Welcome to the wild wild mess.
Truth be told, Will Smith’s latest father-son conglomeration, After Earth, wasn’t THAT bad; I just really wanted to use that clever play on words that references my blog tagline, that in turn references another franchise that Will Smith played a part in. Clever, right?
Unfortunately, the film was also far from what most movie-going public would deem acceptable, which is only emphasized in an age when dropping two months of salary to view the latest movie release in a theater with your family is considered common practice. Despite this knowledge, I ventured to the theater with Grandma Outlaw and outlaw movie going buddy, Erika “Spunky Destructor” anyway.
What isn’t common knowledge though is that After Earth was directed by none other than Mr. Sixth Sense himself, M. Night Shyamalan. From what I could tell from the advertising I have seen since the film’s first trailer, that tidbit wasn’t prominently advertised by the studio, and after seeing the flick, I’m not entirely shocked.
The man who will forever be known as showing us 6-year-olds can see dead people, did not include traditional pretzel ending, so not playing up his involvement makes good PR sense in the end. There was already enough to be disappointed about without the need to tease us into thinking there would be a signature M. Night “out-of-left-field and feels like you just got whacked in the head with a toaster” finale.
Surprisingly enough, the story could have used a jolt of randomness in order to try make things more interesting than watching slightly less than educated people bid on overpriced storage lockers. The story itself takes place over a thousand years into the future and follows a population of humans that have colonized another planet because they were forced to leave Earth after… climate change? Gee, where have I head that one before?
I don’t usually get political with my movie reviews, but when my sci-fi movies get political with me, it’s hard to bite my tongue. Luckily, the insinuation that humans were able to cause weather events to take place is short and is easily forgotten… much like the rest of the movie. Therein lies the main problem with After Earth, it offers nothing special or memorable outside the typical aliens versus human dynamic.
Making matters even duller than watching C-SPAN for more than 10 minutes at a time, was the fact that the main characters Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and his son Katai Raige (Jaden Smith) played a father-son team with about as much personality as a can of tuna. Granted, all humans in this vision of the future seem to have about the same charm as a funeral director. Regardless, it would have been nice to have someone to cheer other than a CGI generated hawk the size of a 747.
Upon its release, After Earth was accused of containing several Scientology based themes. Being completely oblivious – which is a common trait with me – on the connections made prior to seeing the film, I didn’t notice anything obvious outside of the fact the last scene involved a volcano. Alas, unbeknownst to me, the whole central theme in the movie of fear not being real and that it’s only a creation of your mind, is apparently a teaching of Scientology.
All I can say is, I must not be good fodder for Tom Cruise’s religion of choice, because if a 30-foot-long alien was chasing me up a mountain while shooting acid goo at my head, remaining calm and breathing normally might prove be an issue. Although, soiling my underwear beyond repair wouldn’t be a problem.
(Please note, that while we don’t share the same religion-based choices, the fact Mr. Cruise is a big Los Angeles Kings fan proves that at least he doesn’t have bad taste in his NHL teams.)
What was oddly apparent in the religious department is that M. Night seems to be a huge Tim Tebow fan. In order to calm him down on several occasions, Cypher told his son to pretend that he just threw a touchdown. It was an odd, but completely noticeable stance that my fellow outlaw and rabid Denver Broncos fan, Erika, took notice of immediately.
It wouldn’t be fair (although it wouldn’t be hard) to trash After Earth into oblivion, as there were still some redeeming qualities. For starters, the effects and CGI were all done quite well. I found most, if not all of the visuals to be believable to excellent. What’s more, while there may have been no surprise reveal in the end, M. Night did put together a fairly tight and suspenseful tale once Swiss Family Smith crash landed back on Earth.
Speaking of crash landings, this film is most likely going to hit the bottom of the discount Blu-Ray barrel faster than you can say “John Travolta, please come out of the closet”. Without anything intriguing to set it apart from any other flick of human survival against an alien predator, After Earth failed to do pretty much anything right except look really nice. If you are reading this Mr. Shyamalan, please don’t get excited, just take a knee and remember there is nothing to fear but a Hollywood flop itself.