I used to love M. Night Shyamalan. His first four films – The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and (yes) The Village – are some of my favorites. But what in the world happened to him? Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender were mundane and The Happening was zero star-worthy. Wanting to see him return to greatness, I’d hoped that After Earth would be his glorious return – but that hope was in vain.
For those expecting a Will Smith movie, prepare yourself for disappoinment. This is not his movie. In fact, I’m convinced that Will Smith only signed on for the small, confined role under the condition that his son, Jaden Smith, play the lead – only Jaden is very bad actor. He may have his daddy’s looks, but he doesn’t have his daddy’s talent.
Set over 1,000 years from now, humankind polluted Earth so badly that (so we’re told) every living organism has evolved to kill humans. Somewhere in that 1,000-year period, humans left Earth and found another habitable planet – only the aliens who live on that planet are fighting against the human invasion. These giant bug-like aliens do not have the gift of sight, but have a sense of smell so strong that they can smell fear. No – I’m not making this up. Only one person can conceive of an idea this idiotic – Shyamalan.
On a routine flight across the galaxy, the Smiths encounted a space storm that damages their ship. Their only chance of survival is a maneuver known as a wormhole jump, but in the process, their ship is fatally damaged and crashlands on Earth. Now, Lil’ Smith must journey on-foot over 100 kilometers to the tail end of the wreckage in order to get himself and his wounded father home.
Just like every one of Shyamalan’s failed films, After Earth has a decent concept – but the execution is so bad that it makes for an excruciating viewing experience. First off, the touted line that “everything has evolved to kill humans” simply isn’t true. The only deadly Earthly creatures that Lil’ Smith encounters are predators that currently exist. Angry monkeys. Huge eagles. Leeches. Tigers. That’s not much of a stretch. In fact, the only creature that poses a real threat to Lil’ Smith is an escaped alien monster that was being held in the cargo holding area of their ship. Now that it is loose on Earth, it’s still wreaking havoc while on a vengeance-fueled hunt for human flesh. Earth’s supposedly evolved creatures aren’t the threat. The alien that they brought with them is.
While the concept allows for endless ideas, the screenplay offers nothing creative or original. In fact, After Earth is quite a boring movie. It plods along, not much ever happening. There are few encounters with enemy entities. Only making matters worse is the flimsy father-son relationship, bad acting and an overall seriousness that sucks any potential entertainment right out of it.
From M. Night Shyamalan, you might expect a major twist from After Earth – maybe the wormhole escape placed them back in time, making this a prehistoric version of Earth? Or perhaps this is a sequel to The Happening? – but there’s no twist in sight. The only shocker about After Earth will be if Shyamalan is still handed big studio titles after this disaster.
Photo credit: Sony