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article imageReview: ‘After Earth’ doesn’t warrant an afterthought Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 31, 2013 in Entertainment
In ‘After Earth’, a father and son crash land on Earth 1,000 years after events forced humankind to abandon the planet and resettle under an alien threat.
Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has had a pretty divisive filmmaking career. Taking audiences by storm with 1999’s The Sixth Sense, he’s failed to wow many viewers in the same way since. Known for a specific style that generally involves a closing twist to the story, Shyamalan struggles to revive a once-promising career and recapture the audiences’ attention at the box office. Unfortunately, After Earth isn’t the film that’s going to turn things around for him – though he’s not entirely to blame.
Cypher Raige (Will Smith) is the general of the Ranger Corps, an elite military outfit trained to fight an aggressive alien race that hunts humans by smelling their fear. His son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), is a cadet-in-training, but he doesn’t have the same resolve as his father, more often directed by his emotions than logic. After a suggestion from his wife (Sophie Okonedo), Cypher invites Kitai on a business trip. But the ship crash lands on Earth, a planet listed off limits due to its hostile evolution towards humans. Severely injured in the crash, Cypher must rely on Kitai to retrieve their only hope of survival.
There is so much wrong with this picture, it’s difficult to choose a place to start. The opening scene in which Kitai sets up the film is irritating, establishing Cypher as a godsend and flashing images that don’t always have context. The crash is shattering, yet Cypher manages to survive without explanation. He claims everything on Earth has evolved to kill humans, which is an inaccurate exaggeration, considering we haven’t inhabited the planet for 1,000 years and traditionally passive animals don’t even acknowledge their existence. (Though there is an inordinate number of animal mutilations and deaths.)
However, the more difficult issues to ignore are the unappealing characters, and their portrayal of the father and son. Will crafted the story to give his son another feature film vehicle, but made a poor choice in casting himself or Jaden in the movie. Throughout Will seems undecided whether he experiences emotion or not, interpreting a lack of fear as the absence of feelings. Therefore otherwise expressive moments are played with detachment and consequently appear monotonous. Conversely, Jaden constantly looks frightened or dumbfounded with little variation. His endless anxiety is excessive and difficult to endure. Moreover, their accents are out of place and not always present.
Technically, the CGI sets are adequate with the occasional wonderment such as plants reacting to the temperature or a well-built bird’s nest. In addition, the smart suit that adapts to changes in its environment and is equipped with a squirrel suit is cool. But these are minor elements meant to complement a picture, not carry it.
With little in common with Shyamalan’s other films, it’s difficult to compare this to his other projects except to say that if he was trying something different, it didn’t work.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith and Sophie Okonedo
More about After Earth, Will smith, jaden smith, M night shyamalan, Sci fi
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