“After Earth:” We Have a Problem
There are fundamental problems with “After Earth.” When I first learned of the stars, the writer-director and the premise, I thought uh-oh, is this a vanity project?
No, it is not, but it is a miscalculation by co-writer, producer and star Will Smith and co-writer-director M. Night Shyamalan.
Shyamalan’s career has been “checkered,” to put it charitably since his box office hit “The Sixth Sense.”
Evidently Will Smith admired what Shyamalan did with “The Last Airbender” in 2010, because a month after it opened he contacted the writer-director with his own pitch.
Smith got the idea watching a television show in which a father and son had a car accident and the son heroically rescued his wounded, disabled dad.
“After Earth” is set in the distant future after Earth has been ravaged by cataclysmic events and abandoned as uninhabitable. Earth’s human population has been transplanted to a distant planet outside out solar system called Nova Prime.
Will Smith is Cypher Raige, the hotshot General of a cadre of space cadets known as Rangers. Real-life son Jaden Smith is ranger-in-training Kitai Raige.
Like his dad, Kitai is rebellious and rather reckless, and because of this he has not been advanced to the exalted status of Ranger.
Cypher’s wife Faia (Sophie Okonedo) sees Kitai’s misbehavior as a cry for help and love from his distant, mostly absentee father.
I bet you alert readers can see where this is heading. Yep, on a mission to the forbidden planet Earth with son in tow, Cypher’s spaceship encounters an asteroid storm and is damaged so badly it must crash-land on Earth. Cypher and Kitai are the only survivors. Both Cypher’s legs are badly broken, and he is bleeding internally. Kitai is miraculously fine. Dad tells his son their only hope for survival is to retrieve a beacon in the fractured tail section of ship some 100 kilometers distant. Kitai has only six popper capsules, worth 24 hours each, which enable him to breathe Earth’s oxygen-poor atmosphere. If that weren’t bad enough, Earth is now populated by freaky ferocious animal mutations. Can Kitai triumph against all odds and save the life of dad, who will finally see his true worth?
I will ask alert readers to guess that one.
Asking 14-year-old Jaden Smith to carry the weight of this hugely expensive sci-fi spectacle is quite a tall order. Jaden may have been only 13 when principle shooting was done on location in scenic
Moviefone web site reports Jaden wants the gift of emancipation for his 15th
birthday July 8. This movie may supply some cues.
As a science-fiction, futuristic thrill-a-rama, I found “After Earth” less than all that. We have seen it all before, a hundred times, maybe more. It’s gratifying to see a father and son working together, but it doesn’t necessarily add up to great art, gripping entertainment or heartwarming inspiration.