the ending comes that there is a fight coming so be on the lookout for it!
Anyone who is a fan of Will Smith or M. Night Shyamalan is sure to be disappointed here. The film is not entertaining at all and is not a good reason to kill two hours of your life. Despite all of this though, the positive thing to take in is that at least this movie was better than The Last Airbender from a few years ago.
(originally posted on Gotchamovies.com)