After Earth Movie Review
Will Smith tricks audiences into watching a Will Smith movie that doesn't star Will Smith, his son Jaden proves he does not yet have the acting chops to pull off a strange futuristic accent even Daniel Day-Lewis couldn't do and M. Night Shyamalan delivers another lame movie with After Earth, a sci-fi action misfire that is pretty bad, though in fairness not as terrible as its reputation suggests.
After Earth is an unfortunate vanity project for producer Will Smith, who plays a serious, uninteresting and uncharacteristically uncharismatic warrior who sends his son Kitai (real-life son Jaden Smith) on a mission across an abandoned earth full of human-hunting creatures to recover an emergency beacon, after their spaceship crashes.
The movie serves as a shameful attempt to turn Jaden Smith into an action hero by luring audiences into theaters with the intrigue of seeing Will Smith, who spends the entire story sitting in a chair telling his son to not be afraid, because he is a master of "ghosting" - a term meaning eradication of fear and, in a sense, becoming invisible to the planet's creatures that are drawn to human fear - and his son sucks at it. In effect, Shyamalan turns his most valuable asset into a bland secondary character and puts all the focus on Jaden Smith, who whines, cries and sniffles his way to the fairly predictable conclusion.
After Earth plays out like the first forest sequence in Avatar, with young Smith encountering various forms of dangerous wildlife that want to eat him. The big differences: the visual effects aren't as good, the animals less creative, the suspense is lacking and there is no bigger plot. After Earth is merely a survival film, but with cheesy and unnecessary sci-fi elements like "ghosting," characters named Kitai Raige and giant eagles.
The bigger problem is that After Earth feels like a half-baked project. In more capable hands, "ghosting" could have worked, but the idea feels incomplete. It isn't clear why or how all animals on earth developed the ability to sense human fear. The alien invasion aspect is so undeveloped I still don't understand exactly what happened. And other things - like the fact that Earth freezes over every night - seem thrown in there just because, without any real thought given to why.
Nothing could explain the awful character names, however. Will Smith's is Cypher Raige. Gag.
Despite all its problems, After Earth isn't the complete disaster I was expecting. Likely due to extremely low expectations going in, the movie does have some entertainment value (not necessarily due to the reasons Shyamalan intended). The movie is fast-paced. It's cheesy, but some people won't be bothered by that. And, sadly, no one could argue that this isn't Shyamalan's best movie in years (though that's not saying much).
Still, there's no excusing the film's cardinal sin: wasting the potential Will Smith brings to any production. After Earth is the worst movie of Will Smith's career because it purposely avoids everything that makes a Will Smith movie good. And for that reason, After Earth isn't very good at all.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.